Border dilemmas, US and Israel; the peer review scandal. Update on ISIS

View 833 Wednesday, July 16, 2014

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009


Israel is caught in a dilemma. Of course Hamas will launch missiles from areas teeming with civilians, knowing that if Israel uses automatic counterfire against the launch point there will be casualties; you may be sure that some PR people are carrying teddy bears to be placed just before the foreign press photographers get to the strike zone.

Today Israeli forces – it is not clear whether an air strike or naval bombardment – killed four Palestinian children and wounded several others. Israeli authorities say the target was Hamas terrorists, and blames Hamas, but it isn’t clear what the target really was: was there a missile launched form this area? And was this naval bombardment or an air strike? It was fairly close to an international hotel where foreign journalists stay.

The rocket attacks from Gaza have no military purpose, since the accuracy of the best of them will have a CEP of several hundred feet, and in most cases they are simply launched in the general direction of a city – or a nuclear depository – in the hopes that they’ll kill someone – or that the counterfire will kill Palestinians and provide good video for foreign journalists. Palestinian sympathizers say that’s the only weapon the Palestinians have.

One of Niven’s Laws is “Do not throw excrement at an armed man. Do not stand next to someone who is throwing excrement at an armed man.” He formed that forty years ago, and it seems reasonable to me. I would expand it to say do not be near someone launching a rocket in the general direction of Tel Aviv, but of course many Palestinians have no choice: a pickup truck pulls up at a crossroad, men unload a launch platform and missile, the truck drives away and the missile is launched, often by a cell phone call. Your best bet would be to run: counter battery retaliation could be pretty quick even in my day, and doubtless it is faster now.

Israel at some point will have to invade, not the northern part of Gaza where the missiles are launched, but the part of Gaza that borders Egypt. That border teems with tunnels, some quite sophisticated with rails, some running a mile into Gaza, and the missiles are smuggled in through those tunnels. Others come by sea. Gaza can’t make missiles but they can assemble them; if no missiles are imported then none can be launched at Tel Aviv . But taking a strip a mile wide along the Gaza-Egyptian border would let them eliminate the existing tunnels, but unless it is occupied, there will soon be more. Occupation will immediately invite settlers; indeed who else would want to occupy southern Gaza.

Probably better to go in, stomp all the tunnels, raze everything along the border, and be prepared to come back another time. I confess I was one of those who advised the Israelis to abandon Gaza and end that occupation; it was not good advice. There may be no good advice….


Israel is not the only country with a dilemma.

The flood of children without visas into the United States continues.

Allowing illegal immigrant children to go home

On Monday you mentioned that the immigrant children can’t be deported without a hearing.

Could we not simply first ask them if they want to go home, and help them get there if they do? Surely some of the children are homesick? Is it deportation, if they want to return to their family, and we help?


That might take care of what, 5% of them? Not many of those who went through what they did just to get here are going to volunteer to go back.

Children on the border…

If a bunch of poor American children and their mothers and fathers ‘in search of a better life’ try to trespass on the grounds of a rich person’s gated mansion, or private country club or nature preserve, they will not be allowed in. Large unsmiling men will efficiently and, if necessary, brutally, kick them out. And that will be that.

If a poor American tries to send her kids to a rich school district because they have a dream, they will not be allowed to – and likely the parents will be thrown in jail and the families separated.

The rich have neither moral nor practical difficulties defending what they have from those less fortunate than they are. ‘Sacrifice in the name of compassion’ is so only for little people. Indeed, what is going on with the ‘children’ flooding in over our southern border has nothing to do with morality at all – it is a vicious and cynical attempt to create a population explosion, to drive American wages down to third-world levels, so that the rich can become even richer. Period. (That’s why the poorest countries have so many billionaires).

I also note that, at last report, most of the illegals coming in are adults – and while a 17-year old male MS13 drug gang member is legally a minor, the world ‘child’ seems inappropriate. No, it’s not about ‘the children’ except as a marketing tool.

I have a simple solution to the problem. Let the rich practice what they preach. Let’s settle 10,000 impoverished children in some swanky suburb and see their school district handle it. Let’s stop enforcing the rules against trespassing on country clubs and ski resorts, and make the rich swim in a sea of poverty and chaos like the rest of us. Let open borders with the third-world threaten the profits and comforts of the rich, and the border would be sealed by the end of August at the latest, and there would be no angst about ‘the children’ on the news. Count on that.

What we really need is not a revolution, but elites like FDR and Bismarck, who will forgo short-term profit in the interest of long-term stability. Unfortunately our current elites feel no such long-term stake in the country, and care only about squeezing as much profit out of the nation as they can before it all falls apart, and then they can hop on their yachts and sail away.

Cheap Labor Uber Alles.

Globus Pallidus XI

If the Air Force were ordered to fly them all home, it could do so. It’s not the Normandy Invasion. If need be take some ships out of mothballs for the operation. But the law at the moment says they are entitled to a hearing, and it is not likely the President would sign a Bill removing that restriction even if the Senate would allow it to come to a vote.

Another item in the dark side of the child immigration crisis

And this one is scary, particularly for those with school-age children.

Richard White

Austin, Texas

Scary indeed, and the fear is justified.



Important courses for EE

Hi Dr. Pournelle,

Could I suggest that your young friend very much consider taking a statistics course or two? Since he’s good at math, he’d probably find it profitable to commit himself to taking one math course every semester, and I mean EVERY semester, until graduation. It looks to me as though heat transfer, electromagnetic fields, and other subjects requiring finite element analysis are going to be a very big deal going forward, so I think there’s a definite market for people who understand vector calculus and can “roll their own” for some of the trickier problems.


Actually I have already discussed that with him. He thinks he’d like to be a designer, and I tried to explain – remember he’s an incoming senior in high school – that statistical inference and experimental design require some mathematical sophistications he isn’t likely to know he needs; and most soft science courses in statistics are worthless, being just cookbook stuff. Of course this isn’t the last talk we’ll have; and I completely neglected history and literature, both necessary if you are to be an educated man. But I completely agree: it is necessary to understand something of statistics and the models used for inference if you’re going to be a designer.

We’re still looking at EE because of the engineering specialties, EE is the closest to scientific method: Maxwell’s Equations really do describe phenomena in the real world, and imply insights not expected when they were formulated. The next step up from that is physics, and a lot of Operations Research people, and strategists, and heavy duty thinkers like Herman Kahn were physicists to begin with, just as I sort of had to study a lot of physics to get some of my assignments accomplished. The important thing about an education is that you master something. It’s like learning to be a writer: you have to learn to finish your work, complete what you are doing.

I was never a specialist, but I did learn a lot about how to tool up and learn something new well enough to be able to use it to get a task done.


Government Funded Research and Published paper retraction.


The current scandal regarding the HiJacking of the Peer Review Process and the retraction of papers based on Government Funded "Research," cries out for some system of formal penalties for those who subvert the Scientific Method.

For Government Funded a Research, My suggestion would be a two strike process on the retraction side. First Retraction the penalty is the amount of Government Funding provided. Second retraction, the amount of Government Funding plus a life time ban on receiving any Government Research Funding. In Addition a failure to provide the data or process used so that others can attempt to replicate the results would have a penalty of the amount of Government Funding received plus the Lifetime ban on receiving any Government Research Funding.

The Scientific Method is much too important to Mankind to allow it to be subverted by those with Political and Social agendas.

Bob Holmes


I have long been critical of the peer review process, and I believe that it misallocates public funds for research: I think that a percentage of public funding ought to go into unpopular scientific notions, even some wild ideas; into crucial experiments to test generally accepted hypotheses.  It won’t pay off often, but when it does it will pay off big.  But so long as publish or perish rules academia, the peer review process will be subverted, and science will become more bureaucratized. Depend on it.



A bit long but an interesting read.

By: David P. Goldman

A one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is upon us. It won’t arrive by Naftali Bennett’s proposal <> to annex the West Bank’s Area C, or through the efforts of BDS campaigners and Jewish Voice for Peace <> to alter the Jewish state. But it will happen, sooner rather than later, as the states on Israel’s borders disintegrate and other regional players annex whatever they can. As that happens, Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria is becoming inevitable.

Last week’s rocket attacks from Gaza failed to inflict many casualties in Israel—but they administered a mortal wound to Palestinian self-governance. Hamas launched its deepest strikes ever into Israel after the IDF cracked down on its West Bank operations following the murder last month of three Israeli boys, arresting nearly 900 members of Hamas <> and other terrorist groups. Humiliated in the territories, and unable to pay its 44,000 Gaza employees <> , Hamas acted from weakness, gambling that missile attacks would elicit a new Intifada on the West Bank. Although Fatah militias joined in the rocket attacks from Gaza, for now the Palestinian organizations are in their worst disarray in 20 years.

The settlers of Judea and Samaria have stood in the cross-hairs of Western diplomacy for two decades, during which the word “settler” has become a term of the highest international opprobrium. Yet the past decade of spiraling conflicts in the Middle East have revealed that what is settled in the region is far less significant than what is unsettled. Iran’s intervention into the Syrian civil conflict has drawn the Sunni powers into a war of attrition that already has displaced more than 10 million people, mostly Sunnis, and put many more at risk. The settled, traditional, tribal life of the Levant has been shattered. Never before in the history of the region have so many young men had so little hope, so few communal ties, and so many reasons to take up arms.


Source: U.N. World Population Prospects <>

As a result, the central premise of Western diplomacy in the region has been pulled inside-out, namely that a resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue was the key to long-term stability in the Middle East. Now the whole of the surrounding region has become one big refugee crisis. Yet the seemingly spontaneous emergence of irregular armies like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) now rampaging through northern Mesopotamia should be no surprise. The misnamed Arab Spring of 2011 began with an incipient food crisis in Egypt <> and a water crisis in Syria <> . Subsidies from the Gulf States keep Egypt on life support. In Syria and Iraq, though, displaced populations become foraging armies that loot available resources, particularly oil, and divert the proceeds into armaments that allow the irregulars to keep foraging. ISIS is selling $800 million a year of Syrian oil to Turkey, according to one estimate <> , as well as selling electricity from captured power plants back to the Assad government. On June 11 it seized the Bajii power plant oil refinery <> in northern Iraq, the country’s largest.

The region has seen nothing like it since the Mongol invasion of the 13th century. Perpetual war has turned into a snowball that accumulates people and resources as it rolls downhill and strips the ground bare of sustenance. Those who are left shiver in tents in refugee camps, and their young men go off to the war. There is nothing new about this way of waging war; it was invented in the West during the Thirty Years War by the imperial general Albrecht von Wallenstein, and it caused the death of nearly half the population of Central Europe between 1618 and 1648.

As a result of this spiraling warfare, four Arab states—Libya, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq—have effectively ceased to exist. Lebanon, once a Christian majority country, became a Shia country during the past two decades under the increased domination of Hezbollah. Nearly 2 million Syrian Sunnis have taken refuge in Lebanon, as Israeli analyst Pinhas Inbari <> observes, and comprise almost half of Lebanon’s total population of 4 million, shifting the demographic balance to the Sunnis—while the mass Sunni exodus tilts the balance of power in Syria toward the Alawites and other religious minorities, who are largely allied with Iran. Jordan, meanwhile, has taken in a million Syrian Sunnis, making Palestinians a minority inside Jordan for the first time in a generation. A region that struggled to find sustenance for its people before 2011 has now been flooded with millions of refugees without resources or means of support. They are living for the most part on largesse from the Gulf States, and their young men are prospective cannon fodder.

The remaining states in the region—Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran—will alternately support and suppress the new irregular armies as their interests require. Where does ISIS get its support, apart from oil hijacking in Syria and bank robberies in Mosul <> ? There are allegations that ISIS receives support from Turkey <> , the Sunni Gulf States <> , and Iran <> . Pinhas Inbari <> claims that Shiite Iran is funding Sunni extremists “to be certain that a strong Iraqi state does not emerge again along its western border.” There are equally credible reports that each of these powers wants to stop ISIS. Saudi Arabia fears <> that Sunni extremists might overthrow the monarchy. Turkey fears that the depredations of ISIS on its border will trigger the formation of an independent Kurdish state, which it has opposed vehemently for decades. Iran views ISIS as a Sunni competitor for influence in the region.

To some extent, I believe, all these reports are true. The mess in the Middle East brings to mind the machinations around Swedish intervention in the Thirty Years War between 1627 and 1635, when France’s Cardinal Richelieu paid Sweden’s King Gustavus Adolphus to intervene on the Protestant side in order to weaken France’s Catholic rival Austria. At different times, Protestant Saxony and Catholic Bavaria allied with France, Austria, and each other, respectively. France and Sweden began as allies, briefly became enemies, and then were allies again. Looming over this snake-pit of religious, dynastic, and national rivalries was the figure of Albrecht von Wallenstein, the Austrian generalissimo who twice saved the Empire from defeat at the hands of the Protestants. Wallenstein, commanding a polyglot mercenary army with no national or religious loyalty, played both sides, and Austria had him murdered in 1634.

There is more than coincidence to the parallels between the Middle East today and 17th-century Europe. Iran’s intervention into Syria’s civil conflict inaugurated a new kind of war in the region, the sort that Richelieu practiced in the 1620s. Iran’s war objectives are not national or territorial in the usual sense; rather, the objective is the war itself, that is, the uprooting and destruction of potentially hostile populations. With a third of Syria’s population displaced and several million expelled, the Assad regime has sought to change Syria’s demographics to make the country more congenial to Shiite rule. That in turn elicits a new kind of existential desperation from the Saudis, who are fighting for not only the survival of their sclerotic and corrupt monarchy, but also for the continuation of Sunni life around them. Today Iraq’s Sunnis, including elements of Saddam Hussein’s mainly Sunni army and the 100,000 strong “Sons of Iraq” force hired by then-U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus during the 2007-2008 surge, are making common cause with ISIS. Tomorrow they might be shooting at each other. The expectation that the waves of sectarian and tribal violence that have caused national borders to crumble across the Middle East will die down in 30 years may be both incredibly grim and wildly optimistic.


In the background of the region’s disrupted demographics, a great demographic change overshadows the actions of all the contenders. That is decline of Muslim fertility, and the unexpected rise in Jewish fertility. The fall in Muslim birth rate is most extreme in Iran and Turkey, with different but related consequences. When Ayatollah Khomeini took power in 1979, the average Iranian woman had seven children; today the total fertility rate has fallen to just 1.6 children, the sharpest drop in demographic history. Iran still has a young population, but it has no children to succeed them. By mid-century Iran will have a higher proportion of elderly dependents than Europe, an impossible and unprecedented burden for a poor country. Iran’s sudden aging will be followed by Turkey, Algeria, and Tunisia.


Source: U.N. World Population Prospects <>

Iran’s disappearing fertility is in a sense the Shah’s revenge. Iran is the most literate Muslim country, thanks in large part to an ambitious literacy campaign introduced by the Shah in the early 1970s. As I showed in my book How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam Is Dying, Too), literacy is the best predictor of fertility in the Muslim world: Muslim women who attend high school and university marry late or not at all and have fewer children. This has grave strategic implications, as Iran’s leaders unabashedly discuss.

Between 2005 and 2020, Iran’s population aged 15 to 24, that is, its pool of potential army recruits, will have fallen by nearly half. To put this in perspective, Pakistan’s military-age population will have risen by about half. In 2000, Iran had half the military-age men of its eastern Sunni neighbor; by 2020 it will have one-fourth as many. Iran’s bulge generation of youth born in the 1980s is likely to be its last, and its window for asserting Shiite power in the region will close within a decade.

The Obama Administration wants to contain Iranian aggression by accommodating Iran’s ambitions to become a regional power. As the president told <> Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg in March, “What I’ll say is that if you look at Iranian behavior, they are strategic, and they’re not impulsive. They have a worldview, and they see their interests, and they respond to costs and benefits. And that isn’t to say that they aren’t a theocracy that embraces all kinds of ideas that I find abhorrent, but they’re not North Korea. They are a large, powerful country that sees itself as an important player on the world stage, and I do not think has a suicide wish, and can respond to incentives.” Any deal with Iran is therefore a good deal from Obama’s point of view. But that is precisely wrong: Iran does not have a suicide wish, but it knows that it is dying, and has nothing to lose by rolling the dice today.

The analogy with the Thirty Years War is apt; and frightening.


This is an update about ISIS:

“Isis fighters have captured much of eastern Syria in the past few days while international attention has been focused on the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. Using tanks and artillery seized in Iraq, it has taken almost all of oil-rich Deir Ezzor province and is battling to crush the resistance of the Syrian Kurds.”

I would point out, ISIS is getting closer to Israel and now they have access to oil. So, instead of stealing money from banks, they could engage in trade to maintain a steady cash flow. ISIS also picked up some materiel that wasn’t reported when they seized those U.S. weapons we discussed:

“The latest reports say ISIS captured 52 M198 howitzers, capable of firing 155 mmshells 20 miles with precision GPS aiming mechanisms.

Though experts expressed doubts over whether ISIS could quickly figure out how to use the GPS systems, the artillery could still do massive damage to Iraqi cities near their territory.”

And the beat goes on…


Most Respectfully,
Joshua Jordan, KSC
Percussa Resurgo






For your bucket list:

Sara Wheat is the 11th woman to make a HALO jump. She goes to XXXX’s church here in Huntsville. Last week she went to Memphis to jump out of a perfectly good airplane at 30070 feet. HALO means high altitude low (parachute) opening.

Don’t plan on getting me into a $3700 HALO jump for my birthday, like she got.


I suspect there was a time when I would have enjoyed that, but no longer…



Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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