Date ►►► September 30, 2005
Slowly But Surely
I posted earlier that Iraqi troops are slowly but surely taking over Iraq's security, one city at the time. The latest example is in and around Karbala, at Forward Operating Base Lima, where Coalition forces and the Greater Iraqi Army (and Iraqi police) just held a transfer ceremony Wednesday.
Iraqi security forces took responsibility for Forward Operating Base Lima from U.S. forces Sept. 28.
Iraqi police, army commanders and government representatives, U.S. representatives, including Army Lt. Col. James Oliver, commander of the 1st Battalion, 198th Armored Brigade, attended the ceremony transferring local security responsibilities to the Iraqi police and the 4th Brigade, 8th Division, Greater Iraqi Army.
American troops had been in Karbala since January this year, providing security and infrastructure support.
(American) troops from the 2nd Battalion, 114th Field Artillery, have assisted the people of Karbala since mid-January, providing security and infrastructure support. Approximately 68 projects, totaling $21.5 million, have been completed to improve the city. The projects included water, sanitation, education, electrical, medical and humanitarian aid.
Some of this work is likely to continue, even after the transfer. But this is now the second Iraqi province where security responsibilities were officially handed over to the Iraqi military.
Good news keeps on coming!
In testimony before Congress on Thursday, the senior American military commander in Iraq testified about the readiness of the Greater Iraqi Army battalions:
Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who oversees U.S. forces in Iraq, said there are fewer Iraqi battalions at "Level 1" readiness than there were a few months ago.
(Hat tip to wilsonkolb, in the comments.)
But that does not tell the whole story. According to the Department of Defense:
In May, Iraqi security forces conducted about 160 combined or independent operations at the company level and above, Casey said. By September, that number was up to 1,300.
Some 60,000 to 70,000 more Iraqi security forces will be available to provide security during the Oct. 15 referendum than during the January 2005 elections, he said. And by the time the next elections take place, Jan. 15 , Casey said he expects to have about 100,000 more Iraqi security forces.
The growth is so significant, the general said, that he's had to ask for only 2,000 additional coalition troops to help protect the referendum and election progress this year, compared to 12,000 in January .
But then what about that readiness, you may ask? As RBMN pointed out, according to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the level of readiness rating keeps on changing depending on a variety of factors.
For example, initial readiness standards two years ago measured numbers of Iraqi troops. Later, those standards were based on the number of trained troops. Later yet, those standards were based on troops who were trained and equipped. As the bar continued to rise, the numbers dipped a bit, giving an impression that readiness was declining, the secretary explained.
If you just look at the raw numbers, it looks like things are getting worse; but in fact, the situation is actually improving. The “bar” rises or lowers as the needs of the situation change, and as we learn more about the sort of urban terrorist war we’re fighting in Iraq.
The number of Iraqi army troops that are considered in a state of “readiness” will certainly fluctuate up and down for the next several months, until the DoD settles on a single metric to use across all troops in the field.
An Army of One... Million
The headline is deep. Dark. Scary:
Army Faces Worst Recruiting Slump in Years
Cue the bass, the sad snare-drum tattoo, thunder in the distance.
The Army is closing the books on one of the leanest recruiting years since it became an all-volunteer service three decades ago, missing its enlistment target by the largest margin since 1979 and raising questions about its plans for growth.
Many in Congress believe the Army needs to get bigger - perhaps by 50,000 soldiers over its current 1 million - in order to meet its many overseas commitments, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army already is on a path to add 30,000 soldiers, but even that will be hard to achieve if recruiters cannot persuade more to join the service.
The mind of the mathematician suddenly registers something it likes: numbers! We have a million men; we want one million and thirty thousand; maybe as high as one million and fifty thousand. A quick calculation: so our force is just too small -- we desperately need to increase it... by 3% to 5%.
Already I'm scratching my head. Three percent? That's the total increase that we need to be a powerful fighting legion once more?
The Army has not published official figures yet, but it apparently finished the 12-month counting period that ends Friday with about 73,000 recruits. Its goal was 80,000. A gap of 7,000 enlistees would be the largest - in absolute number as well as in percentage terms - since 1979, according to Army records.
So we wanted 80,000 recruits but fell 7,000 short. That's 8.75% short of what we wanted -- or a shortfall of 0.7% of total Army members. In other words, we recruited enough to reach 99.3% of what we hoped to gain. Since we are trying to increase the number of troops, that 99.3% figure means we likely at least achieved replacement levels: in other words, the "recruiting slump" means that, while we didn't gain as many additional soldiers as we wanted, we probably at least broke even and didn't actually lose men. And this in the midst of a war that appears, at least if you get your news from the News, to be dragging on and on.
Is it just me? Or is this not a bad result at all? In fact, it seems pretty good... especially when you consider that the entire shortfall occurred in the early part of the year; for the last four months, Army recruiters actually exceeded their goals -- and that's not all:
A summertime surge of signups offered some hope the slump may be ending. An Army spokesman, Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, said that despite the difficulties, recruiters were going full speed as the end of fiscal year 2005, Sept. 30, arrived.
"We have met the active Army's monthly recruiting goals since June, and we expect to meet it for September, which sends us into fiscal year 2006 on a winning streak," Hilferty said. He also noted that the Army has managed to meet its re-enlistment goals, even among units that have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. [all emphasis throughout added by Dafydd]
So let's review the betting: among people who have never been in the service, and who therefore probably get nearly all their knowledge of the military from news and entertainment shows on TV and in the movies, recruitment is slightly down from expectations, though probably enough to maintain the level of troops we have now.
But among soldiers who have actually fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who therefore know what is really happening on the ground from personal experience, re-enlistment rates were met. In fact, since the goal is to retain more people than normal (to meet the goal of increasing troop strength by 30,000 -- right?), it's safe to bet that the re-enlistment goals were higher than in previous years... which means there are more veteran troops in the Army than before, which would partially mitigate the lower numbers of raw recruits.
Since one experienced soldier is worth several kids straight out of boot camp, I'd say we got a bargain.
The Associated Press story tips its hand early. The "story" they want to tell is put forward with all the subtlety of a Democratic National Committee talking-points paper:
The outlook is dimmed by several key factors, including:
- The daily reports of American deaths in Iraq and the uncertain nature of the struggle against the insurgency have put a damper on young people's enthusiasm for joining the military, according to opinion surveys.
Even the DoD itself falls into a funk over this:
The factors working against the Army, Hilferty said, are a strong national economy that offers young people other choices, and "continued negative news from the Middle East."
But this actually makes no sense. If the factor dragging down recruiting were the toll of the war in Iraq, why would those soldiers most affected by that war -- the ones who actually fought in it -- be re-enlisting in such huge numbers, easily exceeding retention goals?
But wait. So far, we've only talked about the Army. Before we fly with those scarelines in the Associated Press release, what about the other services? What about the Marines, the Navy, and the Air Force? The Marines, at least, have seen even heavier ground-war fighting during this last year than has the Army. If the war is turning people off of the military, then surely the Marines would suffer at least as badly as the Army, or even more so.
Oddly enough, the Department of Defense actually keeps a record of these sorts of figures. In fact, they make that record publicly available. Now, they haven't released the final figures of FY2005 (which would include the month of September), but they have released the year-to-date figures for October 2004 through August 2005, eleven months out of the twelve. You can find them here.
According to the chart, we see the following pattern of recruitment (I believe "accession" means recruitment and does not include retentions, which are in fact up for the year-to-date for all branches) :
Fiscal 2005 Active Duty Enlisted Recruiting from Oct. 1, 2004-Aug. 31, 2005
As the table makes clear, the only service suffering any shortfall at all in active-duty recruiting throughout the year has been the Army. Not counting the Army, the other services achieved 101% of their active-duty recruiting goals. And in particular, the United States Marines, who have been in nearly continuous combat for their entire deployment, lead the way in retention rates of Marines who have actually served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is a different story in the reserves, as the last table on the DoD web page makes clear. The Marine Corps Reserve and the Air Force Reserve strongly exceeded their recruitment goals, but the Army and Air National Guards and the Army and Navy Reserve recruitment was down. Retention in the reserves and National Guards, however, was strong, exceeding goals. This is the same pattern as above: those who have actually served in the reserves have evidently come to terms with the inherent uncertainty in it, and they are re-upping. But those men and women considering the reserves or National Guard for the first time are likely put off by not knowing from month to month whether they will be home, working at their regular jobs, or off in Iraq killing jihadi and Sadr-ites.
Even so, far from the doom and gloom article in AP, it appears what is happening is that we're trading away a large-ish number of raw recruits for a slightly smaller number of seasoned veterans: fewer boys and girls are joining up, but more men and women are returning.
Considering the intense requirements placed upon our armed forces by an urban terrorist war that will go on for many years in various countries, this seems like a very fair trade indeed.
Paging Captain Nemo...
"They seek him here, they seek him there...."
A few years ago, I saw a documentary about a scientific team from some European country (possibly France) and their effort to photograph a living giant squid. They picked the season carefully and searched an area where some dead squid had been found, but the search was ultimately unsuccessful.
Since then, nobody had ever gotten a good photo of a living giant squid. They're phantom creatures, almost legendary, and scientists have been searching for living specimens for decades. Dead bodies of giant squid have washed ashore many times; but no one had managed to observe a living one in its natural environment -- until now.
A team of Japanese scientists has finally videotaped a giant squid in nature:
Kubodera's team captured photos of the 26-foot-long beast attacking its bait, then struggling for more than four hours to get free. The squid pulled so hard on the line baited with shrimp that it severed one of its own tentacles
"It was quite an experience to feel the still-functioning tentacle on my hand," Kubodera, a researcher with Japan's National Science Museum, told The Associated Press. "But the photos were even better."
Not that I am biased or anything. But I am glad the Japanese team beat the French.
They seek him here, they seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere!
Is he in heaven? Is he in -- er, you know --
That damned, elusive Pimpernel!
Date ►►► September 29, 2005
On Special Report with Brit Hume last night, Hume mentioned something that he had been told by (I believe) the Republican National Committee (RNC) about the Tom DeLay case. Now, I'm not a lawyer (though I do play one sometimes when I want to get a good deal on a used car); but if this is true, it sure sounds like a great defense to me.
DeLay appears to be accused of setting up a conspiracy to collect funds from corporations, launder them somehow through the RNC in Washington D.C., and then illegally distribute them to Texas candidates in defiance of Texas state law. I say "appears" because the indictment obtained by Ronnie Earle from a Travis County grand jury is so vague that Tom DeLay might actually stand accused of mopery with intent to gawk, for all I know.
As best I can gather, Travis County, TX District Attorney Ronnie Earle claims that the Texas Republican Majority Political Action Committee (TRMPAC), set up by U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay and others, collected money from corporations, sent the money to the RNC, which sent it to the RNC-State Elections Committee (RNC-SEC), which then (charges Ronnie Earle's grand jury) sent it back to Texas into the coffers of various Republican candidates for state and federal office. It's evidently against the law in Texas for corporate money to be used in political campaigns. DeLay, of course, denies the charges.
Assuming I have the gist of the indictment, here is what Brit Hume says the RNC told him. They have, they say, two separate accounts (simplifying here); or possibly the separate accounts are at the RNC-SEC; Brit wasn't quite clear. Since some states allow corporate money to be used in elections while others don't, the RNC says it (or else the RNC-SEC) set up two separate accounts: one for corporate contributions, the other for hard-money contributions from individuals.
He said that they said (hearsay alert!) that what actually happened was that TRMPAC collected the corporate donations; it sent them to the RNC, which trasferred them to the RNC-SEC, which put them in the corporate account. The money in that account was then distributed to states that had no laws against corporate or out-of-state money being used in elections. Then, to get money to the Republicans running in Texas, the RNC-SEC took funds from the separate, hard-money (individual-donor) account and used those to contribute to campaigns of various politicians in Texas.
Tom DeLay himself, who made an unexpected appearance on Special Report, said that after setting up TRMPAC, he had no involvement in the day-to-day financial transactions, and that he never entered into any agreement about how or where the money would be collected or spent. But leaving that aside, I have a question for any lawyers out there in Lizard Land: assuming "arguendo," as you guys like to say, that what Brit said was true -- that there were two separate accounts, and all the money going from the RNC-SEC into Texas came from the hard-money account (and ultimately from individual donors subject to the $2000 limit), and the corporate money collected in Texas went into other states that had no prohibition against corporate funds going to political campaigns -- assuming that is all correct, would there be any violation of the law underlying this supposed "conspiracy?"
And if there is no underlying criminal act, can a conspiracy charge stand? Can a person be convicted of "conspiring" to perform a legal act?
Finally, Brit said the RNC said that they informed Ronnie Earle of this accounting method, with the two separate accounts; if Earle obtained the indictment by not telling the Travis County grand jury about this accounting arrangement, or by telling them in such a way that they didn't understand what was being done, could Earle himself be in any trouble for abusing his prosecutorial authority?
I won't deny that I hope he would, since I think he's a partisan sleazeball. But I certainly admit I have no clue; this is way too much into the legal weeds for my poor brain, wasted for too many years on logic and mathematics to comprehend all this lawyer stuff.
Free legal opinions, anyone? Please mention if you're a lawyer. I'm particularly going to solicit comments from some lawyer bloggers with whom I have some vague contact... and if none shows up, won't that be embarassing!
(If anybody wants to answer more fully in his own blog, please leave me a trackback so I can go read it. The trackback URL for this post is http://biglizards.net/mt32/mt-tb.cgi/63. Thanks!)
Date ►►► September 28, 2005
Cindy Sheehan Got Busted
Update and Bump: see botom
On Saturday, the well known Communist organization International ANSWER and its affiliate World Peace Now organized an Anti-American rally in Washington DC. ( AP )
[A] massive demonstration Saturday on the National Mall that drew a crowd of 100,000 or more, [was] the largest such gathering in the capital since the war began in March 2003.
In other words, all the people who were against the war before the war are still against the war. Big deal. After two and half years of negative campaigning, they cannot recruit any more people than what they had when the war started.
Oh yes, don't forget our friend Cindy Sheehan. The following day, she and her supporters gathered around the White House, chanted an anti war "song," and got arrested. One of the participants even tried to climb the fence and was quickly subdued by the Secret Service. (He was lucky not to be shot.)
I wonder how many of those participants claimed to be family members of soldiers killed in Iraq. As I wrote last month at Captains Quarter’s, they are well known for puffing up such claims:
"We're also asking that you bring pictures of children," MoveOn.org requested, and it didn't matter "whether or not you have a child serving in the military."
Update: Sep. 28, 2005, 10:38pm
Protein Wisdom does not think the anti-America rally comprised anywhere near 100,000 people. They've got interesting pictures.
Update 2: Sep. 28, 2005, 10:41pm
Power Line has an interesting picture of a Marine at the anti-war rally. Pay close attention to the sign he carries.
Paging Ronnie Earle...
Let me get my thoughts in order here. Today, Rep. Tom DeLay was indicted by District Attorney Ronnie Earle (D-DNC) on charges of conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws because a political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, on whose board DeLay serves, accepted some money from some corporations -- and then sent a different amount of money to the Republican National Committee with recommendations of various Texas politicians to whom they might, if they chose, donate money.
The indictment accused DeLay of a conspiracy to "knowingly make a political contribution" in violation of Texas law outlawing corporate contributions. It alleged that DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee accepted $155,000 from companies, including Sears Roebuck, and placed the money in an account.
The PAC then wrote a $190,000 check to an arm of the Republican National Committee and provided the committee a document with the names of Texas State House candidates and the amounts they were supposed to received in donations, the indictment said.
The indictment included a copy of the check.
Ah, but did it also include a copy of the contributions to Texans for a Republican Majority by ordinary people, not corporations? Did that amount exceed $190,000?
John Hinderaker, over on Power Line, has much, much more on the DeLay "indictment." As usual, John nails it.
Democrats are screaming that DeLay, being in charge of the PAC, just shoulder the legal blame for any irregularities committed (or even alleged to have been committed) by the PAC. In short, they want Tom DeLay sent to prison, or at least expelled from the House.
Over on the other channel, we have two aides to Charles Schumer, Katie Barge and Lauren Weiner, who allegedly fraudulently obtained a credit report on Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele, a likely Republican contender to steal away the Senate seat being vacated by five-term Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes -- first elected to the Senate the year Jimmy Carter stumbled into the presidency.
Schumer Staffers Eyed in Probe of Political ID Theft
By Deborah Orin
New York Post
September 22, 2005
Two staffers on a Democratic political committee headed by Sen. Chuck Schumer are being investigated by the FBI for an alleged dirty trick — getting a Republican candidate's credit report illegally, officials confirmed yesterday....
Sources familiar with the situation said the [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's] head of research, Katie Barge, and a deputy, Lauren Weiner, got the credit report by using Steele's Social Security number, which they say they obtained from public documents....
The U.S. Attorney's office confirmed that it was alerted by the committee but declined to say whether it is or could become a target of the probe.
I'm not a lawyer, but if true, this would appear to be a violation of the Schumer-Nelson ID Theft Prevention Bill, which as Captain Ed wryly notes, was introduced by one Sen. Charles Schumer.
So correct me if I've missed something, but here we appear to have the allegation that a couple of aides who work for Chuck Schumer -- Schumer is the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee -- have committed serious ethical and possibly criminal violations. In response, per Captain Ed (quoting the New York Post), Schumer sent the two on paid vacations:
Phil Singer, a spokesman for the Schumer-headed Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said two staffers were instantly suspended — with pay — in July after admitting they obtained the credit report of Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who is running for Senate. [emphasis added]
So where, may I ask, are the Democrats screaming for an indictment of Schumer under the same theory by which DeLay was indicted for something allegedly done by a committee he doesn't even head, but on whose board he merely serves?
Where is the Republican Ronnie Earle for the District of Columbia?
Date ►►► September 27, 2005
Were British Soldiers Hostages From the Start?
My online friend who posts as "Silverlining," a Japanese MSM journalist who spent some time in Iraq and still has contacts there, offered an interesting speculation regarding the two British soldiers who were arrested by the Basra Police, then handed over to al-Sadr’s militia, the Mahdi "Army," and were finally rescued by the British Special Forces.
Silverlining thinks that the Mahdi militiamen, who had infiltrated the Basra police, kidnapped those two soldiers to be used as hostages from the very beginning, in retaliation for the British capturing two militiamen. On September 18th, the day before the British soldiers were apprehended, the British had arrested two key figures of al-Sadr's militia.
Sheik Ahmed Majid Farttusi and Sayyid Sajjad were detained in an early morning raid and are accused of being involved in attacks that killed at least nine soldiers, according to a statement from coalition forces.
This caused quite a stir in the area. The next day, during a demonstration by Sadr's supporters demanding their comrades’ release, the British soldiers were “arrested.” Although the police claimed these soldiers were conducting some sort of special undercover operation, the way these soldiers were dressed, Silverlining thinks they were simply a part of the British force, which was trying to contain the demonstration.
As Dafydd posted earlier, three different sects of militia have heavily infiltrated the Basra police. It is not so hard to imagine that some of Sadr’s men in the police got an order for this kidnapping. The fact the police casually handed them over to the militia seems to support his speculation. Perhaps Sadr's men intended to use the soldiers as barganing chips to release the militiamen.
What they did not consider was that the British army does not take kidnapping kindly. They should have known that the lion may be old, but it is not toothless.
One Out of Three Ain't... Deja-Vu
"It's déjà-vu all over again!" (Attributed to Yogi Berra by many, including himself)
In the previous post, I wrote a few caustic words about the Spanish approach to fighting terrorism, which, under the government of Jose Zapatero of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), seems to consist primarily of furiously firing off subpoenas and warrants and prosecuting terrorists after they commit atrocities that kill and maim hundreds (or thousands).
Today, John Hinkeraker on Power Line notes that several suspects have been arrested in France for plotting to bomb a number of Paris targets, including the metro, an airport, and the domestic intelligence agency headquarters. He links to an Agence France-Presse article:
Terror suspects eyeing up Paris metro, airport
Tue Sep 27, 5:09 AM ET
PARIS, (AFP) - Terror suspects detained in France had been eyeing up the Parisian metro network, an airport and the headquarters of the domestic intelligence service as possible targets, sources close to the investigation said....
Nine people were detained by police early Monday in a series of raids west of Paris in what officials said was a crackdown on suspected Islamic terrorist activities.
John puckishly suggests that "Early reports indicate that the bombers were motivated by France's support for the U.S. war effort in Iraq." Cute, John; his point, of course, is that of all countries in the world, France was probably the most adamantly opposed to our Iraq invasion and certainly did the most to prevent it -- and failing that, to nakedly sabotage our military action, probably resulting in more dead American soldiers. France was Saddam Hussein's best international buddy, of course, and has been at the center of the U.N.'s Oil for Fraud scandal, currently being "investigated" by Paul Volcker, under the control of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, and also being "for-real" investigated by Sen. Norm Coleman, chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
But I want to focus on a different aspect of the story, contained in these paragraphs:
Among those being held is Safe Bourada, 35, who was released from prison in 2003 after five years for helping organise a series of bomb attacks in France in 1995 for the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA)....
Officials said the men were members of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), an armed Algerian group that grew out of the GIA and has links to the Al-Qaeda network. Bourada was described as their ringleader. [emphasis added]
Once again, we see the stunning success of the "judicial approach" to combatting terrorism. This time through was a little better, since at least the French arrested Bourada before he carried out his bloody bombing du jour; still, what was he doing out of prison in the first place?
Safe Bourada was convicted in 1998 of recruiting GIA members to carry out "a 1995 wave of deadly bombings in Paris," which killed nine and wounded 200. According to CNN.com:
Bombing trial opens in Paris
Restive mood inside, outside the court
November 24, 1997
PARIS (CNN) -- More than three dozen suspects went on trial Monday on charges of helping Algerian Islamic rebels stage a 1995 wave of deadly bombings in Paris....
[Ali Touchent]'s deputy, Safe Bourada, 27, is to be questioned. He has admitted to police that he recruited young activists in France for the network.
BBC News has more details:
The defendants denied any involvement in the attacks. But they admitted helping the GIA in various ways, ranging from gun-running and providing forged documents to driving cars and offering accommodation.
The alleged leader of the support group for the GIA was Ali Tarek Touchent. He was sentenced in his absence to 10 years in prison....
Safe Bourada, who was considered to be one of Touchent's closest allies, also received a 10-year sentence.
Touchent was Bourada's boss; he evaded arrest in 1995, but the Algerians say they killed him in 1997.
So let's review the bidding: Safe Bourada was arrested as the "deputy" and "one of [the] closest allies" of the "leader of the support group" (recruiting, etc.), Ali Tarek Touchent, for the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA), in a plot that staged a "wave of deadly bombings in Paris," including one in a Paris metro. Nine died and two hundred were injured in these bombings.
In February of 1998, Bourada was convicted in open court and sentenced to ten years. But he was released from prison after serving only half his sentence.
After being released, he swiftly joined the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, a child-organization of the GIA (his old pals) that is also connected to al-Qaeda.
And now he has been arrested again, this time for plotting -- wait for it -- a "wave of deadly bombings in Paris," including one in a Paris metro.
As my old D.I. used to day, "how many things are wrong with this picture?"
This is precisely the problem with the judicial approach to fighting terrorism. France is at war; to quote the movie version of the Lord of the Rings, "open war is upon you, whether you risk it or not." It makes no difference to their enemies that they opposed America in the Iraq war... these terrorists are upset at France's actions in Algeria. In Spain, the terrorists are still upset about King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella kicking the Moors out of "al-Andaluz" in 1492, for heaven's sake.
Western civilization is at war. I do not agree we're at war with "all of Islam;" but we're surely at war with a particularly violent and relentless segment of it. This war is being fought mostly in the shadows, which benefits our enemies -- though American troops have become experts at such shadow warfare recently, and the tide is definitely turning in our favor. But whenever we manage to drag the war onto a real battlefield, as we did recently at Tal Afar in Iraq, the mismatch is so overwhelming that it's like shooting drunks in a barrel.
And that is a good thing, even if it upsets delicate, sensitive plants like Ramsey Clarke.
The judicial approach is great; I'm all for it; we should keep it up... as a sideshow whose primary purpose is intelligence gathering; the main event must be a full-blown military and intelligence operation, spanning many countries on every continent of the globe except perhaps Antarctica (and only because there are no militant Islamists there that we know of). We must be as relentless as the enemy and twice as determined.
The French and Spanish approach of all judicial, all the time simply does not work. There are too many procedural safeguards for criminal defendants, too many soft-hearted, soft-headed judges who simply feel sorry for "the chained-up dog," without bothering to ask why it was chained in the first place. These tendencies are bad enough for ordinary defendants accused, say, of carjacking or income-tax evasion; at least that's understandable. But for terrorist suspects who consider themselves in a "holy war" against "Jews and Crusaders," such an approach is a suicide pact.
And guess which American political party advocates exactly such a policy for how the United States should respond to future terrorist attacks? I cannot think of a single Democrat in the Democratic leadership (now that Dick Gephardt is gone) who actually advocates the Bush Doctrine:
- Preemption when required to prevent terrorist plots from becoming "imminent threats;"
- Multilateralism when possible, but unilateralism if needs must be;
- Extending democracy, by force if necessary, to the worst parts of the globe; and
- "Military strengths beyond challenge," as President Bush put it, to remain the supreme military power in the world.
One of our political parties is broken, as is much of the Western world. If the rest cannot fix the damage, we may not win this struggle.
One Out of Three Ain't...
...Well, it ain't good, actually.
Captain Ed of Captain's Quarters was the first I read to really pay attention to the al-Qaeda prosecutions in Spain. Yesterday, he wrote:
Spanish authorities expect a verdict soon in their prosecution of three alleged 9/11 conspirators, in a case that has received scant attention in the American media -- and even less from the 9/11 Commission report. Twenty-four defendants will find out whether a panel of Spanish judges will rule that they gave material support to Mohammed Atta and Ramzi Binalshibh in the run-up to the 9/11 attacks.
Captain Ed goes on to quote from Daniel Woolls, of the Associated Press:
The lead suspect in the Spanish trial, alleged al-Qaida cell leader Imad Yarkas, 42, a Syrian-born Spaniard, is accused of having set up that meeting along with another suspect, Moroccan Driss Chebli, 33. Both denied knowing Binalshibh or Atta or having anything to do with the terror attacks....
The third suspect facing specific Sept. 11 charges is Ghasoub al-Abrash Ghalyoun, another Syrian-born Spaniard, who was indicted over detailed video footage he shot of the World Trade Center and other landmarks during a trip to several American cities in 1997.
So we had Yarkas, Chebli, and Ghalyoun on trial, plus twenty-one supernumeraries, groupies, minions, lickspittles, and hangers on. But the three named were the Big Kahunas.
And today, lo and behold, we have the verdicts. From the New York Times:
Spain Issues First Prison Sentence for 9/11
By Renwick McLean
Published: September 27, 2005
MADRID, Sept. 26 - A Spanish court on Monday sentenced a Syrian man to 27 years in prison for conspiring to commit the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States and leading a cell of the terrorist network Al Qaeda in Madrid. The sentence is the only one to date in connection with the attacks.
"A Syrian man?" Uh-oh, this doesn't sound good.
In addition to the main defendant, Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, 41, also known as Abu Dahdah, 17 other men were found guilty of either belonging to or aiding his terrorist cell. Those men, including Taysir Alony, a correspondent for the Arabic satellite network Al Jazeera, received sentences of 6 to 11 years.
All right... what about the other two top dogs? What happened to Chebli and Ghalyoun?
Some analysts here hailed the verdict as at least a partial affirmation of the Spanish approach to fighting Islamic terrorism, which under Judge Baltasar Garzón has emphasized legal prosecutions over military action and intelligence gathering. "This is a clear sign that the rule of law has instruments that can be used to fight terrorism," said Jesús Nuñez Villaverde, director of the Institute for the Study of Conflicts and Humanitarian Action, a research group in Madrid. "It shows that there are effective methods that are not Guantánamo." [emphasis added]
We're very impressed. So what, exactly, did those brilliant and sensitive legal prosecutions in lieu of "military action and intelligence gathering" accomplish? What about Chebli and Ghalyoun? (Oh Lord, I sound like Al Gore: "What about Dingell-Norwood? What about Dingell-Norwood?")
Finally, ten paragraphs down, we finally get what Paul Harvey would have called the rest of the story:
In addition to Mr. Yarkas, two other men, Driss Chebli, a Moroccan, and Ghasoub al-Abrash Ghalyoun, a Syrian, were accused of involvement in the Sept. 11 plot, but they were acquitted of the charges on Monday, although Mr. Chebli was convicted of collaborating with a terrorist group. [emphasis added]
And there we have it. We have located the distinction between the judicial approach, as advocated by John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, and the Democrats -- and the military/intelligence approach, advocated by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, and a cast of thousands of neocons... and of course, the president: the United States, Great Britain, the Iraqi Defense Force, and the rest of the Coalition of the Willing have netted thousands of members of al-Qaeda and personally introduced hundreds of top leaders to Allah... while the kinder, gentler Spanish Socialist Workers Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español), led by Jose Luis Rodriguez "I'm Not Aznar" Zapatero, managed to convict one big cheese, plus a bunch of other nonentities.
The biggest catch got a reduced sentence of twenty-seven years (prosecutors had asked for 72,000 years, which would possibly have kept him in prison for the rest of his life); and two of the big fish got away clean on the most serious charges, though one got a minor conviction that will probably have him out and about before the next Spanish elections.
Of course, Spain needn't feel lonely in the "I almost got a bad guy!" sweepstakes. They can drown their sorrows with Germany in a massive hasenpfeffer and paella pity party:
In August, Mounir el-Motassadeq, a Moroccan, was acquitted by a German court of complicity in the attacks, although he was found guilty of belonging to Al Qaeda. Mr. Motassadeq had previously been convicted of involvement in the Sept. 11 plot, but the decision was overturned last year after a court ruled he had been denied a fair trial because of the American refusal to allow testimony from Qaeda suspects in United States custody. [emphasis added]
(See? It's all America's fault.)
Yep, the Spaniards certainly showed us how to do things. I wonder if the Democrats in Washington D.C. will point with admiration in November 2006 to this less-than-spectacular result of the antiterrorism policies they advocate...?
Date ►►► September 26, 2005
Art that Bombs
There was a time when art meant something that pleases, inspires, and moves you in a good way, not something that rubs you the wrong way. But rubbing you the wrong way is exactly the intent of this art exhibit in Manhattan.
“A Knock at the Door" features stamps depicting a gun held to President Bush's head, a straightjacket made from an American flag, and what appears to be a suitcase bomb.
[T]he point of the exhibit — not to provide answers but to ask visitors to decide what is offensive and what is art.
Are they so clueless that they have to ask that question? When did art become an intelligence test anyway?
But it's hard for many not to get the shivers after looking at the suitcase bomb, especially with the artist, Chris Hackett, facing firearms charges after the discovery of a weapons cache in his studio when police responded to an explosion caused by one of his other projects.
It is so offensive that even the fair and balanced Fox news reporter could not help but express his opinion:
Organizers assure no explosions here — but the exhibit may bomb.
My Adventure In Civil Disobedience
I think I'm going to have to Make A Statement. After all, somebody has to Speak Out. I will Speak Truth to Power!
Tomorrow, I'm going to pick a random government office, concentrating on places that will most inconvenience ordinary people who are unconnected in any way, shape, or form with the Global War On Terrorism. Maybe the VA facility over in Westwood, or an INS office in Orange County.
Then I'll go there with an entourage of groupies, wackos, protestors, and hangers-on. Even if I have to hire them. There will be no requirement that they actually have any knowledge about my protest; indeed, I don't even care whether they know what it is or not. So long as they're willing to disrupt daily life. The only requirement will be that they have to carry a picture of a child... anyone's child will do.
We will sit down in front of the front doors of my target government office (whatever the coin-flip indicates), link arms, chain ourselves to a door handle, and begin singing Pete Seeger songs -- each of us in his own, private key, of course. We'll block traffic, prevent people from conducting their daily lives, irritate the pedestrians, and frighten the horses. We'll refuse to move, even when the police ask extra-specially nice with sugar on top.
And then we'll be arrested, which violates all our civil rights! We Shall Overcome!
We'll sit in a police van for two hours, then go to a station. A bored clerk will take our names and a judge will remotely release us all on OR. On the court date, we'll get a lecture from the judge, be fined $120, and released.
That will prove that AmeriKKKa has become a Fascist, Nazi dictatorship that stifles all dissent!
Say, I think I managed to get through this entire post without giving a sixteenth minute of infamy to -- oops, better end now.
WHO Are YOU?
On this test, I came out here:
| You are a |
You are best described as a:
Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating
Hat tip to Patterico for pointing me there!
Sachi is a Capitalist:
| You are a |
You are best described as a:
Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Democrazy -- Israeli Style!
This is too delicious to allow to pass unblogged:
Sharon Walks Out of Stormy Likud Meeting
Sep 25th, 2005
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon walked out of a stormy meeting of his Likud party Sunday after what appeared to be intentional electricity cuts repeatedly prevented him from delivering his prepared speech....
Sharon, the final speaker of the night, walked to the podium to make his argument and found the microphone did not work. He sat down for several minutes and then walked back to the podium. He spoke a few words and then the microphone disconnected again. After waiting for several minutes, Sharon walked out of the hall.
I have a dream -- a dream of the Taiwanese parliament getting into a row and a ruction, with members leaping over decks and hurling chairs back and forth at each other (gives new meaning to the title "chairman"). I have a dream of the Japanese Diet with members pulling hair and scratching the faces of opposing members. Oh, wait... those aren't dreams, they're memories of what I saw on World's Wildest Parliamentary Videos.
Gee, don't you wish the United States had a parliamentary system, instead of our stodgy, old Congress? Think of the ratings that C-SPAN would garner if they could show entertainment like this every night, instead of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Margaritaville) burping and bloviating from a sheaf of prepared notes without even lifting his head to look at the witness. Or the camera. Heck, we haven't even had a duel among congresscritters in, like, more than a hundred years.
The convention came ahead of a Likud vote Monday on whether to move up the party primaries. Netanyahu wants them in November and Sharon in April. Sharon has hinted he might quit the party if defeated in Monday's vote.
I don't think Israel needs a new prime minister; I think the Knesset just needs a good electrician!
Talk to the Terrorists?
We Americans do not negotiate with terrorists. No, we should kill them not to talk to them, shouldn't we?
Well, not exactly. I found this interesting article in Space War.com through Good News Central.
Lt. Col. Bradley Becker who leads 2nd battalion of the 8th Field Artillery Regiment explains. Just before he came to Quayyarah in northwestern Iraq, eleven months ago, Iraqi police and the Army were in a sorry state. He did not think his seven platoons could possibly cover the whole area.
"Anyone who comes to a counter-insurgency thinking it's about killing terrorists is missing the boat," said Becker. "It's really about winning the people. You can kill all the terrorists but then you've pissed people off and created 100 more,"
Since his platoons cannot be everywhere at the same time, he needed to effectively attack certain hot spots, and kill a small number of very key people. This required intelligence. They needed cooperation from the local residents.
I have always thought that, in order for terrorists to freely conduct their activity, they must have local Sunni help, whether through empathy or intimidation. But these people themselves are not necessarily terrorists. If the American military or Iraqi police could show them we are on their side and we can protect them, then some of these people can tell us where the terrorists are. And that is exactly what is happening in Iraq.
Connecting with local leadership is the only way a counter-insurgency campaign can work -- even if the leaders are part of the insurgency.
Time and again, U.S. officers say after a show of real force -- the kind of effectiveness that makes the shieks and imams and villagers think they might be safe if they throw their hat in with the Americans -- tips start to dribble in.
"Then they say 'the real guy you should be going after is X' and we follow another target," Gibler said. "The cycle is never ending. When you kill a bad guy he is going to be backfilled. But as you target these guys eventually they can't rebuild, and then you have real, no kidding security."
We don’t know who the terrorists are. But the people who live there do. It is essential that the security force gains the trust of the local Sunni shiekhs and imams, even if that means talking to marginal terrorist supporters. I am glad our commanders are doing just that.
Date ►►► September 25, 2005
IRA Disarming... Well, Maybe
If this Associated Press story is remotely accurate, this could be a very good first step indeed:
International weapons inspectors have supervised the full disarmament of the outlawed Irish Republican Army, a long-sought goal of Northern Ireland's peace process, an aide to the process' monitor said Sunday.
The IRA permitted two independent witnesses, including a Methodist minister and a Roman Catholic priest close to Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, to view the secret disarmament work conducted by officials from Canada, Finland and the United States, the aide to retired Canadian Gen. John de Chastelain said on condition of anonymity.
The office of de Chastelain, who in recent weeks has been in secret locations overseeing the weapons destruction, scheduled a Monday news conference in Belfast.
The aide told The Associated Press that the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning news conference would detail the scrapping of many tons of IRA weaponry this month at a confidential location in the Republic of Ireland. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
Alas, it's a bit hard to verify. Libya's dictator Muammar Qadhafi sold the IRA many tons of weapons in the 1980s, and international arms inspectors have the inventory of this sale, which they likely got from the United States, who probably (I don't know this for sure) obtained it from Qadhafi himself, after he dismantled his own nuclear programs, in response to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and began cooperating with the United States on fighting terrorism. But of course, the IRA has other sources of weaponry and munitions besides Libya; it will be very hard ever to verify whether they have fully disarmed, certainly not to the satisfaction of the Paisleyites.
But frankly, I don't think it matters: the mere fact that the IRA are now destroying weapons, instead of simply claiming with appropriate vagueness that they have "decommissioned" them (which means what, exactly?), will, I believe, go a long way towards convincing Brits that the terrorist group is serious about renouncing its bloody campaign.
And I believe we have George W. Bush to thank for this sudden turnabout. Read on!
Ian Paisley's response is predictable, of course; he is Adams' mirror-image and just as evil:
The Rev. Ian Paisley, whose uncompromising Democratic Unionist Party represents most Protestants today, has dismissed the coming IRA moves as inadequate. Paisley insists on photographs, a detailed record and a Paisley-approved Protestant clergyman to serve as an independent witness.
A senior Democratic Unionist, Jeffrey Donaldson, said the IRA's apparent refusal to provide any photos and its refusal to use a Protestant minister nominated by his party as a witness meant that many Protestants would not fully believe the IRA moves.
"I don't think we're going to get that level of transparency tomorrow, and I think that's most unfortunate," Donaldson said. "People want to see what has happened ...
"The witnesses have been appointed by the IRA," he said. "It does diminish the credibility of whatever is going to happen tomorrow."
Actually, this statement only diminishes the Unionists -- who are every bit as terroristic, and who have not themselves invited any independent witnesses (let alone witnesses appointed by the IRA or Sinn Fein) to observe international arms controllers destroying all the Orangemen's weapons; in fact, they have not even offered to disarm.
At one point, during the days of the Irish Revolution (from 1916 to 1921), the Irish Republican Army was more or less an actual army; an army of insurgency, of course, but insurgency in its proper meaning: a native uprising against an oppressive government, in this case the occupation government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The war -- fought against the backdrop of World War I and the collapse of the British Empire -- led to the founding of the Irish Republic.
The current multiple terrorist organizations that confusingly use the name Irish Republican Army are the remnants of the split in the Irish nationalists from 1969 through 1998. The nationalist movement became Socialist in politics (possibly reacting to student leftist movements in the United States) under the leadership of Cathal Goulding. The IRA then split into two warring pieces: the Official IRA, which was the Marxist branch led by Goulding, and the Provisional IRA, also called "Provos" or "Provies," the hard-core warriors.
The Official IRA quickly faded from the field of armed conflict; while it still probably exists on paper, it's moribund. The Provos, however, led by Seán Mac Stíofáin -- an Englishman of some Irish ancestory born John Stephenson -- began a campaign of horrific terrorist violence against the Unionists in Northern Ireland; the Ulster Defence Association (sort of a terrorist holding company for the loyalist militias) responded with attacks on civilians in the Republic of Ireland, and Mac Stíofáin retaliated with attacks on civilians in England.
The Provos themselves split in 1986, when the more-radical Continuity IRA peeled off; and again in 1998, following the Good Friday Agreement with the UK, when the likewise radical Real IRA (which opposed the cease fire) declared itself.
It's likely that this disarmament and weapons destruction covers only the Provisional IRA, now led by Gerry Adams (who long maintained he was only involved in the Provisional Sinn Fein, the political branch, but who was outed recently as one of the military commanders as well); I speculate that the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA, which consider the Provos to be traitors to the cause, are not parties to the disarmament; they will continue operations and probably even step up their terrorist bombings, just to prove that they're still relevant. It could end up as an all-Irish version what Captain Ed calls the "Palestinian Three-Step," only with two groups instead of three.
If so, they have doomed themselves to extinction: the world has changed from the 1990s, as Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate.
What truly matters, however, is that the largest and best known branch of the IRA is at least going through the motions of disarming. And I would flatly argue that this is largely due to President Bush's response to the 9/11 attacks, paradoxical as that sounds.
The world changed in many ways on that day; one was in the way civilized nations respond to terrorism. No longer would terrorist activity be considered primarily a police problem, to be solved by subpoenas and warrants... though that will certainly always be part of the response. Now, the United States, the UK, and even countries such as France, Spain, and Germany treat terrorism as a military problem... and that has led to a number of reactions among sponsors of terrorism in countries as disparate as Libya, Lebanon, Syria, Ukraine, and -- in my opinion -- Northern Ireland.
Simply put, sponsoring terror has suddenly become much more dangerous; terrorist paymasters are rethinking their involvement. Some, such as Qadhafi, appear to be dropping out entirely... though of course that has yet to be proven. Others, such as Bashar Assad of Syria, are simply losing control of areas long controlled (Lebanon), as the people rise up and begin to fight back. Others are making last-ditch efforts to utilize terrorism as a military weapon: Iran and North Korea, for example. None, however, is completely unaffected.
The Irish people are clearly sick of the terrorism... not only the Irish in Ireland but the Irish in America, as well; in addition, the Bush administration has clamped down severely on terrorist fundraising organizations, freezing their assets and seizing their bank accounts. Since Irish Americans used to be the terrorists' primary source of funding, their coffers are drying up: this was undoubtedly the reason behind the December 20th, 2004 Belfast bank robbery, in which alleged IRA Provos made off with £22 million ($42.8 million) -- money that likely cannot be spent without attracting British police and military attention.
That robbery, which convinced the Irish in Ireland that the IRA had simply become a Gaelic Mafia, plus the January 31st, 2005 pub-brawl murder of Robert McCartney by Provos -- and especially the subsequent thuggish "offer" by the IRA to McCartney's family that they would simply shoot the murderers! -- has brought public disgust at the IRA to what must be its highest level in recent history. These, plus the disclosure of Gerry Adams' personal involvement in terrorist operations has, I believe, forced the Provisionals' hand: they must make a serious and significant movement towards disarming, demilitarizing, and mainstreaming themselves into a purely political movement, with no terrorist involvement at all.
Ian Paisley is correct that they haven't gone far enough; they need also to denounce the other Republican terrorist groups and cooperate with the authorities in turning them in... which will be a bitter pill indeed to swallow after years of denouncing (and frequently killing) those they consider to be traitors to the IRA cause. I don't know if the current leadership can bring itself to do that, but the snowball is already rolling down the hill. Eventually, they will either comply or be crushed beneath it.
But what applies to Sinn Fein and the IRA applies equally to the Paisleyites. Bloody-handed Ian Paisley, who is every bit as involved in terrorism against innocent civilians, must eat the same crow: the Unionists must likewise disarm, every bit as transparently as they demand the Republicans do, and must likewise disavow terrorism and turn in their unrepentant brothers.
I have great faith it will happen; but I have great sadness that it will not happen quickly, nor without terrible dying strikes by the die-hards and bitter-enders as they collapse. Now that civilization, as one organism, is finally rising up, the cancer of terrorism is doomed. It is just a matter of time -- and lives, both innocent and guilty -- until terrorism as a political force in the world is obliterated... something which I could not have said on September 10th, 2001.
Iraqi Troops Take Over
A round up of good Iraq news posted on other blog sites.
It is hard to believe, I know. But there is tremendous progress being made in Iraq. The American military has trained up to 200,000 Iraqi troops, much more and sooner than expected; as Captain Ed noted, a large number of these Iraqi troops now have battlefield experience. It is even possible we can significantly reduce the number of forces in Iraq by early spring next year.
After bombing two bridges near the Syrian border and severely damaging the infrastructure of terrorists in Najaf, the US military handed over the city’s security to Iraqi forces. In the Belmont Club, Wretchard quotes a September 6th story in the Washington Post about the Najaf battle:
The U.S. military pulled hundreds of troops out of the south city of Najaf on Tuesday, transferring security duties to Iraqi forces and sticking to a schedule that the United States hopes will allow the withdrawal of tens of thousands of its forces by early spring…Other cities in the heavily Shiite south, and in the Kurdish north, are likely to be next.
The Tal-Afar operation was conducted by a combined coalition of Iraqi and American forces. However, it was the 5000 Iraqi troops who conducted house-to-house searches and arrested over 200 terrorists. According to Iraqi officials, 141 rebel fighters were killed as well. In a different post, Wretchard quotes from the Telegraph:
Iraq's prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, announced the start of the offensive in a statement yesterday morning.
"At 2am today, acting on my orders, Iraqi forces commenced an operation to remove all remaining terrorist elements from the city of Tel Afar," he said. "These forces are operating with support from the Multinational Force."
The readiness of Iraqi troops may have overly encouraged the Iraqi president. From the Washington Post (hat tip Captain’s Quarters):
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said in an interview yesterday that the United States could withdraw as many as 50,000 troops by the end of the year, declaring there are enough Iraqi forces trained and ready to begin assuming control in cities throughout the country.
Of course this does not mean we have any kind of timetable for withdrawal. But it is good to know we are in fact getting ready for it.
The successful operation of Tal-Afar offensive was felt in other parts of Iraq. The Iraq Defense ministry is considering sending Iraqi troops to several Iraqi cities including Samarra, according to Iraq the Model. During a negotiation with Sunni delegate from Samarra, the defense minister had stated that Iraqi troops’ success is encouraging many youths to join the Iraqi Defense Force. He encouraged Sunnis to cooperate with the government as well. In fact, with the memory of Tal-Afar being still fresh in mind, Sunni tribes are peacefully negotiating with the IDF, according to Omar of Iraq the Model.
Iraqi troops are slowly but surely taking charge of Iraqi security; Bush’s nation building concept may well be working here.
Israel Drops the Other Shoe
Earlier today (from Saturday to Sunday Israeli time), Israel launched a large series of air raids against Hamas and several other terrorist organizations, including the Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Resistance Committees; the PFLP is connected to Syria (and Russia and China) and has its headquarters in Damascus. I don't know whether the AP story means the PFLP or the PFLP-General Command; they split in 1968.
The Popular Resistance Committees is a very new terrorist group (born in 2000), full of "young Turks" (sorry, I couldn't resist!) trying to muscle their way up the brutality ladder.
From the Associated Press story by Ibrahim Barzak:
Israel launched a "crushing" retaliation Saturday against Hamas in Gaza with deadly airstrikes, troops massed at the border and a planned ground incursion after militants fired 35 rockets at Israeli towns - their first major attack since the Gaza pullout.
Israeli aircraft pounded suspected weapons facilities and other militant targets throughout the Gaza Strip late Saturday and early Sunday, wounding at least 19 people, Palestinian officials said. Earlier, Israeli aircraft fired missiles at cars carrying militants in Gaza City, killing two Hamas militants.
In the West Bank, the military arrested 207 wanted Palestinian men overnight, most of them members of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements.
More is coming: Israel plans a ground invasion of Gaza soon -- in other words, reacting just as they would if Egypt or Syria or Jordan were to attack: with a full-blown military response:
Security officials said that "Operation First Rain" would include artillery fire, air strikes and other targeted attacks. The operation will grow in intensity, leading up to a ground operation in several days unless the Palestinian security takes action to halt the rocket attacks or Hamas ends the attacks itself.
This is precisely the sort of action I anticipated and that justifies Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's policy of unilateral withdawl. The Palestinians demanded to be treated as any other nation. Well, there is an old expression: be careful what you wish for... you may get it.
This will be fascinating to watch as it evolves; how far along the road to folly and self-destruction will Hamas and other militant groups journey before the Palestinian people decide they've had enough of fighting Israel -- and losing?
Date ►►► September 24, 2005
Israel Raises the Pot In Gaza
According to the Associated Press, Israel has responded to Hamas's rocket attack from northern Gaza by calling up thousands of troops, deploying them to the border, launching air strikes on Hamas bomb-making factories, and vowing a "crushing" response still forthcoming.
"We have to make it clear to the Palestinians that Israel will not let the recent events pass without a response," Mofaz said in a statement, referring to the Hamas rocket fire. "The response needs to be crushing."
The overnight rocket barrage by Hamas was the first since Israel pulled out of Gaza nearly two weeks ago. Israel has said it will show "zero tolerance" for attacks after the withdrawal.
Mofaz decided to deploy troops on Israel's border with Gaza after meeting his security chiefs, an official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the meeting. Thousands of soldiers received call-up notices, and their leaves were canceled.
This is precisely the response that would have been impossible prior to the pullout: it was politically repugnant, even within Israel, to launch air strikes on a territory that Israel occupied. But now that they have withdrawn, and the Palestinian Authority is officially alien territory -- and now that there are no Jewish settlers in Gaza to serve as potential hostages -- Israel has begun to respond to the attacks they way they would to any other "nation" attacking them. The gloves are off.
Israel has, of course, used attacks from the air before:
Mofaz also said Israel might resume targeted killings of Palestinian militants. During more than four years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, scores of militants were killed in targeted attacks, most by missiles fired from Israeli aircraft.
But they have generally shied away from actual aerial bombing of territories they were currently occupying: for example, in the wildly exaggerated "massacre" in Jenin, the Israelis deliberately eschewed aerial bombing in favor of more dangerous house-to-house searches, precisely in order to avoid the moral and political opprobrium that would come from bombing territory they were occupying and killing civilians legally under their protection.
We'll see over the next few weeks whether Israel has truly turned a corner in their response to Palestinian terrorism, or whether Ariel Sharon is all yarmulke and no goats.
The Mythical Three
Patterico was kind enough to link my Lizard's Tongue column "the Great Civilizer" over on Patterico's Pontifications; in the lively (and very legalistic!) discussion in the comments page, I noticed three great myths about same-sex marriage cropping up again and again. Having seen these tossed out before, always recited as if everyone already knew them to be true, I reckoned it's best to clear the air of the nonsense now, before we get around to further debate on the actual issue.
Here are the myths:
- Allowing same-sex couples to marry will extend the same civilizing effects of marriage to gays; isn't that good for society?
- Gays don't choose their sexual orientation any more than straights do, so a ban on same-sex marriage is just as discriminatory as a racial ban.
- You can't point to any specific marriage that will be damaged by allowing gays to marry, so obviously it won't have any impact on society at large, either; there is a natural tendency to pair up; people will still get married, so what's the big deal?
Rather than duke it out in the comments over there, I'll respond here and link back via trackback. That way I get a chance to spread myself a bit more.
Myth 1: Same-Sex Marriage Is As Civilizing As Opposite-Sex Marriage
The most interesting observation about this claim is that it is purely defensive; it begins from the nervous premise that gays need to be civilized! This is an amazing admission from the proponents of same-sex marriage; if the gay lifestyle were fine as it is, then why would it be so urgent to offer them the possibility of solemnizing their relationships by legally marrying? Unlike the economic argument, where the negative consequences (to inheritance, community property, or alimony) can be laid at the doorstep of "anti-gay discrimination," this position assumes the fact that there is something inherently wrong with behavior in the gay community which needs fixing. I only note the defensiveness in passing.
The first point to make is that the burden of proof of this peculiar claim is on the proponents of same-sex marriage, the ones who want to change 200+ years of American tradition, not on the rest of us to justify not changing everything. Since no one who asserts that giving a marriage license to gays living together will, by itself, help to "civilize" them has ever bothered trying to prove it (certainly not that I've seen), the point fails at inception. But I'll assume the burden of proof myself, to a partial extent; I will at least show why it's highly unlikely to be true. Such a mensch I am!
It's facially dubious. What is the enforcement mechanism? Traditional marriage civilizes men by the specific mechanism of forcing them to live with women. Men are already partially civilized even by dating women, let alone living with them, let even more alone being married to them. But gay men already date each other and live with each other -- with little evidence that shacking up moderates their behavior.
Alan P. Bell and Martin S. Weinberg, Homosexualities: A study of Diversity Among Men and Women, p. 308, Table 7, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978: 75% of gay, white males admitted that they had had sex with more than one hundred separate males in their lifetimes; 28% claimed more than a thousand.
Being openly gay appears to exacerbate promiscuity. Paul Van de Ven, et al., "Facts & Figures: 2000 Male Out Survey," p. 20 & Table 20, monograph published by National Centre in HIV Social Research Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The University of New South Wales, February 2001: a survey in Australia in the year 2000 found that gay men who associated with the gay community were almost four times as likley to have had over fifty sexual partners in the preceding six months than were gay men who were not "out" and did not associate with the gay community.
But how does this stack up against men in heterosexual relationships? Robert T. Michael, et al., Sex in America: a Definitive Survey, pp. 140-141, Table 11, Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1994; Rotello, pp. 75-76: 94% of traditionally married heterosexuals had only a single sexual partner within the preceding year; in fact, 75% of cohabitating heterosexuals had only a single sexual partner. And among married heterosexuals, "a vast majority are faithful while the marriage is intact."
There simply is no dispute in the literature: gay men (and even lesbians) are more sexually promiscuous, as a group, than their heterosexual counterparts. So if gay men's sexual behavior is not moderated by dating and shacking up, then why would giving them the social approval of a marriage license do the trick?
You can't even argue that they act out because they're forced to hide their sexuality -- because (supra) it's exactly those gays who are completely "out" and connected with the gay community who are the most promiscuous.
There is not a shred of evidence in the voluminous research done on sexuality to indicate that gay men will moderate their behavior if they are allowed to legally marry -- instead of merely being religiously married or common-law married. Sorry, but that's the truth. If proponents disagree, let's see the studies. There are several European countries where "gender-neutral" marriage is the law; can any proponent point to a moderation of sexual behavior as a result?
Myth 2: Sexual Preference Is Fixed From Birth
It's a tangential issue, but it seems to carry great weight among proponents of same-sex marriage. It certainly seems to be true that the lion's share of heterosexuals never had any homosexual experiences; the opposite is less true: until quite recently, most gays had tried heterosexual sex and often even marriage. (Likely because of social pressure; recently, with homosexuality less of an issue, a much higher percent of gays have never had straight sex... but it's still lower than the number of straights who never had gay sex.)
But there is a large undistricuted middle here: bisexuals. Some bisexuals lean more one way than the other; some are equal-opportunity swingers. But all, by definition, can go either way. There is no question that the more homosexuality is socially "mainstreamed," the greater the number of natural bisexuals who will live homosexual lifestyles; contrariwise, the more it is socially discouraged, the less they will do so.
All right, so we get more people living a gay lifestyle. So what's wrong with that? Again, refer above: evidence pretty clearly indicates that the sexual standards of those living within the gay community are significantly looser than the sexual standards of those living within the straight community, even for gays and bisexuals. Again, more people openly living gay lifestyles, within the gay community, means more people on the margins engaging in high-risk or socially unacceptable sexual behavior: multiple partners, anonymous sex, unprotected sex, and ephebophilic sex; unprotected sex is especially likely, since the danger of pregnancy is nil.
So in fact, the preferences of a group of people of undetermined size who can switch back and forth from living as gay to living as straight may indeed make a significant difference in the society.
Myth 3: How Could Same-Sex Marriage Affect My Marriage?
When studying social questions, the proper approach is statistical -- not individual. This argument is structurally identical to arguing that just because we can never prove for any one particular person whether his lung cancer is related to his habit of smoking three packs of cigarettes a day, therefore we cannot say that smoking causes lung cancer.
But this is errant nonsense: statistically, those who smoke are at much higher risk of lung cancer than those who do not, regardless of whether we can prove causality in any particular case. The proof is that lung cancer is much more prevalent along the first group than the second. (Of course, to be completely scientific, you must account for other differences; but that is the essence of the proof.)
It's beyond the scope of this particular response to argue the case that same-sex marriage damages the institution of marriage; that argument will come later. But all that will be necessary to prove at that time is that the institution as a whole is damaged... there is no need to prove that any specific marriage is directly damaged by some measurable quantum; and the lack of specific cases is no more an argument for same-sex marriage than is the lack of a particular causal relationship between smoking and lung cancer in any specific person an argument that smoking isn't dangerous.
Three myths exploded. Now future discussion can proceed on a logical basis, not an emotional one. (Fat chance.)
Date ►►► September 22, 2005
UPDATE September 23rd, 2005: Most recent Field polling added; see end
(Not to be confused with Arnold's Abs, which we haven't seen since he became governor... and probably for good reason!)
Governor Schwarzenegger has finally debuted a television ad supporting his four major initiatives for the upcoming special election, to be held on Tuesday, November 8th, 2005 -- just shy of seven weeks from today. You can view the ad by following the link from Dan Weitraub's California Insider MSM-blog.
The initiatives proposed by the governor are the following; note that the titles are mine (more concise than the ones given on the ballot), but the brief, bulleted descriptions are straight off the California Secretary of State's website:
Proposition 74: Teacher Tenure
- Increases length of time required before a teacher may become a permanent employee from two complete consecutive school years to five complete consecutive school years.
- Measure applies to teachers whose probationary period commenced during or after the 2003–2004
- Modifies the process by which school boards can dismiss a permanent teaching employee who receives
two consecutive unsatisfactory performance evaluations.
Proposition 75: Paycheck Protection
- Prohibits the use by public employee labor organizations of public employee dues or fees for political contributions except with the prior consent of individual public employees each year on a specified written form.
- Restriction does not apply to dues or fees collected for charitable organizations, health care
insurance, or other purposes directly benefitting the public employee.
- Requires public employee labor organizations to maintain and submit records to Fair Political
Practices Commission concerning individual public employees’ and organizations’ political
- These records are not subject to public disclosure.
Proposition 76: School Spending
- Limits state spending to prior year’s level plus three previous years’ average revenue growth.
- Changes state minimum school funding requirements (Proposition 98); eliminates repayment requirement
when minimum funding suspended.
- Excludes appropriations above the minimum from schools’ funding base.
- Directs excess General Fund revenues, currently directed to schools/tax relief, to budget reserve, specified
construction, debt repayment.
- Permits Governor, under specified circumstances, to reduce appropriations of Governor’s choosing,
including employee compensation/state contracts.
- Continues prior year appropriations if state budget delayed.
- Prohibits state special funds borrowing.
- Requires payment of local government mandates.
Proposition 77: Redistricting Reform
- Amends process for redistricting California’s Senate, Assembly, Congressional and Board of Equalization districts.
- Requires panel of three retired judges, selected by legislative leaders, to adopt new redistricting plan if
measure passes and after each national census.
- Panel must consider legislative, public comments/hold public hearings.
- Redistricting plan effective when adopted by panel and filed with Secretary of State; governs next statewide
primary/general elections even if voters reject plan.
- If voters reject redistricting plan, process repeats, but officials elected under rejected plan serve full terms.
- Allows 45 days to seek judicial review of adopted redistricting plan.
The single ad so far (which covers all four initiatives) is pretty good, well produced: it reduces the argument down to the short and pithy version that is easily conveyed and long remembered. Once this ad and the ones that follow begin running in earnest, I expect to see support increase significantly for these initiatives -- which have been battered for weeks now by relentless attack from the Democrats, financed by the bottomless pit of money created by exactly the problem that Proposition 75 is trying to end.
To me, the two most critical are Propositions 75 and 77; they are the ones that strike most directly into the anti-democratic, corrupt campaign manipulations of the Left:
Paycheck Protection, to prevent labor unions from hijacking required union dues to spend on partisan campaigns, invariably supporting the left side of the aisle -- especially on social issues that have nothing to do with workers, such as abortion and same-sex marriage; and
Redistricting Reform, to break the steel-cage gerrymander, which shields the radical, New-Left Democrats from the opinion of the California electorate and immunizes the legislature from election results. If any incumbent in the legislature actually had to worry about how the voters might vote, the legislature would never have voted for half the loony-Left nonsense they have routinely enacted in the past.
I will keep you apprised of election-related issues as they pop up, starting with a before-and-after snapshot of the polling, once some respected post-ad polls have been released. (At the moment, prior to this ad, all these initiatives are running either behind or neck and neck; we'll see if the ad makes a difference.)
UPDATE: Latest Field Poll on the four initiatives
I don't know how well this will come across. I constructed the table in Dreamweaver, then just imported the code to Movable Type 3.2. If you can read it, I will be somewhat astonished!
|Prop. 74: Teacher Tenure||
|Prop. 75: Paycheck Protection||
|Prop. 76: School Spending||
|Prop. 77: Redistricting Reform||
Actually, the numbers aren't too bad (except for Prop 76, which reduces education expenditures). They've drifted slightly away from the Schwarzenegger position; but then again, they have been subject to at least three weeks of intensive and expensive television attack ads with nothing on the other side. All in all, they've fared pretty well: Teacher Tenure and School Spending were subject to the most blistering attacks, and they've taken the biggest hit; but making it harder for teachers to get tenure is still in positive territory.
By contrast, the two I consider the most important -- Paycheck Protection and Redistricting Reform -- have barely budged. As the pro-initiative ads start to flow, I expect to see both move back towards the positive side. Paycheck Protection is strongly ahead, and Redistricting Reform is only moderately behind, well within striking range.
I believe there is a good chance for all to pass except for cutting education spending; but I'm not willing to make any predictions until I see some more polling.
Predictions: Judiciary-Committee Democrats Fail to Rise Above Lowest Expectations
Crash and burn on my prediction for the J-Com vote! I wildly overestimated the Democrats' ability to recognize their own best interest. The vote of course included five Democrats voting against, not just Ted Kennedy: what is astonishing to me is that Joe Biden, Charles Schumer, and even Dianne Feinstein voted against Roberts. Dick Durbin I can understand; he's not exactly the sharpest crayon in the tank. But Dianne Feinstein? She's never been a wacko before; liberal, but not a captive to the MoveOn crowd.
Oh well; this of course means that more than twenty Democrats are going to vote against Roberts in the full Senate... but are they going to get forty willing to filibuster? I don't think they can: Harry Reid, leader of the opposition, insists he will not vote against cloture; besides, Russ Feingold, Herb Kohl, and Pat Leahy voted for Roberts, while Mark Pryor, Tim Johnson, Max Baucus, and Ben Nelson have already declared support, with Mary Landrieu and Kent Conrad "leaning" towards Roberts; that should make at least ten Democrats ostensibly unwilling to filibuster, which would make a filibuster impossible. So Patterico's earlier prediction is still possible... though since he unwisely signed aboard my prediction, I get to split the ignominy!
My other prediction, about the Iraqi Constitutional vote, is still live, of course. I sure hope the Iraqi voters are smarter than the Democrats....
The Lizard's Tongue Flicks Forth
I promised for this week the first of several (I'm tentatively saying five) great secular arguments against same-sex marriage... and I deliver. Here is the innaugural entry of my column The Lizard's Tongue, which wil be available weekly (or biweekly, depending on the press of other engagements) from the Articles page.
You can get there by clicking Articles in the navigation bar above, so you can see the cool drop-down menu for the Lizard's Tongue column; it's in the sidebar on the right. Or if you're impatient, you can just click here to go to the column directly. Please let me know in the comments if this intricate apparatus fails in some spectacular way; if your car explodes, don't blame the Lizard's Tongue!
This first column is titled The Great Civilizer, and it argues that in general, women civilize men, while men encourage women to be more assertive and competitive. Both need the other... and it is in society's extreme interest to promote the union of male and female to create a family that is greater than either sex by itself.
This is also the spot to comment on the article itself, in the comments to this post.
Brad Linaweaver is working on his own columns, which will be monthly; they will likely relate to politics, to movies, and to science fiction... and they, too, will be linkable from the Articles page. I will also announce them as they materialize, and link to them from here.
Ain't technology great? Soon you'll be able to eat, sleep, and breathe Big Lizards twenty-five hours a day!
Date ►►► September 21, 2005
Shia Need Come-to-Jesus Meeting
This is profoundly disturbing. We all cheered -- well, except for Cindy and George -- when the Brits raided a jail (and then a private residence) in Basra to rescue their two special-forces comrades.
But the more details come out about the jailing and what happened to the soldiers afterward, the more it appears a reckoning is due between the Coalition forces and the Shia in the Iraqi South.
According to the governor of Basra province, the British soldiers were handed over by Iraqi authorities to Muqtada al-Sadr's terrorist forces, which it pleases him to call the "al-Mahdi Army." Via AP, "Iraqis in Basra Slam 'British Aggression'," September 21st, 2005:
Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr disputed the British account of the raid that followed. He told the British Broadcasting Corp. the two soldiers never left police custody or the jail, were not handed over to militants, and that the British army acted on a "rumor" when it stormed the jail.
But Basra's governor, Mohammed al-Waili, said the two men were indeed moved from the jail. He said they were placed in the custody of the al-Mahdi Army, the militia of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
"The two British were being kept in a house controlled by militiamen when the rescue operation took place," al-Waili said. "Police who are members of the militia group took them to a nearby house after jail authorities learned the facility was about to be stormed."
These are the same terrorists who tried to rebel against Iraqi authority in mid-2004, seizing the city of Najaf at the same time the Sunni terrorists under the command of Abu Musab al-Zarwawi grabbed Fallujah, killing four American contractors and mutilating their bodies for the TV cameras. This was the worst insurrection of the entire war, the only one that threatened to start an actual national front of resistance to Coalition forces; it was thwarted by the controversial but ultimately successful strategy of abandoning Fallujah for a time while we focused on Najaf and Basra. Once Sadr's "army" was crushed, we eventually returned to Fallujah, this time with a joint Coalition-Iraqi force that could not only conquer the city but hold it in Iraqi hands.
So after all that trouble, why on Earth are Iraqi police in Basra handing captured British soldiers off to Sadr's terrorists?
Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie, a Shiite politician who has criticized the British raid as "a violation of Iraqi sovereignty," acknowledged that one problem coalition forces face is that insurgents have joined the ranks of security forces.
"Iraqi security forces in general, police in particular, in many parts of Iraq, I have to admit, have been penetrated by some of the insurgents, some of the terrorists as well," he said in an interview with the BBC on Tuesday night.
Officials in Basra, speaking on condition of anonymity because they feared for their lives, said at least 60 percent of the police force there is made up of Shiite militiamen from one of three groups: the Mahdi Army; the Badr Brigade, the armed wing of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq; and Hezbollah in Iraq, a small group based in the southern marshlands.
The militias have deep historical, religious and political ties to Iran, where many Shiite political and religious figures took refuge during the rule of Saddam Hussein.
This is grim news indeed; but it need not be catastrophic. Basra clearly needs a thorough sanitizing; and respected Shiite leaders, such as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest ranking and most respected Shiite cleric in Iraq, must make it very clear to Iraqi Shia that they must choose. They can either be militiamen, or they can be Iraqis; they cannot be both, as the militias do not have the interests of Iraq at heart.
In fact, there are persistent claims that Sadr himself is an agent of Iran; certainly the Badr Brigade and Hezbollah In Iraq are fully creatures of that vengeful, bloody theocracy. From the Asia Times, "Iraq goes courting in Iran," July 19th, 2005:
If sincere, Tehran could help both Iraqi and US-led forces to better fight the largely Sunni-based insurgency in Iraq by engaging the 15,000 to 20,000 al-Badr Brigade, the military wing of the Shi'ite Supreme Assembly of Islamic Revolution of Iraq, formed, trained and equipped by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to oppose Saddam.
This astonishing action on the part of Basra police who are also members of the "al-Mahdi Army" terrorist group is a shot across the bow at the Bush administration's handling of the war. We cannot allow Shiite terrorist militias to take over the Iraqi South or North Baghdad any more than we can allow Sunni terrorists to take over the center of Iraq. President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair had better take this event seriously and start working with Shiite authorities to cleanse Shiite police forces of terrorist elements. The alternative may be to witness the birth of "Greater Iran."
Patrick Leahy Says He'll Back Roberts
UPDATE: Crash and burn on the prediction about the vote in the Judiciary Committee! Read all about it here.
In a move that seems to have shocked everybody except Patterico and myself, Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT), Democratic J-Com stalwart and filibustering fool, announced today that he will vote in favor of John Roberts, Bush's nominee to be Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Leahy, D-Vt., said he still has some concerns about Roberts. "But in my judgment, in my experience, but especially in my conscience I find it is better to vote yes than no," he said. "Judge Roberts is a man of integrity. I can only take him at his word that he does not have an ideological agenda."
Although Sens. Joe Biden (D-DE) and Charles Schumer (D-NY), both on the Senate Judiciary Committee, have yet to formally announce their votes either way, both gave interviews in which they said that Roberts was the best Supreme-Court nominee either had ever seen. I find it hard to believe they would say that -- and then vote against him.
In the meanwhile, as I expected, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) announced his own position:
Moments after Leahy spoke, Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, who also serves on the Judiciary Committee, announced he would vote against Roberts.
"There is clear and convincing evidence that John Roberts is the wrong choice for chief justice," Kennedy said. "I oppose the nomination, and I urge my colleagues to do the same."
There are other Democratic senators yet to announce: Dick Durbin (D-IL), Russell Feingold (D-WI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Herb Kohl (D-WI); still, I think my prediction, that Roberts will get all of the senators on the Judiciary Committee except Ted Kennedy, is looking pretty prescient at the moment.
Date ►►► September 20, 2005
Where Are All the Moslem Methodists II
Matt Barr over at New World Man has an interesting response to my previous post in this thread. He suggests that rather than needing more "Moslem Methodists," as I called them -- Moslems who took their religiosity with the seriousness of 21st-century Americans, rather than 12th-century crusaders -- what they really need are more "Moslem Republicans." He recounts a good history of the radicalization of several organizations originally set up for mainstream purposes (NOW, labor unions, and the teachers unions) but which metastisized into radical organs of the New Left, leaving the American people behind... and sparking a surge of voters to switch from the Democratic Party to the GOP.
I'm sure Barr is correct that more Moslem "Republicans" would be great for Islam, but I'm not sure the analogy works as well as the religious one I used (for all the controversy it sparked!)
The biggest problem in analogizing Democrats to Moslems is that the former did have other voices surrounding them, voices that were pointing out the radical nature of those organizations Barr mentioned (NOW, the unions, and the teaching establishment): first, the Republicans, of course; in our republic, the critiques from the GOP could not be entirely shut out, even back in the 60s and 70s.
But second and more important, we need to bear in mind what Barr himself noted: Democratic leaders and organizations were not always so insane. The switchover (I'm using Judge Bork's timeline here from, I think, Slouching Towards Gomorrah) was when the New Left began to arise following the Port Huron Statement, released by the SDS in 1962 (the Students for a Democratic Society was the group from which the radical faction the Weathermen later spun off).
Most older Democrats never particularly embraced the New Left -- which was radicalized, hard-core, and Stalinist, inexplicably combined with feverishly anti-science, anti-technology, Luddite "environmentalism" -- and the New Left didn't take over the Democratic Party until, to be blunt, the older generation died off.
Thus, there has been reasoned resistance to the radicalization of the Democratic Party from the very beginning, coming from sources with unassailable liberal credentials, such as Hubert Humphrey and Pat Moynihan. Many Democrats retained their basic love of America... and unfortunately for the new radicalized Democratic Party (but fortunately for the country), that meant a lot of people left the Democrats and joined the Republicans, bringing the two parties into rough parity (during World War II, I would guess the Democrats enjoyed at least a 2-1 advantage over the GOP).
Alas, the Moslem world did not have any history of modernity, and they did not suddenly became radical; as Bernard Lewis discusses in many sources (e.g., Freedom and Justice in the Modern Middle East, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2005), the history of modernity in the Moslem (especially Arabic) world is depressingly stunted. The first introduction of modernity was when Napoleon, then a general in the French revolutionary republic, invaded and conquered Egypt with nearly casual ease in 1798. He imposed French ideas of equality (concept well understood in the ummah) and "liberty" -- which the Arabs at first thought meant simply the lack of being a slave but later translated into their concept of justice, as in a just ruler vs. an unjust ruler.
During this period, the Moslem world was forced to confront its woeful technological and sociological retardedness, compared to the Europeans. Alas, what they most took from their abrupt contact with modernity was the technological tools of war and oppression; they were eagerly embraced by low-level local leaders to make themselves into caliphs and sultans. Thus, I believe (this is my analysis, not taken from the Lewis article above), the ordinary Moslem and especially the Moslem cleric would come to associate modernity with oppression by unjust rulers and despots using surveillance and control techniques never before seen in Islam.
And the second period of modernist influence -- back to Lewis's history, now -- was when the French government surrendered to Hitler, and the elements of the erstwhile French empire had to decide whether to declare alliegance to the Nazi-controlled French government of Marshal Philippe Pétain at Vichy, or to the Free French Forces under Charles de Gaulle, then in exile in London. The French Arab colony of Syria-Lebanon chose Vichy, and Syria became a haven for Nazi forces. Thus, the Moslem "education" in modernity that began with Napoleon ended with Hitler; the Baath Party was nurtured and eventually hatched just after the war, and many Arabist rulers embraced first Naziism and then Stalinism as a way to further their personal goals of pan-Arabism, totalitarianism, and empire.
Back to my own reading, not Bernard Lewis. There are basically two types of Islamic societies now: those that embraced modernism, which are still heavily influenced by totalitarian European political systems, such as Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and others; and those who rejected modernism, either all along (like Yemen and Sudan) or at least for decades, such as Iran. Since Islam never had a Reformation, they never had an Enlightenment (I believe the former, which leads to intellectual freedom, is necessary for the latter.)
Moslems, whether they live in pre-modern Islamic countries or modernist-socialist Islamic countries, probably reject the ideas of modernism with equal fervor: the former out of fear of the unknown; the latter out of memory of the particular form in which they did, in fact, know modernism. Leaders from both types of Islamic nation would reject the modernist ideas of freedom of speech (or thought), of the press, dissent, and democracy, as both radical Islamism and also Baathism and its ideological cousins condemn individualism.
But Moslems do have communication with the modern worlds of Christianity, Buddhism, and Judaism; they see the infidels living very different lives that seem better, easier, and richer. Western Civilization (especially American) is incredibly infectious, and a great many Moslems, especially in countries that are not majority Moslem, have succumbed ot its lure (thank goodness) and, well, westernized themselves. Their lives are materially better, but there is still that conflict with the religous leaders, hence with the religion itself. This conflict between how they actually live and how they are told they should live leads to feelings of guilt and restlessness.
In the West, Christians frequently "get religion" and become more conscious of and committed to their religion. Here, that means going to church more often, participating in charity drives, becoming a volunteer to help the poor, preaching to prisoners about self-control and taking personal responsiblity for their mistakes, and so forth.
In Islam, people often feel the same impulse to become more committed to their religion; it's a natural human trait. But in Islamic countries, while that often includes all of the above, it also typically includes leaders who preach jihad, hatred, and the denigration of the lives of infidels and apostates.
This, in longer form, is what I meant in my first post: before they can have a political divergence into peaceful parties separated by philosophy -- an Enlightenment -- as we have here, they first have to have a religious Reformation. Remember, even in the West, the Reformation caused the Enlightenment, which culminated in the rise of democracy in America and then everywhere else in Christendom. Look at the language our Founding Fathers used in creating democracy: the basic argument was that God had created human beings with freedom of choice... so who is Man to take it away from them?
Thus I say that without a Reformation to make Islam itself less all-encompassing and more modern, less like a crusader and more like a contemporary Catholic, Episcopalian, Baptist, or what have you, I cannot see how democracy can work.
The two Islamic countries we have been fairly successful at "democratizing" both came through a period of forced modernity. Iraq had been a secular Moslem state for decades before the war, due to the influence of the Baath Party; it's not so surprising, even given the tribal nature of Iraq, that democracy has caught on there... the people already had the taste of modernity -- and even though it was bitter, they could not go back again to the pre-modern beliefs of, say, Saudi Arabia: once tasting the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, you cannot go back to the Garden. (The Kurds even had a fairly democratic society in the North during Saddam Hussein's reign).
Similarly, Afghanistan had been forcibly exposed to the brutality of the Soviety Union for a dozen years, from 1979 to 1991-1992, when the Soviets were finally driven out. But during those years, they too got their taste of modernity, both its abuses (Communism) and uses (the American Stinger missile that helped liberate them from Soviet occupation). In 1996, the Taliban religious maniacs imposed upon them by brute force the harshest form of sharia around. The contrast must have been shocking; fortunately, no generation had time to be raised entirely under it before we destroyed it. Thus, I believe many Afghans, especially in Kabul, are thrilled at the ability to select their own leaders by the vote.
We seem to do better with states that have already been exposed to the advanced ideas of modernity. I would imagine that Egypt is another likely target, as Hosni Mubarik (and Anwar Sadat before him) are more in the mold of the Baathists than the Taliban; the same goes for Syria and Lebanon, of course. Iran might be a good match for democracy too, because of the history of the shahs, who were modernist "Moslem Methodists." Likewise Pakistan under Musharaf; and of course Turkey is already the very model of a modern Moslem nation-state.
But we're likely to have a harder time creating real democracy in Saudi Arabia, the home of Wahabbism... because that has always been a strongly Islamic religious state. Likewise, the states in Africa have already demonstrated a serious inability to modernize, as do many of the smaller Islamic countries in the Middle East. I don't know enough about the Philippines and Indonesia (the largest Moslem county in terms of population) to guess how well democracy could take hold there.
But in any country, religious Reformation must come first, then an Enlightenment, then democracy, and only then can we even begin to imagine "Moslem Republicans." Thus, while Barr’s history of the radicalization of the Democratic Party is accurate, in those areas of the ummah that did not pass through the forced secularization of socialism, we need "Moslem Methodists" before we can have "Moslem Republicans."
Future Shock and Awe
The following is a repost from my post of the same name on Captain's Quarters back in July.
Extree, extree, getcha red-hot future combat today!
As has been the case for, oh, a few thousand years, the violent tendencies of human beings are leading the way to tomorrow's technology. War is not only good for business, it's good for science. Here are just a few of the goodies that await us in future battlefields.
Warning! This is a very long post, nearly all of which is tucked into the extended-entry section. Forewarned is four-armed!
Exoskeletons for Human Performance Augmentation
The weak link in the combat chain is often the human body. We run slower than horses; we carry less cargo than a camel; our skin is more fragile than a rhinoceros; we can't even jump like a gazelle.
But all that is going to change, if DARPA has any say in it. Joe Pappalardo of National Defense Magazine writes that the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has been hard at work for several years now on the Exoskeletons for Human Performance Augmentation (EHPA) program. The idea is to create a tough and powerful exoskeleton that would surround the soldier's body and augment his own native abilities.
At the moment, political correctness rules. Ever since the public-relations fiasco of the Terrorism Information Awareness futures market, DARPA has been almost paranoid about bad publicity... which can lead to investigations, budget cuts, and in a pinch, mass firings. So all they will admit at this point is the utility of exoskeletons for loading and unloading cargo:
“This is a fairly boring transportation program,” [DARPA project manager John] Main said, with a small grin. “We’re not jumping over buildings. We’re getting into rough terrain that is denied to Humvees.”
But the combat implications are obvious: a man who can carry 200 lbs of fuel or MREs can also carry 200 lbs of body armor or a 200 lb weapon (or a mix: a hundred devoted to armor, and the other hundred to weaponry). Although they're not really willing to speculate, it's hard to see, once you have the basic idea of exoskeletal augmentation, how you can fail to think of putting jets in the boots, heavy weapons that can be fired by merely pointing the hand, or all the other accoutrements of Robert Heinlein's 1959 novel Starship Troopers.
Stepping way, way out on a limb, the head of the UC Berkeley robotics engineering lab, which is working on a DARPA grant, Homi Kazerooni, reluctantly admitted the possibility:
Kazerooni conceded that robotic enhancements worthy of combat were feasible, given a system design that could keep up with soldiers’ reflexes. “Can the machine shadow our reflexes? These are not voluntary, and sometimes 200 microseconds is not fast enough.”
The first key is acceleration: no matter how well a soldier is armored, a fall from 100 feet is a fall from 100 feet, with the same sudden stop at the end. But if DARPA can control the acceleration -- for example, by using boot-mounted, gyro-controlled attitude jets -- the soldier can "leap" high into the air, then "land" safely.
The second key is psychological: will the American people accept Starship Troopers style "Mobile Infantry?" Or will the princes of the Senate strangle the technology in its cradle? As the song says, only time will tell.
Brain Machine Interface
But perhaps we don't need anybody in those suits at all -- if the human can stay safe several miles away, controlling the empty suit by a direct brain-machine interface.
Thoughts are not ghostly apparitions made out of ectoplasm, it turns out; they are electrocolloidal impulses that travel from neuron to neuron across the synaptic gap. And that slight spark is readable... if you have the code.
That, not coincidentally, is exactly what another DARPA project aims to do: crack that neural code, so that machines -- or weapons -- can be controlled by thought alone.
Some research projects funded by DARPA have already achieved significant success, according to a 2003 article in the National Journal, written by Bruce Falconer. Duke University neurobiologist Miguel Nicolelis headed a team that planted "100 hair-like sensors" in a South American owl monkey (coincidentally, the same owl monkey that has been directing the recent reactionary political reaponses by the Democratic Party). As the monkey used a joystick, the scientists could monitor its neural activity and program the impulses into a computer-readable code.
The monkey repeated the motion - only this time, two robotic arms (one in an adjacent room and another 600 miles away in a Boston laboratory) also moved in response to the wireless signals sent straight from the monkey's brain.
In a similar, more recent experiment, the same scientists taught a macaque to direct a cursor to illuminated targets on a computer monitor. When scientists disabled the joystick, the monkey gradually stopped moving its arm altogether and learned to do the experiment just by thinking.
The article in the National Journal notes some of the uses. Right now, the biggest limitation on military aviation is the inability of the human body to take stresses much greater than about nine Gs, nine times the force of gravity. A typical 185-lb pilot in a 9-G turn feels as if he tops the scales at a cool 1,665 lbs. At that force, it's so difficult even to raise his hand that modern jets use fly-by-wire systems that require only slight finger movements for the pilot to guide the craft. Grayouts and blackouts are commonplace -- and can lead to death.
But if a pilot could sit on the ground and control the plane by his thoughts, then the rest of the airplane could withstand far greater stresses; this means an aircraft that could outmaneuver any plane in the sky that carried human cargo, such as a pilot and flight officer.
The same is true with a tank. Rather than relying upon a true "ogre" tank, which is completely artificially intelligent (a daunting computational task, considering that we cannot even design an AI car), a gigantic, solid tank can be controlled by a full crew... who sit safely back behind the lines in a simulator, their thoughts controlling the tank via a satellite uplink. With the absence of the most vulnerable part of the weapon, the human crew, the tank itself would be virtually unstoppable, short of dropping a tactical nuclear weapon on top of it.
There are civilian uses too, of course, notably in the area of prostheses for amputees and paraplegics. But the subject of civilian spinoffs from military research is big enough to warrant its own post. Or article. Or multi-floor library.
We have smart missiles that find their targets by several methods. Some are literally connected to a wire that trails out behind them, allowing the missileer to guide the bomb to its target. Others home in on a laser dot "painted" on the target by a forward spotter. Cruise missiles actually have topographic maps programmed into their brains, so they can swoop and swerve through gullies and across mountains to find a target by its GPS coordinates.
So why can't we do the same with rifle and pistol ammunition? Imagine bullets that can literally chase the target, racing around corners and over obstacles to hit the poor terrorist in his own trench, as in the 1984 Tom Selleck movie Runaway.
Well, it turns out that United States Air Force (and likely other branches of the service -- and I wouldn't rule out DARPA) has not only been imagining such a thing, it has been actively trying to develop them for more than eight years, according to the 1997 article "You Can Run, But You Can't Hide...", by Justin Mullins, published in New Scientist (reproduced here by snipercountry.com).
The Air Force calls the program Barrel Launched Adaptive Munitions, or BLAM, in an unusual display of wit. The researchers agree that the guidance technology is the easy part; it's already available for missile systems and only needs to be made smaller. The difficult part is designing a bullet that can turn in mid air and can become aerodynamic to prevent falling towards the ground as it moves towards the target, in accordance with our ancient enemy, gravity.
Some programs have experimented with tiny attitude jets on the bullet to steer it. But BLAM uses a more exotic, science-fictiony method: the front of the bullet actually flexes to create lift in various directions. Lift on the bottom keeps the bullet flying at the same altitude it was fired, without dropping; lift on the right steers the bullet left, and so forth.
The mechanism is simple. The nose is connected to the body by a ball-and-socket joint, and held in place by a number of piezoceramic rods, or tendons, which change length when a voltage is applied to them. Increasing the length of a rod on one side of the bullet while shortening its opposite number changes the angle of the nose (see Diagram). The nose can move by up to 0.1° in any direction.
Snipers are the ideal persons to use smart bullets; slithering into enemy territory on their bellies, becoming invisible via ghillie suits, then drawing a bead on the target enemy personnel are pretty much the same skills needed to paint a target with a laser dot (which can be invisible to the naked eye, preventing premature target panic). The invisible dot would guide a smart bullet for a targetted assassination from an astonishing distance -- several kilometers, for example. Unless every bad guy spends all day, every day, in a room with no windows (or wears American power armor), he will be vulnerable to just such a "bolt from the blue."
In another arena, the New Scientist article notes that airplanes fitted with smart bullets can bring down bogies with just one or two well-directed shots, rather than the hundreds typically used to destroy a target. This can lead to cost savings, even though smart bullets would not be cheap:
Aircraft bullets cost more than $30 each. [Ron] Barrett [who tested the BLAM system] says the piezoceramic materials would add $10 to this while the microelectronics would cost another $100. But he argues that the increased strike rate would lead to cost savings. "You'd only fire one when otherwise you'd fire hundreds."
Smart bullets would also lead to less collateral damage, because there would be less lead (or depleted Uranium) flying around.
But I'm still holding out for small, man-portable and firable rail guns!
Finally, bringing us up to today's technology, we have a "phaser" -- American style, not that touchy-feelie stuff you see on Star Trek, where the target just falls over unconscious. This version is actually more of a heat ray, manufacturing fake feelings of searing agony, like "touching a hot frying pan or the intense radiant heat from a fire," except it does no actual damage. The pain is all in the target's neurons.
In "US aims Star Trek ray guns at nuclear sites" on Vnunet.com, Robert Jaques writes that the Department of Energy has teamed with the Department of Defense to create a milimeter-wave directed-energy weapon system with the catchy title of Active Denial Technology (ADT). The first use will be to protect critical sites, such as nuclear power plants, from terrorist (or protester) intrusion.
ADT emits a 95GHz non-ionizing electromagnetic beam of energy that penetrates approximately 1/64 of an inch into human skin tissue, where nerve receptors are concentrated.
Within seconds, the beam will heat the exposed skin tissue to a level where intolerable pain is experienced and natural defence mechanisms take over....
The sensation caused by the system has been described by test subjects as feeling like touching a hot frying pan or the intense radiant heat from a fire. Burn injury is prevented by limiting the beam's intensity and duration.
Sandia labs have already tested a prototype, and they believe a smaller model will be ready to deploy by 2008. Perhaps it can be used in the White House briefing room whenever an MSM feeding frenzy erupts during the next presidential campaign.
So there you have it -- the three of you who managed to make it all the way to the end of this excruciating post: four windows into the brave new world of continued American military dominance over the rest of the world. And if you think that is a bad thing, well I suspect you're reading the wrong blog.
Movement vs. Presence -- Updated with bump
UPDATE: See bottom.
Over on the must-read blog Patterico's Pontifications, Patterico wonders at the timing of North Korea's abrupt about-face on its nuclear-weapons program. For those of you living in Carlsbad Caverns, the Kim Jong-Il regime agreed late yesterday night (or early this morning, depending on whose time zone you prefer) to end their nuclear-weapons development in exchange for basically nothing from the United States -- just the assurance that:
"The United States affirmed that is has no nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and has no intention to attack or invade (North Korea) with nuclear or conventional weapons," according to the statement, assurances echoed by South Korea.
Here is what puzzles Patterico:
In the comments, AMac asks: why are the North Koreans making this concession now? One possible answer is in the linked story:
[U.S. assurance quoted above]
That is a concession that I believe we have been unwilling to make until now. So the relevant question might be: why is the United States making this concession now?
Patterico's question crystalized my own vague sense that something was funny here. Not wrong, necessarily, though of course I am highly skeptical of anything that comes out of the mouth of Kim -- especially in light of the rapid about-face from their previous about-face, now demanding that we first give them light-water reactors before they dismantle their nukes. We'll see if they get stubborn, of if this is just a last-ditch attempt to get something for nothing before finally agreeing to what they already agreed to.
Still, I have the sense that something momentous is motivating below the surface, like floating in the ocean and having a whale swim beneath you. That something is not North Korean: it's American; there is a reason why we're willing to make certain assurances today that we were not willing to make last year.
I'm not worried about North Korea cheating, assuming the deal even goes through; the agreement evidently includes boots on the ground in the DPRK verifying the destruction of their nuclear weapons and weapon-manufacturing facilities. As with Libya, I believe this will either be done honestly -- or else we'll know immediately that it isn't. Since we don't give them anything in advance, there's no particular incentive to cheat. (That's another reason we can't give in to their demands for the reactors: they would get something tangible in exchange for nothing but a promise to cooperate.)
There are some obvious possibilities to answer the "why now?" question: maybe the North Koreans finally figured out that Clinton really isn't president anymore (and won't be in the future -- no, not even via his wife). Maybe they'd gotten themselve in too deep and were just looking for a facesaving way to back out, and the declaration by the U.S. mentioned above finally gave them that. (Asians must save their faces; Americans have to cover their posteriors.)
But that still begs the Patterico question: why were we willing to make such a commitment today but not last year? I believe the real answer to Patterico lies in what Don Rumsfeld has been doing for the last few years (in between fighting a couple of wars and secretly running the White House, timesharing with Dick Cheney, Karen Hughes, Paul Wolfowitz, and Condoleezza Rice, of course): he has been busy with a radical restructuring of the armed forces, in composition, mission, and style of warfighting.
It's tough being a pundit. I don't actually know anything. Well, I know something about mathematics, since that was my field at university; but what I really need to be right now is a military historian, which I emphatically am not. So I'm going to play one on the blogosphere... all you real military historians out there, quick, shield your eyes! (Actually, I would appreciate just the opposite: please correct me where I go awry.)
I'm actually pretty sure of my basic point: Don Rumsfeld has been almost obsessed with reforming and modernizing the American military to fight the wars he envisions for the the twenty-first century... as opposed to what we had in the early 1990s, which was a military organized in 1947 to fight the Warsaw Pact and perhaps the ChiComs -- or when Bush-43 took office in 2001, which was the cut-rate, stripped-down, Clintonized version of the above.
I already had the basic sense, but for the specifics, I'm relying on this April 2004 story on GlobalSecurity.org; the details will evolve, but it's probably more or less accurate still.
Rumsfeld has a vision of what tomorrow's combat will be. In response, he is transforming our military, starting with the 3rd Infantry Division as guinea pigs, into a lighter and faster military with fewer non-combat personnel, organized into smaller units. Instead of focusing on the division as the basic warfighting unit -- say 15,000 to 20,000 troops -- he wants the basic warfighting unit to be the much smaller brigade... in fact, an even smaller version of the brigade. Instead of the classic three brigades per division, Rumsfeld wants four or five per division, plus an aviation brigade of attack helicopters. We currently have ten divisions comprising 33 brigades; the Secretary of Defense wants to have between 43 and 48 brigades.
Thus, instead of 5,000 to 6,000 troops per brigade, we would have 3,500 to 4,000 troops per brigade. Also, technology would take the place of much of the support personnel, so there would be fewer typists, storekeepers, clerks, cooks, and so forth traveling to the war. The brigade, not the division, would become the primary warmaking unit -- the idea being that we do not need to send a division when a modernized, fast, and every bit as lethal brigade will do. For larger conflicts, send several brigades. It gives us more flexibility and faster mobility.
The upshot here is, I believe, a radical change in how the United States responds to global threats. During the Cold War, our basic strategy was presence: we would have bases all over the world, putting a troop presence in every potential hotspot. This served two purposes: first, these American forces in Germany, the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, and (recently, but no longer) Saudi Arabia acted as "triggers." To roll into Western Europe, for example, the Soviets would first have to attack the American forces in West Germany; this would not only delay them and remove any doubt about intentions, it would give us unassailable casus belli that not even the most dovish liberal in Congress could ignore or reject.
Second, having troops right on the scene meant that we had a force that could (we hoped!) hold off the enemy, or at least delay him for the months it would take to get a major army into the field. Our buildup in the Gulf War, Operation Desert Shield, lasted for four months before we finally attacked... and that was a comparatively small mobilization, compared to what we would have had to do in an all-out World War III in Europe.
But Rumsfeld's vision (it seems to me) is that we would move away from the "presence" model in future wars, relying instead on a strategy of rapid movement. Currently, I think it would take about fifteen days to plant a fully equipped division anywhere in the globe. This is pretty fast (assuming we can actually make it that quickly in a real situation), though not as fast as it ought to be. But if we're only planting a brigade, not an entire division, we could probably get them in much faster... a week, maybe, or even less.
The brigade needs to be tough enough to hold the line until more brigades can arrive, so it needs to be a lean and lethal fighting machine full of experienced soldiers who drop in from above, move too rapidly to be effectively countered, spread massive damage among the enemy, hunt them out in the dark and house to house if necessary, but which can disappear over the horizon like ghosts before enemy forces can truly be brought to bear... only to reappear shortly on another flank.
Donald Rumsfeld, in other words, wants the Mobile Infantry from Robert Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers: heavily armed and armored, veteran shock troops which can be dropped into anywhere on a moment's notice and hold the real estate until more troops can arrive.
If we could do that, it would not be as important to have large numbers of troops everywhere in the world: they need to be forward-deployed... but they wouldn't have to be actually in South Korea, for example, in order to get to the DMZ fast enough to make a difference.
And that may be why the president can now make those assurances to North Korea about what we will actually have in the Korean peninsula: Bush can say, in all honesty, that we don't need to have troops and tanks and especially nukes in country, because Bush knows that if we needed them, we could insert them into the country -- and North Korea could not stop us. What Bush did not and would not say is that we will never have nuclear weapons on the peninsula or that we will never have plans to invade the DPRK: that, after all, depends upon the facts on the ground.
Which should be a good incentive for Kim to keep his word. Assuming he can actually bring himself to give it!
UPDATE Sep 20th, 2005 05:34:
Commenter Teafran, a Marine, makes a very important point :
What is missing from this argument is the lack of Division level support once an area has been shocked and awed. Rumsfield has it right for the initial level of confrontation - the MI hits the ground initiating the kicking ass and takeing names phase, but they are not designed to hold and control an area which clearly is a Division level function for ordinary grunts and MP support.
Wretchard over at the Belmont Club has actually written about this; alas, I cannot recall exactly which post, or I would link it. He noted that the British during the days of the Empire truly understood how to "hold and control an area," not just for a few days or weeks but literally for decades... more than a century in some cases.
What they used was a "colonial corps." Hey, wait a minute! I think I -- yes, I did! I actually wrote about this already, over on Patterico's Pontifications -- and I do have a link. Doh!
Ahem. Wretchard over on the Belmont Club wrote a post called More Men on the Ground 2, in which he discussed this point. As I wrote about Wretchard's post back in May (this is Dafydd quoting Dafydd, not quoting Wretchard),
Wretchard contemplated what it would take actually to carry out the mission we seem to have chosen for ourselves: to institute regime changes around the globe, casting out the most repulsive, venomous dictatorships, the ones that test the will of civilization, in favor of democracies that allow the people of those lands the greatest expression of individual liberty they have ever known. Wretchard noted the obvious: the United States is ill-equipped for what we would really need: a “Colonial Corps” specifically designed for long term occupation of hostile nations, rather like the British army of the nineteenth century....
This Colonian Corps would not be entirely military; it would include administrators, engineers, diplomats, jurists, politicians -- everything needed to tear down the repugnant elements of a terrorist state and build on the ashes the foundations of a modern democratic, liberal state. One presumes it would not be hamstrung by the rampant racism that infested the Raj and other European colonial institutions.
I don't think he put the two ideas together, Mobile Infantry and the Colonial Corps. That was my contribution. I continue quoting myself... one of my favorite pasttimes!
So the question arises: is it possible for a military to be both a Colonial Corps and also a Blitzkrieg Batallion?
Conventional wisdom says no: it would require two entirely separate armed forces, one for colonial occupation, the other for warfighting against technologically sophisticated enemies... and no country could afford both at the same time....
And this is exactly where, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, the “army of one” trendline comes into play. Where is the empowerment of the individual American soldier headed? What is the omega? It is possible in theory that a single, “hyperpowered” soldier of the realistic future could defeat an entire army of today?
....Imagine an army with just one of these soldiers a scant twenty years from now. Now imagine ten of them. Imagine ten thousand “armies of one.”
Ten thousand soldiers is not a lot. It’s a single division. And one extra division of Mobile Infantry would hardly break the bank, leaving plenty of money left over for the Colonial Corps. If we were to go this route, we would end up the first “empire” in the world that conquered only to liberate, colonized only to build independence, and yet still could shake the Earth with our thunderbolts.
Yes, I think we really could do it -- if we wanted badly enough to do so. I'm not even sure I, myself, would want us to go this route.
It wouldn't be cheap; we would likely have to nearly double our military expenditure. But the possibility is there; only the will is problematical. (This is a big enough addition that I'm going to bump this to the top.)
John At Power Line Loses It, part Deux!
In my previous post, John At Power Line Loses It!, I called your attention to John Hinderaker's excellent (if scorching) chastisement of Bill Clinton for attacking the current president... during which Clinton lied (there's a shock!) not only about the current facts on the ground but even about his own earlier belief that Iraq had stockpiles of WMD, a fact easily shown by a Clinton quotation from 2003.
Now, Patterico supplies much more of that quotation, which completely contradicts the charge Clinton now levels at his successor (and superior). Like a web, the pieces are falling into place; like a puzzle, the fine strands come together at the center. It's as clear as Christmas (at least to me) that the only thing that has changed between 2003 and 2005 is that somebody or other's wife is now gearing up for a run at the presidency.
The original Power Line post is here.
Date ►►► September 19, 2005
California Linking Rings
Two great issues divide the most populous state in the Union. But they are inextricably linked together... and for those of us who support a California ruled by the people, not by professional liberals, it is vital that we win on both of them.
The first will also come to a head the quickest: the drive to take redistricting out of the clutches of the Democratic dominated legislature, which has gerrymandered the state so severely that the ordinary functions of democracy have been stifled. In the 2004 election, not one single seat in the legislature changed hands from Democrat to Republican -- or from Republican to Democrat. We remain encased in amber, like the hundred million year old mosquito in Jurassic Park.
The second great issue is longer term, and it will not be resolved this year; but it has a much greater potential to damage Western Civilization so severely it may never recover. That issue is the defense of traditional marriage from leftist suggestions for "improvement," such as "gender-neutral" marriage, polyamory, or the abolishing of marriage altogether.
Both of these issues will soon burst forth: the first in this November's special election, and the second in either the primary or the general election in 2006. And the two are linked, because it is the gerrymandered legislature, which has lost all fear of the electorate, which is trying to force same-sex marriage down our throats.
Not every blog has a focus, but some do: Power Line became the central blog in the Dan Rather-60 Minutes forgery; Captain's Quarters is the go-to blog for the news on Able Danger (and before that scandal broke, CQ was the blog of record for the Canadian parliamentary shenanigans); and of course, Patterico's Pontifications absolutely owns the Los Angeles Times -- or as he used to call it, the L.A. Dog Trainer.
Ordinarily, I'm not a "theme" guy; but these two issues are so important to me -- and to California, and I believe to our country -- that I will return to them again and again. So today, I only want to set the stage.
Note: This post is a rewrite of a Scaley Classic that was first posted on Patterico's Pontifications under the title Dafydd: Only a Brief Respite. It's longish, so read on only if you care anything about the culture you live in, you Philistine. (Not that I'm trying to load any guilt on you; if you don't care about anything, I'll just sit here in the dark and suffer. Oy.)
Earlier this month, Gov. Schwarzenegger announced that he would veto the same-sex marriage bill, which had been greased through the legislature by the underhanded Democrats while real Americans were distracted by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. This gave the state some breathing room. But make no mistake: this is not victory for those who support keeping the traditional definition of marriage (that would be about 61% of the California electorate); it's only a brief reprieve.
His reason for the veto is not any heartfelt objection to same-sex marriage but rather the obnoxiousness of the legislature trying to enact same-sex marriage just five years after the electorate voted overwhelmingly to ban it. Proposition 22 passed with 61.4% of the vote; it read: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." Simple, direct, straightforward... but not to a leftist who knows better.
Schwarzenegger has since announced that he is running for reelection; but the odds that he'll win reelection in 2006 are at best 50-50; on the flip of a coin, the Democratic nominee may be the new governor.
California is not fundamentally a liberal state; but it's a split state with the Democrats stronger than the Republicans. And the California Republican Party is in such disarray -- probably the worst in the country -- that Democrats consistently win nearly all statewide offices. Arnold's win in the Davis recall election was a fluke; he was an outsider to California politics, and approval of the insiders was at its lowest ebb that I can recall since I was old enough to notice politics.
But now Schwarzenegger is an insider, too; add to that his abysmal job-approval numbers (unfair in my opinion, but my opinion is irrelevant), and the stage is set for the governorship to return to the party of Barbara Boxer and Nancy Pelosi, unless Arnold can pull another Hasenpfeffer out of his hat.
The Democrats have made themselves clear: the moment one of them is in the governor's mansion, the state senate and assembly will immediately (possibly on the first day of the new session) approve same-sex marriage, and to hell with the voters. The bill will quickly be signed by the new Democratic governor. There will be a donnybrook in the courts; maybe we'll win... maybe we won't.
So for anyone who believes it's important to stop the recognition of same-sex marriage, it is now more important than ever before to enact a traditional definition of marriage into the state constitution in the 2006 election (primary or general, depends on when the initiative petitions are filed).
I will not here explain why same-sex marriage is so dangerous. But I will post an article this week to this site (and excerpt and link it on this blog) that argues, from a completely secular viewpoint, why traditional marriage must be preserved and must be the only form of legal relationship specifically approved by the state. Patience the way of the Jedi is!
That still will not protect us from the numerous "Thelton Hendersons" infesting the federal district courts in California and the 9th Circus Court of Appeals. For that, we need a strong and conservative Supreme Court ("conservative" in the sense of ruling on the basis of what the Constitution says, not what they wish it said). But a state constitutional amendment will protect us from rampaging state judges, who tend to be far more numerous and aggressively prejudiced than their federal counterparts.
There are three initiatives to protect the special status of traditional marraige that are in various stages of preparation; they will shortly go to the people for signatures and eventually, I hope, be placed upon the ballot. Two of them also ban (or at least discourage) so-called "domestic partnerships." There was a time when I supported domestic partnerships; but since the California Supreme Court ruled that the state had to treat such relationships exactly the same as marriage, I changed my mind. To the court, it's just marriage under another name. I argue my case here.
Proposition 77 - Fair Redistricting
It is also vital to change the redistricting rules to have the lines drawn not by the state legislature but by retired judges. This is the crux of Proposition 77, which has already qualified for the ballot in this November's special election. (State Attorney General Bill Lockyer -- a Democrat, of course -- pulled a dirty trick to force Propl 77 off the ballot; it took the state supreme court to overturn the unjust appellate-court decision and restore the people's right to vote on the initiative.)
Under ordinary circumstances, I would be on the other side; I don't like judges, even retired ones, intruding into the democratic process. Alas, the California state legislature is so mind-bogglingly partisan, patrician, and pandering, that we no longer have a democratic process in this state. The legislature is under the complete dominance of the Democrats... and they have used their majority to lock in the gerrymander to end all gerrymanders. It is currently impossible for the Republicans to make any gains, no matter how close the parties grow... and indeed, even if the Republicans were to become the majority party, the Democrats would remain the majority in the legislature -- and would therefore control redistricting in 2010, as well, allowing them to protect their gerrymander.
That is why the Democrats are so willing to spit in the faces of the California voters: they know they are immune. There is virtually nothing voters can do about them, because the election process itself has been rigged. So long as the Dems pander to their überleft base, Republicans are locked out. And the Democrats have shown, time and again, that whenever they have the power to draw the lines, they will gerrymander to the fullest extent.
Therefore, the power to redistrict must be taken out of the hands of the corrupt legislature. Paradoxically, we must shift it to the undemocratic decision of retired judges in order to restore democracy.
Anatomy of a Gerrymander
How does a gerrymander work? Simple example. Let's say a state has 1,000,000 residents. And let's say each resident either votes Democratic or Republican. 530,000 are registered Democrats, and 470,000 are registered Republicans. Assume 80% of each party always vote for their guy, while 20% of each comprises swing voters who might vote either way.
Now, this is a 53 to 47 split, fairly close; if there are ten districts, 100,000 residents each, you would expect to find 5 Democrats in the legislature, 4 Republicans, and one seat that is usually D but sometimes R. (Assume a unicameral legislature, just for simplicity.)
But check this out; the Democrats get a chance to redistrict, and they create the following districts:
- 69,000 Ds and 31,000 Rs;
- 69,000 Ds and 31,000 Rs;
- 69,000 Ds and 31,000 Rs;
- 69,000 Ds and 31,000 Rs;
- 69,000 Ds and 31,000 Rs;
- 69,000 Ds and 31,000 Rs;
- 69,000 Ds and 31,000 Rs;
- 15,000 Ds and 85,000 Rs;
- 15,000 Ds and 85,000 Rs;
- 17,000 Ds and 83,000 Rs;
Since 80% (loyal Democrats) of 69,000 is 55,200, which is 55.2% of the vote, the Ds are guaranteed to win 7 of the 10 seats, even if the 20% of swing voters defect. Whatever the Ds want passes the state legislature every single time... and they even have more than 2/3rds, enough to override the governor's veto, if they must. So a tiny advantage is converted into total and eternal domination, all by clever use of their redistricting powers.
Actually, it's even worse: suppose Democrats go absolutely off their rockers, and this results in the Republican Party growing stronger. Let's say that 5000 Democratic residents of each district convert to the Republican Party. Then each of the seven Democratic districts would have 64,000 Ds and 36,000 Rs, while each of the three Republican districts would have 10,000 Ds and 90,000 Rs (actually, one would have 12,000 Ds and 88,000 Rs, but that's not important).
In this case, Republicans would outnumber Democrats statewide by 520,000 to 480,000, almost the reverse of the first example... yet the Democrats would still control those same 7 out of 10 districts. This is exactly what happened in Texas, resulting in a strong majority of Republican voters -- but an equally strong majority of Democratic legislators. It took political dynamite (and a powder-monkey named Tom DeLay plus many years of fighting) to finally correct that ludicrous situation.
Although this is a simplified example, this is basically the situation we're in right now, except the Democrats don't quite have enough guaranteed seats to override a veto, thank goodness.
Thus, even though the Dems would still have a legislative majority under fair districts, it wouldn't be as overwhelming as it is now... and it would be much harder to enact insane, hard-left legislation, because there would be a lot more districts whose voters were moderate and could flip either way. Seats would flip from Democratic to Republican, and that itself will force moderation on the Democratic Party.
In most other states, I agree the legislature should draw the district lines; but when the majority proves itself to be functionally incapable of behaving in a democratic fashion, they should not have the power to predetermine the results of the very elections that are the only way to redistribute power. It's like electing a party whose main platform is to abolish all future elections; if you do it, you're sunk.
The two quests are tied together, because if we don't fix the shattered redistricting process, we'll have to face the same challenges to traditional marriage over and over, every election cycle, ad nauseum. And if we allow same-sex marriage to be crammed down Californians' throats, then there will be such bitterness and disgust within the Republican base that many will just drop out of politics altogether (or move out of the state) -- which is exactly what the Democrats hope for. (I would say "pray for," but, you know -- Democrats are to prayer as Superman is to Kryptonite.)
We need unassailable victories on both fronts. We need to win both of these for the Gipper.
Date ►►► September 18, 2005
John At Power Line Loses It!
Loses his ability to suffer lying weasels gladly, that is.
The recent fusillade of fabrications from former President Bill Clinton seems to have broken John Hinderaker's camel-shaped back; today, John lashed out at the smug, smarmy, decadent nihilist who used to suck up all the oxygen in Washington and is still trying... though John spots a bit of an ulterior motive in Clinton's stream of consciencelessness accusations against President Bush.
Bill Clinton flings his dirt like a monkey with a handful of monkey byproduct, and for the same reason: to mark his territory and ward off enemies -- Republicans who might stand in the way of Billary's return to la Casa Blanca. This is, of course, the open secret we're supposed to forget: that Hillary has designs on the presidency, and that her husband would of course go along for the ride... and possibly even take the wheel when she wasn't looking.
So now, Three-Term Bill suddenly decides that "there was no evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq after all (but read Power Line for a Clinton Cwote from 2003 on that subject), that the military has become too small for the job under George W. Bush (wait -- didn't we use to have sixteen divisions in 1992?), and that we've been "unsuccessful" in Iraq because the proposed Iraqi constitution is not "universally supported" (yes, we've lost the crucial Zarqawi - al Duri vote).
There's much more, all finger-licking good. This is one of John's most passionate posts... and not coincidentally, one of his best. My guess is that he didn't pause to ruminate and contemplate but wrote in a white-hot fury at the criminal thug and casual despoiler of American security who we used to have to salute.
Read, read now and come away simultaneously incensed, relieved, and a little bit anxious... as you contemplate past -- and present -- and future.
Predictions, Predictions: the Iraqi Consitutional Vote
UPDATE: Crash and burn on the prediction about the vote in the Judiciary Committee! Read all about it here.
One of my favorite thrillseeking pastimes is making high-level predictions. Unlike those by psychics, mine are specific and near enough that everyone will remember to check -- thus I dance on the high-adrenaline tightrope between, as Charlie Brown would put it, being a hero or being a goat.
(I actually have a fairly good track record, because I do not make my predicions anywhere near as randomly as I pretend.)
The Iraqi constitution, which their parliament just voted to be put to the Iraqi people, can only be derailed by either a majority vote against (not politically possible) or by its rejection by three provinces, each with more than two-thirds against.
This time, I'll just flip a coin *: Dafydd the Great, wearing turbin and holding back of hand to forehead, predicts that no more than one province will muster the necessary 67% rejection. (Actually, I believe none will; but I'm hedging my prediction slightly.)
In an earlier, unrelated prediction posted on Captain's Quarters about the vote on John Roberts' nomination in the Senate Judiciary Committee, I prognosticated that every Democrat on the committee except Ted Kennedy will vote to support Roberts in the vote recommending his nomination to the full Senate.
All of my predictions will have the primary category "Predictions," to make for easy tracking. After each is decided by the quantum vicissitudes of time, I will update it, scoring Dafydd the Great either a hit, a miss, or a mixed result (a wash).
* I'm lying again, as I warned you I might. I don't make my predictions by flipping a coin. I've been following this upcoming election for some time. My thinking was also influenced by this post by Captain Ed over at Captain's Quarters. So there.
Where Are All the Moslem Methodists?
UPDATED: See below
Way, way, way back when I first began this blog -- by which I mean yesterday -- one of the earliest commenters, pbswatcher, posed a very fair and hard-to-answer question:
The phrase "militant islamist" immediately raises the question of how to define a "non-militant islamist."
Actually, there are two questions here: first, what would a non-militant Islamist look like; and second, how many of them are there?
The first one is easier to answer. Centuries ago, Christianity used to be as aggressively militant as militant Islamists are today, attacking not only Jews and other infidels but also apostates, heretics, blasphemers, and witches -- all real or imagined. The crusades; Torquemada; Kramer and Sprenger.
But the Church, after bifurcating, underwent a transformation across all of Christendom that is collectively lumped together as "the Reformation," though it occurred at different times and paces in different places. By the time it ended, we had a Christianity spread across many different sects and churches more or less living in harmony with each other: I don't mean a complete, worldwide lack of religious violence among Christian sects and religions; I mean that there are no two Christian sects or religions that are at war nearly everywhere, nor is there any sect or religion that still wants to massacre everyone who isn't of their particular faith -- not even the Phalangists in Lebanon, to the extent they're even still there in any strength.
Today, it's commonplace to see a Catholic church, a Baptist church, and a Russian Orthodox church on the same block, with the pastors visiting each other and setting up combined charity drives. There are still billions of Christians (if we combine Catholic and Protestant religions); but the average guy or gal just doesn't live and die by the faith the way he used to do, in the days of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, for example.
Christians today are by and large domesticated. Some may sigh for the "old days;" but they imagine days that never really existed like that. In any event, real-life counterparts of those "good old days" are five hundred years in the past, and nobody alive today actually experienced them. The reality is that whatever most Christians (and Jews) may say about the depth of their faith -- in real-life encounters, faith is secondary to comity, commerce, employment, and secular-civic involvement (the PTA, for example).
And this is good. It means that I can live next door to Catholics and have no fear of an auto-da-fé. Also, a typical American Jew doesn't have to stubbornly refuse to eat at his gentile neighbor's house because it's not kosher; most Jews who claim to keep kosher really just mean they avoid the really obvious traif, like pork... and often not even that, if it's inconvenient. Heck, the rabbi who married my wife and I ate an Egg McMuffin just before one of the rehearsals! (Wait -- wasn't Egg McMuffin the sidekick of Johnny Carson? Or am I hallucinating again?)
This is exactly what I want to see happen to Islam: what the world needs are more Moslem Methodists.
I know there are some, because one works with Sachi: he's a Moslem, he claims to be kosher (he avoids pork; that's about it), and he prays at least once a month or so, when he remembers. I think it pretty obvious we're not at war with him.
Such a person could still think of himself as an Islamist, if he sees it as more of an internal thing: the mere fact that he tells himself that sharia is the goal may liberate him from having to live by it in practice. The trick is to divorce Islam (or at least Islamism) from the here and now and transplant it to the afterlife. Specific inconvenient rituals can be largely abandoned, even while the Moslem bemoans their abandonment in a general sense -- in the same way that even the great majority of orthodox Jews who keep strictly kosher don't treat their wives as "unclean" and refuse to touch them during the wives' menstrual periods (Leviticus 15:19).
I think we can envision a moderate Moslem, or even a non-militant (if not actually moderate) Islamist: for the latter, even if a person obeyed sharia in his home, it's not a foregone conclusion that he wants to kill everyone who doesn't. The real question is how many of these moderate and non-millitant Moslems and Islamists are there?
I don't have data on this; but my gut feeling is that the majority of Moslems are moderate as I have described it... but nearly all national or international Moslem organizations, whether overtly religious (like a mosque) or more secular in purpose (like CAIR), are strongly inclined towards militant Islamism and therefore dangerously tolerant of Islamic terrorism. If all that a moderate Moslem sees around him as the public face of Islam are groups that call for jihad, either overtly or slyly, he may well feel that there must be something wrong with him not to feel that same rage and hate. He'll probably fall silent, afraid to object, both because of physical threat, and more important, fear of social shunning.
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things. -- Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Maybe if moderate Moslems would concentrate on creating Islamic organizations that give a sense of solidarity to "Moslem Methodists," showing them they're not alone, the natural tendency toward laziness would take over: hating is hot, hard work.
I wonder; how many secularized Moslems "live lives of quiet desperation?" There must be some way to persuade them "not to do desperate things."
UPDATE September 18th 2:55pm: There is an excellent discussion going on in the comments section about whether Islam is inherently militant or whether it's unfairly tarred with that brush because of religious bigotry. Several things to throw into the mix: I heard Dennis Prager point out -- though I don't know whether it was original with him -- that of all the most populous religions in the world that have actual, known founders, only Islam was founded by a warrior; a general, in fact, who personally led armies into battle. I have heard it said, though I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this statement (not having read the Koran myself), that the later writings of Mohammed, when he was an old man, are distinctly more angry, bitter, and bigotted, particularly towards the Jews, against whom he held a grudge for refusing to recognize him as a prophet.
To what extent do these two points color the religion of Islam itself? Does the "strain of pacifism" in Christianity arise from the fact that despite occasional references to violence by Jesus (e.g., coming to bring a sword and the incident in the Temple with the moneychangers), Jesus was mostly pacific Himself? (E.g., put away your sword.)
Also, I do wish to note to those who take some offence at my point that in Christianity and Judaism today, "faith is secondary to comity, commerce, employment, and secular-civic involvement," and who insist that religion is the most important thing to them... beware the danger of temporocentrism: people in the Mediaeval period really did think so radically different than we, that we barely even have words to describe what they meant by "religious."
Remember, the typical Christian at the time of the Crusades had no explanation whatsoever for anything he saw in the universe other than "God did it by personal command." They did not know the world was round, for example -- though the Greeks had, and the few educated people in Europe may have known; thus they had no other explanation for sunrise and sunset other than direct divine intervention every single day.
There were virtually no books and no library science, so even what "knowledged" existed was in an inaccessible form... even for scholars. The masses were illiterate, so they could not even read the Bible. The very basics of scientific (empirical) reasoning, which are second nature to everyone today, were unknown.
They knew no mathematics other than -- for a few people -- simple, accounting-level arithmetic. If they thought about the heavens at all (as opposed to Heaven, the place), they would have seen the sun, the Moon, the stars and planets as fixed to crystal spheres that revolved above the Earth. They lived, in Carl Sagan's term, in a "demon-haunted world," where the slightest religious transgression could result in nearly instantaneous attack by hellish creatures bent on destruction of all humanity.
Yet they were as intelligent as we, by and large; they had story-telling brains, as do we, and therefore, they created stories to explain the world around them... as do we. Their belief in the cosmic battle between good and evil was not metaphorical but literal, including the killing of "witches" who were Satan's agents; burning them alive was a kindness, because they might repent just before death and be spared eternal damnation.
A "religous" person back then would be one who attended every, single mass the local monastery or church conducted, which would be multiple times a day, every day; a moderately secular person would be one who only attended one mass per week.
What we today call "religious," which includes reaching out in friendship and religious solidarity to other sects and even to Jews and Moslems, would be considered daringly apostate if translated into their terms.
So no, the vast majority of religious Christians today are not "religious" in the same sense of the word as their counterparts in the 11th century, when it became a vital, burning desire in the hearts of average, everyday Christians in England, Germany, and Spain to go to war (on campaigns that took many years) to reconquer Jerusalem from the Moslems -- and to kill the Jews they accidentally met along the way.
They lived in a very different world, one so alien it may as well be another planet.
Date ►►► September 17, 2005
The Patterico Gambit
Patterico just put up a nice post agreeing with my rather outré prediction that all but one of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee will vote in favor of Judge John Roberts to send his Supreme-Court nomination to the floor of the Senate. I belatedly realize that a post from Patterico back in May must have formed part of the reasoning behind my own, more specific prediction; Patterico's earlier Prediction was this:
Democrats will not filibuster Bush’s first Supreme Court nominee — no matter who it is.
They will filibuster his second Supreme Court nominee — no matter who it is.
So far, the first half of this looks solid; and we'll see very soon whether the second half is likewise prescient.
Here is the more interesting point: Patterico notes that this tactic (filibuster the second, not the first) sets the Democrats up for the Miguel Estrada gambit: Estrada's resume is very similar to Roberts, and Estrada was filibustered for doing exactly what John Roberts did and got away with doing: refusing to answer specific questions, and refusal by the White House to turn over notes from his time in the Soliciter General's office. It's virtually impossible not to suspect that the Democrats were against Estrada not simply because he was a conservative but because he was a conservative Hispanic... and if the Republicans make the charge, it will be very difficult for the Democrats to refute, especially in light of the memo that Patterico cites.
Read these Patterico links: the J-Com battles are going to get very hot very fast!
Reptilian Comment Policy
Everybody needs a comment policy (he realized belatedly), so I thought I'd toss one out. This entry will also have a unique, one-to-one category for quick perusal.
I do have a few simple rules which are so obvious that even without me enunciating them, not a single person has yet broken any! Readers of Big Lizards are a lot smarter (and obviously decenter -- is that a word?) than the average bear.
No profanity; nothing stronger than "hell" or "damn," but please not the latter with "God" prepended. "B.S." is all right, so long as you don't spell it out (unless you spell it "Bear State" or somesuch). Use euphemisms: "Mother Hubbard!" "Bullroar!" "Dangling Participle!"
(Angry Clam may plotz over this one...!)
- No personal attacks against the hosts of the blog or against any commenter. This should be pretty clear.
- Nothing that will get the hosts sued or arrested! That means no classified data, nothing that violates NDAs, and no libel.
- Comments whose primary purpose is to derail, disrupt, or destroy the conversation, or to drive away other commenters, or to serve any similiar troll-like goal, will be deleted and the troll warned; subsequent violations -- or even a single violation for anyone on comments probation -- can result in permanent termination. The hosts are the sole judges. Squeals of "censorship" will be considered further abuse. While the hosts dislike having to institute this rule, we dislike even more seeing other commenters driven away by the abuse of the few (or in this case, the one). Reasoned dissent is welcome; verbal assaults and intimidation will not be tolerated.
- No spam. Penalty is immediate and permanent termination. You're welcome to include your blog-URL in your comment; that's not spam. But y'all know what I'm talking about: I've got the "football," and I ain't afraid to push the button!
- We don't mind you gloating over the deaths of our enemies; but Big Lizards will not tolerate any gloating over the deaths of Americans or American allies.
That aside, here is what we do want... in fact, the very reason to start a blog:
- Topic drift and sidebar discussions are welcome in any comment thread. Let the conversation roll. It goes where it wants to go.
- Disagreeing with the host or other commenters is absolutely welcome. My life consists of banging ideas against each other to see which breaks; I'm not afraid of dispute, so long as it doesn't degenerate into invective. Please feel free to disagree with each other or with any of us.
- Brief snippets or quotations from other sources, published or blogged, are fine -- so long as you include attribution (even better is a link, if you can), and so long as they're brief enough not to violate copyright. (As a writer, copyright is very dear to me!)
You can use the normal HTML stuff that most comment pages allow, plus one extra that is inexplicably non-standard but which I added to the list of acceptable stuff. Here's what's available:
- <strong> or <b> for boldface
- <em> for italics
- <s> for
- <p> for paragraph; if you have multiple paragraphs sitting inside a <blockquote> or <li> (list) tag, you should put the <p> tags around the first paragraph (inside the blockquote or li tag), or it will look goofy. Trust us on this one...
- The <a href="some URL"> formulation for links
- <blockquote> for quotations
- <ul> for unordered (bulleted) lists like this one -- plus the list-item code <li>, of course
- <ol> for ordered (numbered) lists, like the first list above
- <pre> for code or table format -- monospaced font and all internal spaces retained... so you can line up a table, for example
- and <br /> for the XHTML version of line break or new line (while staying in the same paragraph).
Everything else will be "sanitized" right out of the comment automatically (to make it just slightly harder to insert malicious code into the blog).
Please note, I personally read each and every comment posted to this blog... so even when I don't answer, I did read and ponder what you said. And in fact, I won't respond very often in comments: I see the comments section as your territory; its function is a place for readers to express their own ideas and argue them out with each other. I learn so much more from reading what you guys write than from arguing with you!
I usually only enter the comments to correct some statement that is clearly factually incorrect. For example, if someone were to say that OJ Simpson had been convicted of murder, I would step in to correct that; he was not convicted. But if someone were to say he should have been convicted -- or that he was rightfully acquitted -- that's your legitimate opinion, and I won't mess with it!
And I might step in to whap somebody with a big, pink salmon if he or she gets carried away in the excitement and posts something regrettable. But I've only ever had to do that twice in literally more than a thousand comments on PP and CQ.
So have at it -- and have fun!
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 17, 2005, at the time of 5:15 PM
High Friends In Places
Oops, I think that should be Places In High Friends. Something.
This is astonishing: Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters and John Hinderaker at Power Line were kind enough to debut me to the world... and (I'm not kidding, I checked my watch) within 45 minutes of these announcements, 350 visitors and about 900 page views had appeared on the site... and three comments!
And they're mine, all mine. Take that, Capitan Monastario!
Mostly just kind souls wishing me God speed, for which I'm profoundly grateful -- and very unaccustomedly humbled -- but it's still mind-boggling how efficient the blogosphere is as an engine of communication and interaction.
I have to go to bed now; it's 07:11, and I haven't slept yet. Thanks again, everyone, and I hope I post well enough to continue attracting so many readers.
The Big Green Cheese
Today seems to be my day for interesting Fox News articles. Here's another:
NASA: Astronauts on Moon by 2018
Friday, September 16, 2005
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA hopes to return astronauts to the moon by 2018, nearly a half-century after men last walked the lunar surface, by using a distinctly retro combination of space shuttle and Apollo rocket parts....
The fact that this successor to the soon-to-be-retired shuttle relies so heavily on old-time equipment, rather than sporting fancy futuristic designs, "makes good technological and management sense," said John Logsdon, director of George Washington University's space policy institute.
"The emphasis is on achieving goals rather than elegance," said Logsdon, who along with other members of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (search) urged NASA to move beyond the risky, aging shuttles as soon as possible.
Is it just me, or... or does anyone else find it sardonically amusing that it's going to take us nearly twice as long to return to the Moon as it took us to land on the Moon the first time? I could understand it if we were developing "advanced, unproven technology," such as fusion rockets or laser-launching technologies (which I wrote about in "Nerfworld," the lead story, after William F. Buckley's pastiche, in the anthology edited by Brad Linaweaver, Free Space). But that's precisely what Logsdon says we're not doing! We're essentially just cannibalizing the SSTS (shuttle) and grabbing some off-the-shelf technology.
I mean, I've been a cheerleader for space since the 1960s (and I couldn't very well have done it before then, since I didn't have a womb with a view). And I'm all for returning to the Moon before venturing on to Mars (the closest planet, not counting the Moon) or beyond. But thirteen years? From now? Yeesh!
The Moon is essential for many reasons. First, it is of course a nearly perfect base of operations for all future space expeditions. True, it has a gravity well; but it's nowhere near as steep as the Earth's; and the gravity is more than made up for by the extraordinary wealth of raw materials available on the Moon for vritually no production cost -- once you get there. Lunar dust is made up of such useful components that it may as well be designed by some cosmic materials-science engineer for the sole purpose of building spaceships. With great big concave mirrors in orbit around the Moon, we would have all the energy we needed to smelt the lunar dust and build a ship in situ, never having to launch it off the Earth at all. It even has water ice, from which we can extract oxygen for breathing and hydrogen for fuel.
Second, the Moon can be an excellent military base, able to bombard virtually any location in the inhabited portion of the Earth at will, using the simplest of all missiles: rocks. Robert A. Heinlein wrote the book (literally) about this idea -- the Moon Is a Harsh Mistress; and a stunning book it is, too, perhaps Heinlein's best. But pssssst! L. Ron Hubbard, of all people, later the founder of Scientology (but only a pulp writer back then), had the idea first, so far as I know, in a 1948 or 1949 pamphlet on using the Moon as the ultimate "high ground" for war.
Finally, the Moon is a great place for all sorts of industrial operations that produce toxic or hazardous waste, or are themselves inherently dangerous, or are just plain polluting and ugly... anything that doesn't explicitly require an atmosphere (or zero-G) can be done on the Moon, and the finished products shipped "down" to Earth. You don't have to worry about disrupting the fragile lunar ecology, because it hasn't got one. Fragile or otherwise.
So return we must. And surely we can: as Jerry Pournelle is overfond of remarking, "what Man has done, Man can aspire to do." I don't want a "crash" program, pun very much intended and intended seriously; but I think we can do better than this.
We're Americans, for God's sake.
This story on Fox News raises -- and begs -- the most fascinating question about the GWOT, the Global War on Terrorism; or as I prefer it, the war on militant Islamism.
The story -- "Baghdad Terror Campaign Claims More Lives" -- reels off the usual litany of brutish attacks by the troglodytes who call themselves al-Qaeda In Iraq. Being Fox News, the story also recites a number of military successes that the Coalition has had recently, particularly the Tal Afar and Haditha campaigns along the Syrian border that Wretchard at the Belmont Club has analyzed.
But there is a larger question here: what exactly constitutes victory or defeat in "this" war, whether the referrant of "this" is Iraq or the GWOT itself? To put it in military terminology, what are the victory conditions?
Without knowing the victory conditions, it's impossible to decide whether we're winning or losing. But the Bush administration has done a wretched job articulating just what these are. Come on, guys, we're tough; we can take it!
They've done a better job communicating the goals of the Iraq phase of the GWOT: the victory conditions are (1) a free and democratic Iraq that (2) does not threaten its neighbors or the United States and (3) stands on its own feet, both economically and militarily to (4) deny sanctuary to international terrorism.
But what about the larger war, of which Iraq is only a part? What are the victory conditions anent Iran, for example? Must the mullahs be overthrown for us to have "won," or would permanently preventing them from developing nuclear weapons be sufficient?
And how about our quasi-allies, such as Pakistan or Egypt? Need they become true democracies, at least at the level of Turkey? Or is it enough if they're still ruled by strongmen, but those autarchs fight alongside America to destroy terrorist infestations?
The Pentagon and the White House need to butt heads and come up with a clear set of victory conditions, understandable to the average citizen, by which we can measure success and failure in today's struggle... which is every bit as consequential as the Cold War against Communism or World War II against Fascism.
And perhaps the blogosphere can lead the way... suggestions, anyone?
Why I Don’t Write “Islamofascist”
First, why is this even important? Because language frames thought. I won't go as far as George Orwell in the "Newspeak" chapter of Nineteen Eighty-Four; I don't believe that absent a word for a concept, the concept itself becomes literally unthinkable. But I do believe language structures thought, changing how we think about an idea.
So creating a new word for Islamic terrorism changes how we perceive it, which affects how we fight it. This is especially true when the new word is actually a contraction of two other words, Islamic and fascism, into Islamofascism. The shortening restricts the ability to think critically about the alleged connection, short-circuiting rational thought and heading straight for the emotional centers.
Or as Orwell put it, "Comintern is a word that can be uttered almost without taking thought, whereas Communist International is a phrase over which one is obliged to linger at least momentarily."
The point here is twofold: first, somewhat trivially, the Islamists who commit acts of terror are not typically Fascists, or even lower-case-f "fascists." The Muslim Brotherhood allied with Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, but that was primarily because Hitler was such a strident Jew hater.
Most of the militant Islamist groups around today simply have no economic ideas, plans, or principles. Yet the distinguishing characteristic of fascism -- what differentiates it from garden-variety socialism, racism, and antisemitism -- is intensely economic: fascism is totalitarianism that operates through corporatism. As my pal and co-writer Brad Linaweaver explains it:
The Communists gathered up all the corporate heads and took them out to be shot; the fascists gathered up all the corporate heads and took them out to lunch -- where they were told to obey orders or be shot.
Precisely none of the Islamic countries or terrorist organizations who want to destroy us is a corporatist state; none is fascist.
The word "Islamofascist" is just an example of using Nazi or fascist as an all-purpose intensifier to mean anything bad. It cheapens the historicity of the real fascists. What's next, discussing the Communofascism of North Korea?
But the more important point is that the word "fascism" has a magical power: it overwhelms every other word you connect it to. In the real world, "Islamofascism" transsubstantiates into (islamo)-FASCISM! Kaboom!
The danger we face is Islamism and the willingness to murder hundreds of thousands in the name of jihad. What matters is the religion itself and the militancy by which it's spread -- not some putative connection to Mussolini or Hitler. To understand the jihadi, we need to confront the true source of the danger: the death cult that animates the slayer-of-thousands.
What we don't need is to hide it behind the big, black shadow of a different boogieman, and one that -- unlike Islamism -- doesn't even exist in any signficance anymore. Rather than intensifying our perception of what actually assails us, tacking that silly predicate on the end actually diminishes the intensity, fuzzing up the picture. If we lose focus and forget the real danger, as 9/11 recedes into the past, we will be tempted to just shrug it off and go back to the Clintonian "situation normal, all f---ed up" response.
And a word like Islamofascist pushes us in just that direction. In fact, it sounds exactly like something the Comintern might come up with to attack pro-democracy Moslems, like the brothers who run Iraq the Model.
The proper word that truly describes the enemy to his poisoned core is militant Islamist; and that is the word I will use.
Date ►►► September 16, 2005
Vamping Until Ready
I have a friend who is a professor of theater history (which came as news to me -- not that John would be such, but that such a position even existed!) He tells me of a theater expression, "vamping until ready." If I understand it correctly, it describes an actor up on the stage doing schtick until the real performance is ready to begin.
In a sense, that's what this post is: I'm writing it before I'm quite ready to go live with Big Lizards. But the phrase does an even better job of describing the absurd overreaction to a Reuters photo of President Bush writing the infamous "bathroom note" to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The note, which Bush allegedly wrote "during a Security Council meeting at the 2005 World Summit and 60th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York September 14," reads: "I think I may need a bathroom break? Is this possible?"
This causes great mirth among the Beavises and Buttheads of, not just the nation, but the world. For a generation raised on Saturday Night Live and Animal House, I suppose that's inevitable. But evidently, many on the left side of the aisle imagine this raises some serious issue... at least if Editor and Publisher can be believed:
A source at the Washington Post tells E&P that the paper is considering it for prominent play tomorrow morning, in the context that, at least in some minds, it raises questions about overall perception of the U.S. at the United Nations, right or wrong. Reuters reports extremely strong interest in the photo today.
The fact is, according to Reuters -- and this has not been widely reported -- President Bush did indeed take a bathroom break after passing the note to Rice.
This apparently raised some eyebrows around the room, because American representatives (among others) have a reputation for suddenly bolting, though normally for a far different reason than this latest one. Fair or not, the European press has already had a field day with the photo, often centering on the notion that Bush had to ask Rice for permission.
I don't actually find it humorous that a person trapped in an endless, gassy U.N. meeting might have to arise to use the facilities. But the idea that Europeans would think this meant that the president had to ask permission from the Secretary of State before doing so -- that I find hilarious!
Talk about vamping until ready, the world press is still desperate, after nearly five years, to find some issue -- any issue! -- that will finally take down the Bush presidency. And they're still tap dancing, waiting for the show to begin.
For the benefit of those in the creaky, old part of the world, the biggest problem the president has (any president of any political party) is to get members of his staff to tell him when they disagree with something he has said or plans to do. The presidential cabinet and staff tend rather to be too deferential, too respectful, almost to the point of awe.
Mike Deaver, Deputy Chief of Staff for Ronald Reagan, tells an anecdote about needing to cross Reagan's hotel bedroom in the middle of the night to get some important document. Deaver literally crawled on his hands and knees to avoid waking the president. There is a solemnity that encompasses the American presidency that -- to put it in terms Europe might actually understand -- is more akin to that of a monarch than a prime minister. This holds whether the president is Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush: from George W. to George W., no president has ever had to "ask permission" from his staff to do anything.
Presidents have bullied their staffs, cajoled them, argued with them, demanded too much of them, let them run off and create their own little bureaucratic empires, fired them, and betimes even fought with them -- probably literally, at least back in the nineteenth century. But the one thing presidents have never done is ask permission from a cabinet member before doing something: the very last thing any president needs to be told is that he is the boss... nobody ever became president via timidity!
(Besides, there are many more logical explanations for the note (assuming Bush actually wrote it); the photographer who snapped the picture thinks Bush was just unsure of the Byzantine protocol of how one goes about excusing himself duing a Security-Council meeting -- something Rice would know better, having been at many in her capacity as National Security Advisor and now Secretary of State. My own idea is that Bush was asking Condi whether something urgent was about to be discussed for which his presence was required.)
There is a larger issue here. The meme that Bush would have to ask Condi for "permission" to go potty plays into the persistent absurdist fantasy of the Left that Bush is just a puppet, and the real power is (fill in the blank). First it was Karl Rove; then it was Dick Cheney; for a while, it was Karen Hughes, and then Paul Wolfowitz. I reckon it must be Condoleezza Rice now.
The Left, both at home and abroad, wants simultaneously to believe two contradictory absurdities: first, that President Bush has the IQ of an eggplant; and second, that President Bush is an evil genius, a Professor Moriarty. Ordinary people would realize that they sort of have to pick one and drop the other. But lefties, growing up believing you can have it all, baby, must find a way to integrate the two... hence the puppet meme: Bush is still a drooling moron, but the power behind the throne is the evil genius!
Once settling upon this peculiar view of the world, they must of course seize upon any opportunity to trumpet "evidence" of their shared hallucination. Hence, the "bathroom note" is adduced to prove that the president is really subordinate to his secretary of state: ahh-HAAA!
Oh well. I can hardly complain: they are obsessed with finding a less ego-shattering way to view the world than the frightening idea that a Texas businessman of mediocre educational attainments can kick their butts in six elections, walk on their spines with cowboy boots, and colonize them. You'd think their years of experience with Ronald Reagan -- and Lyndon Johnson before him -- would have gotten them used to the idea; but evidently, like a perpetually renewing virgin, the experience surprises them anew each time. And it causes the Left to stubbornly insist upon misunderestimating Bush again and again... to the benefit of America, and indeed the entire world.
First official post....
...and a huge thank you to all you folks hardy enough to slog though so many entries up to this point!
Well the day you thought (and hoped and prayed) would never come has arrived. Consider this the official cocktail party for the debut of California's premier new site for incisive observation, decisive opinion-mongering, and obsessive-compulsive blogging behavior: Welcome to Big Lizards!
My name is Dafydd ab Hugh, and I might not be completely unknown to some of you. I guest blogged on Patterico's Pontifications (thirty-three posts) and Captain's Quarters (fifty-one posts), which were collectively seen by about sixty-four thousand distinct readers, I would guesstimate. So the eight visitors a day I'm likely to get here at Big Lizards might include a couple who have actually read those posts whose subjects inexplicably began "Dafydd: ". (I hope you two aren't the ones who kept sending comments asking why Captain Ed was always blogging about some weird "resort" called Dafydd...!) I will, in fact, be reposting some of those scaley, old classics; the primary category, oddly enough, will be Scaley Classics.
I've also sold over 1.8 million books; so my name, at least, might be familiar.
By the way, the name Dafydd ab Hugh is Welsh, not Arabic; and no, before you ask, I don't speak a word of Cymric. Well, one word, I guess, and the last sentence just exhausted my Cymric vocabulary (assuming I even used it correctly).
For full disclosure, for the two or three of you who don't already know and haven't already factored it into your wary responses, I am a libertarian-conservative, anarcho-capitalist, erstwhile Discordian, secular, Darwinian, politically non-Euclidean science-fiction and fantasy writer. I've published eighteen novels: some Star Trek novels, the four Doom videogame-related novels (co-authored with Brad Linaweaver, my partner in obscurantism on this website, though not too much on this blog page), a trilogy of young-adult adventure novels (the Swept Away series from HarperYA), and some other science fiction and fantasy. For those idiots like me who enjoy lists, I'll stick a complete bibliography of my book publications at the end of this interminable first post.
I started as a pro-techology, pro-science secular conservative; a brief stint in the Navy made me into an anarchist. Then repeated contact with liberals and lefties -- they infest my professional organization, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America -- wrenched me back around to... well, I'm not a conservative, but I caucus with them. Think of me as the polar opposite of Bernie Sanders, the unspeakable Socialist representative from Vermont who caucuses with the Democrats. I support the war against militant Islamism in all its glory, especially including the Iraq War (and hoping for an upcoming war with Iran!); I want lower taxes, a fully privatized Social Security ("fully" as in 100%, not the measley fraction President Bush proposed); and even though I'm a Jewish agnostic, not a Christian agnostic, I applaud the fact that America is a Christian nation, and I sincerely hope it stays that way.
But I believe strongly in contemporary theories about evolution. I also support nearly absolute drug legalization, the only exception being antibiotics, because stupid misuse of antibiotics breeds super-resistent bacteria that will kill the rest of us. I support nearly absolute gun legalization (of purchase, ownership, and concealed carry; open carry is an invitation to a duel, however).
And this is the one and only time I will run through this litany. This is the only post that will ever have this category, so you can always refer back if you forget where I stand on one of these issues (assuming you care). Forewarned is forlorned.
I am not a lawyer, though I sometimes play one, to the irritation or hysteria of real lawyers when I get everything wrongwards. My degrees are in math, which is why I'm a writer.
As for the rest of my crackpottery... read on! And on, and on, and on.
Novel Bibliography for Dafydd ab Hugh (publication date and publisher in parentheses):
- Heroing (Baen 1987)
- Warriorwards (Baen 1990)
- Fallen Heroes - Star Trek DS9 #5 (Pocket 1994)
- Arthur War Lord (part I) (AvoNova 1994)
- Far Beyond the Wave (part 2) (AvoNova 1994)
- Doom 1 - Knee-Deep In the Dead, co-author Brad Linaweaver (Pocket 1995)
- Doom 2 - Hell On Earth, co-author Brad Linaweaver (Pocket 1995)
- Doom 3 - Infernal Sky, co-author Brad Linaweaver (Pocket 1996)
- Doom 4 - Endgame, co-author Brad Linaweaver (Pocket 1996)
- Balance of Power - Star Trek NextGen #33 (Pocket 1996)
- Swept Away (HarperYA 1996)
- Swept Away - the Mountain (HarperYA 1996)
- Swept Away - the Pit (HarperYA 1996)
- The Final Fury - Star Trek Invasion book 4 - Star Trek Voyager #9 (Pocket 1996)
- Vengeance - Star Trek DS9 #22 (Pocket 1998)
- Rebels book 1 - Star Trek DS9 #24 (Pocket 1999)
- Rebels book 2 - Star Trek DS9 #25 (Pocket 1999)
- Rebels book 3 - Star Trek DS9 #26 (Pocket 1999)
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