Saturday, April 05, 2003

DOES IRAQ HAVE WMD?: Hans Blix is curious and so is everyone else. The ex-inspector seems to think that even if Iraq does have chemical or biological weapons, they won't be used against coalition forces because "people would say, 'So, they were liars. They lied about this and there was a justification for the intervention.'" Somehow, I'm not sure that Saddam is too worried about people thinking he's a liar, when people already know he's a brutal murderer.

Still, it does surprise me that our forces haven't announced any significant WMD finds. I suspect that it's largely because they aren't looking that hard yet; there are more important things to be doing at the moment. This WaPo/ABC poll indicates that "More than two-thirds of those interviewed-69 percent-now say that the war was justified even if the United States fails to turn up biological or chemical weapons, up from 53 percent in a survey taken the day after the war started." That's pretty much how I feel, as well... but I would still like us to find something. I've been very confident in the past that Saddam has had such things, but the lack of hard evidence (that we've been shown so far, anyway) at least gives me pause.

Friday, April 04, 2003

EDUCATIONAL DILEMMA: Well, if women and minorities can't score well on tests, then there must be a problem with the tests. Right?

Seriously though, the best solution to the education dilemma facing the nation isn't to alter the requirements for poorly-performing demographics. The best solution is to make sure that those demographics get the best possible secondary education so that they can compete effectively in college and the real world.

And how can this be done? Well, the current system is a failure, mostly due to the fact that it's basically socialist in structure. There is no reward given to successful schools and teachers, and no punishment for failure. Teachers' unions fight tooth and nail against any sort of incentive system. It is socially unacceptable to separate exceptional students from below-average students and to give each type the sort of education they need and deserve. The whole system is mired in mediocrity, as all socialist systems eventually become.

A sufficiently motivated administrator with absolute power over the bureaucracy could restructure the system to work efficiently, but that would create an unstable equilibrium that would collapse back into failure at the first opportunity. The only real solution is to wrest education from the public's hands and turn it entirely over to the private sector. It may not be "ideal", but it would be optimal.

For further discussion on this topic, check out the this comment section where I have written more. The comments are based on a post over at Max Power.
POST-WAR IRAQ AND CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES: I haven't seen this predicted elsewhere yet, so I'll go out on a limb and say I'm the first to do so. Once the fighting dies down and travel to Iraq is opened up, I expect that there will be a tidal wave of Christian missionaries pouring into the country and the region. Under the new Iraqi civilian government freedom of the press and freedom of religion will be two non-negotiables that the US will insist upon, and this will open a door to evangelizing a region of the world that has been closed to Christianity for decades. Further, I expect that Christianity will be embraced by the previously oppressed population, especially the youth.
NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMYN: One thing that really pleases me about this War on Terror is how it has forced so many people and organizations to show their true colors. For instance, our staunch "allies" France and Germany. The war has also given opportunity to our actual allies like the UK, Australia, and numerous Easter European nations (all of whom I appreciate, truly) to stand beside us, and I am profoundly grateful. The UN has been shown to be useless and weak, NATO's flaws have been highlighted, and the liberal left of American politics has been humiliated and crushed (even if they don't realize it yet).

Anyway, on a lesser note, America's heroine Pvt. Jessica Lynch, the world's woman of the hour, praised and adored by freedom-loving people everywhere... is nowhere to be found on the homepage of the National Organization for Womyn. Probably because there are other important womyn who need to be mentioned, and other more important issues such as:

  • Women to Hold Equality Rally at Masters Golf Tournament -- It's clearly very critical that women be allowed to play golf at this private club.
  • NOW Encourages Full Senate to Vote Down Priscilla Owen Nomination -- Quick, gotta keep this WOMAN from being confirmed as a judge by the senate.

    Bah! I declare the National Organization for Womyn to be useless and hypocritical, and I salute all the true women of merit around the world, starting with Private Lynch.
  • CHILDREN AT WAR: Force is the ultimate arbiter of disagreement in our world, and warfare is the supreme manifestation of force. Naturally then, people are fascinated with war, how it is waged, and how it is won. I wrote earlier (twice) that keeping women out of combat is a luxury that we, as a country, can afford; even more, we can afford to keep our children out.

    If you are interested in understanding the shape of warfare around the world, however, I highly recommend this article by P. W. Singer that discusses the issue of child warriors. He explains how they are abducted and controlled by their adult commanders, and what situational circumstances facilitate to their use in combat. As he writes, it is inevitable that the US military will eventually be forced to fight and kill children armed by our enemies (such as the Hitler Youth in WW2), and it is important that we learn how to deal with them in the most effective manner, both during combat and afterwards.

    One of the most interesting points that the article makes is that it is only because of recent technology that children are even able to fight effectively.
    Technological and efficiency advances in these weapons permit the transformation of children into lethal fighters. For most of human history, weapons relied on the brute strength and long-term training of the operator, which was prohibitive to the effective use of children as soldiers. For example, a child not fully matured could not bear the physical burdens of serving in the phalanx. Even until just a generation ago, personal battlefield weapons were still heavy and bulky, generally limiting children's participation.[23] But improvements in manufacturing, such as the incorporation of plastics, now make modern weapons--particularly automatic rifles--so light that small children can use them as effectively as adults. Just as important, most small arms have been simplified in their use, to the extent that they can be stripped, reassembled, and fired by a child below the age of ten. With only a few hours of training, a youngster can be taught all he or she needs to know in order to kill. At the same time, vast increases have been made in the lethality of small arms, multiplying their destructive power. Modern assault rifles give a handful of children the equivalent firepower of an entire Napoleonic regiment.

    Via Geitner Simmons, writing at the Volokh Conspiracy.
    POST-WAR IRAQ PART 982: Just wanted to point out that I slightly beat SDB to the punch in affirming that the US won't allow the UN to have a significant role in post-war Iraq. Er, well, it's not like he hasn't mentioned it ten thousand times before... but still.... Go read his more in-depth analysis, wherein he explains that no matter how much the Europeans complain, it just won't make any difference.

    I hope we're right about this. I'm always so leery of politicians, but once Bush has made up his mind it tends to stay made up. The fact that Powell's opening position was so hard also indicates to me that the administration is serious, as I mentioned in my earlier post.
    THE FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT: The first black president will be a Republican. Why? Because racial gerrymandering by Democrats produces Congressional districts that elect black candidates who are so extreme that they can never win higher office. Democrats benefit by keeping blacks and other minorities as far to the extreme left as possible.

    In contrast, both Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice are brilliant (especially Rice) and moderate black public servants with plenty of name recognition. Powell has said that he doesn't want to be president, and that's a good thing in my mind. History shows us that generals typically make poor presidents. I admire our military's generals a great deal, but the skill set and mental condition of a general are very different than that required for a president.

    Rice has never held elected office. The most likely path that would lead her to the presidency would be to run for VP on Bush's ticket in 2004, and then run for president herself in 2008. It's possible, and of all the blacks in the country she has the highest chance of making it happen; I don't know how likely it is that she'll try, or that she would win the Republican primary, but she has more of a chance than Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson ever had of sitting in the Oval Office.

    Thursday, April 03, 2003

    AIR POWER: Via Emperor Misha, a spiffy article on modern air power. The gist of it is:
    Every ground unit on a battlefield is amazingly vulnerable to attack from above. If guided with precision (and our weapons are nothing if not precise), there is literally no mobile ground unit available today that can withstand even a medium-sized (500-pound) direct hit. They are simply blown to pieces by such things, and again once the air defenses are destroyed there's nothing they can do to defend themselves against such an attack. On a battlefield in which your enemy has achieved air superiority if you move, you die. The problem is you must move in order to fight. Which is why even the fastest armored division is utterly helpless if the other side has free use of the skies.

    When you hear of "massive formations of Iraqi armor", what you should immediately do is translate that into "giant defenseless targets". For a deeper understanding of air superiority than you'll get from the news, go read the whole thing.
    ELECTION 2004: In case anyone is interested in information about the 2004 presidential election, I recommend heading over to Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball. It's a good source of information and analysis, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it in the months leading up to November, 2002. He was incorrect in his prediction that the Senate would remain in Democrat hands (as was just about everyone else), but most of the rest of his predictions held up. In any event, there is more data there than I've yet to find anywhere else for an election that is so far away.

    I recommend:
    3 Keys to the Presidency
    Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down
    Towards the Finish Line
    Democrats Running for President

    Obviously, there is also info about other national elections and gubernatorial races as well. Heaven, for a political junky like myself.
    CLUSTER BOMBS: The term "cluster bomb" is generally used to refer to a bomb that contains submunitions. When the bomb casing breaks open, the submunitions are released and scattered, and each of them performs as another seperate weapon. Some submunitions are designed to be used as mines, some are anti-tank or anti-personel, some are even anti-submarine. The CBU-97/CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapon with BLU-108/B Submunition is one of my favorites, because each of its 10 submunitions carries 4 more hockey puck-shaped sub-submunitions, and each of these hockey pucks can take out a tank.
    The Sensor Fuzed Weapon [SFW] is an unpowered, top attack, wide area, cluster munition, designed to achieve multiple kills per aircraft pass against enemy armor and support vehicles. After release, the TMD opens and dispenses the ten submunitions which are parachute stabilized. Each of the 10 BLU-108/B submunitions contains four armor-penetrating projectiles with infrared sensors to detect armored targets. At a preset altitude sensed by a radar altimeter, a rocket motor fires to spin the submunition and initiate an ascent. The submunition then releases its four projectiles, which are lofted over the target area. The projectile's sensor detects a vehicle's infrared signature, and an explosively formed penetrator fires at the heat source. If no target is detected after a period of time, the projectiles automatically fire after a preset time interval, causing damage to material and personnel.

    Since each hockey puck can individually target an enemy tank, up to 40 tanks can be destroyed by a single CBU-97. In practice, some submunitions will end up targeting the same tank, and it's unlikely that there will be 40 tanks positioned properly in any event... but it's the thought that counts! A tank's armor is thinnest on the top, and so it only takes a modest explosive to penetrate and disable the vehicle from a high angle.

    There are pictures at the link I gave you above, but at least check this one out. That's an image of one of the hockey pucks firing directly into the engine block of a tank.
    WOMEN AT WAR: Clayton Cramer writes that Pvt. Jessica Lynch is proof that women can be very effective soldiers, and I have no doubt that that's the case. However, I still believe that keeping women out of direct combat positions is a luxury that we, as a country, can afford. Call me chauvenistic or sexist if you want, but on this matter I'm proud to be.
    DIVERSITY ADDS LITTLE TO EDUCATION 2: Following up on an earlier post, Opinion Journal has an article by John Fund about the same study that I mentioned. His conclusion?
    Aggressive outreach to find quality minority candidates is important, but pushing minority candidates into schools they're not ready for doesn't do them or the school any favors. Ultimately, the damage a poor education does to a kid in the lower grades can't be remedied by diversity intervention in his or her teenage years. That's why school-choice programs that provide real alternatives to help students in failing public schools may be the best and most effective affirmative action around.

    I think he's exactly right. The solution to the problem of minority students not being accepted into colleges isn't to lower the standards, but rather to seek to improve the students. One of the best ways to do that is to allow parents and students to choose the location of their primary and secondary education. Vouchers are one (tiny) step in this direction.

    Competition fosters improvement, and if schools are made to compete for students and funding then (and only then) will they begin to change. As it stands, our public education system is nearly communist in structure. There are no incentives that encourage schools and teachers to perform excellently, and no punishment for schools and teachers that fail to perform. Consequently, the entire system suffers from endemic mediocrity and sloth, both of which are most pronounced in minority-dominated areas.
    POST-WAR IRAQ, WHAT'S THE GOAL?: Following up on my last post (here in the lab at UCLA, in between classes), I can see a few important things that the US needs to accomplish with our handling of Iraq once the fighting has cooled.

    1. Improve the quality of life for ordinary Iraqis as quickly as possible. This is important because people with jobs, homes, running water, etc. will have little incentive to act up. It's important that the Iraqi people realize that their lot in life has just improved dramatically. They won't have to live in fear of Saddam's henchmen, and there will be real freedom. This will buy us time and influence to allow us to take care of some other business, and it will also build American credibility among the "Arab street" that's always calling for our blood.

    2. Punish France and Germany (and Turkey). There must be serious consequences for betraying the US, and we have to make sure that our [diplomatic] adversaries reap the whirlwind that they have sown. Block France and Germany (and Belgium, to the extent that they matter) from every economic program we set up in Iraq, especially as it relates to oil. Russia should get a slap on the wrist as well, but in my mind they have offended us less, and they have more to offer us in the future. France and Germany should suffer economically for crossing us, and it should be obvious to their populations that their suffering is a direct result of opposing the United States.

    3. Establish permanent military bases in Iraq, such as was done in Germany and Japan after WW2. We need large and unrestricted military power in the region if we intend to intimidate the rest of the Arab world and force them into the 21st century, and we need to take advantage of our presence in Iraq to get a foothold. This is one of the most important reasons why the UN must not be allowed to take over "peacekeeping" without US/UK supervision. The "peacekeeping" cover/excuse will be nice to have as justification for keeping our forces embedded in the country.

    4. Once the above three goals are being met, we will have gained significant ground in the War on Terror. Don't forget, Iraq is just a battle within a larger conflict. Military control over Iraqi territory and oil will allow us to force the Saudis' hand, and will give encouragement to the people of Iran in their low-level revolution. Once those two bastions of oppression and traditionalism fall the forces of Islamofascist terror will fade into background noise.
    POST-WAR IRAQ: Typically, the Bush administration has used Powell and Rumsfeld to good-cop-bad-cop the world and manipulate the diplomatic situation into the form that Bush ultimately wants. Normally, it's Powell playing the multilateral, politically correct good cop, and Rumsfeld/Cheney/Rice/Pearle playing the hardline, rabid dog bad cop. The two parties publically issue mildly conflicting messages, and then in the end Bush comes down somewhere in between them. The liberals who tend to like Powell's initial position better end up a little disappointed, and the conservatives who are closer to Rumsfeld's position are disappointed too, but in the end they both feel as if there's been a compromise. In reality Bush ends up taking the exact position he wants.

    So the liberals in America and the appeasers all over the world should be distressed to see Powell's initial position on UN involvement in post-war Iraq:
    Secretary of State Colin Powell told Washington's European allies and friends Thursday the United States - not the United Nations - must have the lead role in Iraq's postwar reconstruction.

    In a fast-paced series of meetings with his NATO and European Union counterparts at the NATO headquarters here, Powell did not resolve differences over the nature of the U.N role after the fighting is done in Iraq.

    "I think the coalition has to play the leading role," he told a closing news conference. "But that does not mean we have to shut others out. There will definitely be a United Nations role, but what the exact nature of that role will be remains to be seen."

    Of course, the Europeans are yipping like puppies:
    "We must stabilize Iraq and the region," said French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin. "The United Nations is the only international organization that can give legitimacy to this." ...

    "I don't see how we could contribute to the reconstruction without the United Nations playing the key role," said Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel. ...

    French President Jacques Chirac has opposed giving Britain and the United States a dominant role in rebuilding Iraq, arguing that would legitimize the war. ...

    Powell played down the differences, calling his meetings consultative. "I'll report back (to President Bush) what I heard. We are still examining the proper role for the United Nations."

    I changed the order of the above quotes to put Powell's at the end because it's diplospeak for "when we want your opinion, we'll ask for it; now be quiet, the grown-ups are talking".

    Wednesday, April 02, 2003

    THE HOUND OF HEAVEN: Via The Diablogger I am directed to a poem by Francis Thompson titled "The Hound of Heaven". I'm such a wuss, it almost makes me cry. It's amazing to me how many beautiful things there are in the world that I'll never see, and never even know about. It pains me, and when I read a poem like this I feel my ignorance acutely.
    ECONOMIST PREDICTS BLAH BLAH BLAH: This CNN article says that Morgan Stanley's chief economist in the United States, Stephen Roach, is predicting a worldwide recession due to... super-pneumonia. Oh, and wars and stuff. So far, SARS has accounted for SEVENTY-EIGHT deaths out of the 2,223 confirmed cases, a fatality rate of 3.5%. Not exactly scary, especially when you take into account the fact that most of those fatalities occurred in third-world countries, and that there are probably a great many more people infected who don't even get sick enough to go to the hospital, and thus aren't represented in the total count.

    As for wars... well there are always wars going on somewhere. Welcome to planet earth, enjoy your stay. My prediction is that the incremental removal of brutal, oppressive regimes will lead to a global economic boom. I'm not "one of Wall Street's leading economists", but I play one on TV, and I know of at least one Arab country whose prospects are sure looking up.

    Interesting how during the recent actual recession, all the economists were telling us not to worry, and to keep buying. Go figure that one out.
    FASCISM AND COMMUNISM: Mean Mr. Mustard has a nifty series of posts relating to a political science course he's taking at UC Berkeley. Here is a link to the conclusion, which has a set link to earlier posts. I can't explain their whole contents of course, but the lectures are related to fascism and communism, both of which the professor obviously dislikes. Here's an interesting excerpt of a quote by the professor, A. James Gregor:
    North Korea is really a fascinating, bizarre place. If you ever get the chance, I strongly suggest that you go. The last time I was there was about 10 years ago, and this was when Kim Il Sung was still alive, and I was walking through Pyongyang (because of course they only let you visit certain areas; can't let let any Westerners see the starving masses of the countryside). Now, I had just come from China, and all through China, even in a lot of rural areas, you see millions of people with glasses on, because of course they can't afford contact lenses. But eyeglasses are ubiquitous.

    And after not too long, I noticed that no one in Pyongyang was wearing glasses, so, with my "interpreter" (the guy that was there to watch me), I asked someone on the street why they didn't have any glasses. His exact words were "I don't need them."

    "You don't need them?" I asked, just a tad suspicious, since in China it looked like half the population popped out of the womb with glasses on.

    And I'll never forget what he said to me next, "Kim Il Sung takes care of us, so we don't need them."

    Another thing I didn't see in Pyongyang: old people. I didn't see a single person that looked older than 45 in the city. Know why? Kim didn't like the way they made the city look, so he had all the old people carted off to areas on the outskirts of the cities.

    And don't get me started on bicycles! Go to any asian city in the world and you'll see thousands of bicycles crowding the streets. There was not a single bicycle in all of Pyongyang, at least not one I could see. Kim thought it made the city look too third-worldish, so he banned anyone from using them and made everyone walk everywhere!

    I tell you, the whole place is constructed to portray a fantasy. It's like a perverted, ramshackle Disneyland.

    ALTRUISM: defines altruism as: "Unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness." I don't believe that altruism in the classic sense can exist, because for every action taken one of the following is true:
    1. The actor made a decision to take action.
    2. The actor is irrational and does not make decisions, or the action was otherwise not the result of choice (it was an accicent, perhaps).

    If (1) is true, then the actor will, at the very least, receive emotional satisfaction for taking an action that benefits himself or others, aside from any material benefit that he may realize. The actor may also be counting on future reward from God, or may simply derive pleasure from doing what is right. If (2), then altruism is not present because no decision is actually being made, and the action (to the extent that it can even be considered an action) is merely the result of chaotic physical forces.

    Actions taken to benefit one's group can be considered a form of localized altruism, but such a concept rests on the existence of external competitive forces that exist between the actor's group and other groups (human or otherwise).

    More later, perhaps.
    ARMY UNITS: Philippe de Croy has a post about different types of military units, and I thought I'd provide a link for more information. The Federation of American Scientists has a great military section, and this page gives a break down of the various levels of army units. Of particular interest is the page about divisions, since they are the main level of self-sustaining operational unit deployed into any theater.
    IT'S INSIDE ME: If you don't read James Lileks' Bleat, you should. Here's an excerpt from today's that mirrors a thought I've had many times.
    “You took her to a haunted house?” I said.

    Gnat insisted on it, my wife said. The Big Kids were going, and she wanted to go with the Big Kids. "And if the other mothers were throwing their kids off the cliff," I huffed, "would you -"

    "It was a children’s haunted house."

    Oh, great. Gummi intestines, spilled from Hello Kitty’s torn abdomen? But no. It was all quite mild. Gnat was a bit nervous, but thrilled, and it made an impression on her. I don’t want to tell her she has a skeleton inside her, though; she’d never go to sleep.

    Hell, that freaks ME out.

    Me too.
    BECAUSE SHE'S AN AMERICAN: It fills me with pride to read accounts of Pvt. Jessica Lynch's rescue from an Iraqi hospital/military headquarters. I'm certain that the minute it was discovered that she and the other members of the 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company were captured the order was given from high up: find them and bring them home. Why? She's just a 19 year old girl from West Virginia. Because she's an American.

    That's the difference between America and Iraq. Saddam and his goons throw civilians into the line of fire, they take families hostage and force their fathers to fight or blow themselves up, they gas their own people, rape and torture any who dissent, and gladly sacrifice hundreds and thousands of lives to keep themselves in power.

    I'm going to start a new paragraph because I don't want to talk about Americans right next to that filth. We Americans spend millions of dollars and risk dozens -- if not hundreds -- of lives to find our own and to bring them back safely. The CIA found Pvt. Lynch, and Special Ops flew in from another country to rescue her. Meanwhile, a large force of Marines with tanks and APCs led a distraction operation to capture a key bridge inside the city. All to rescue Jessica Lynch and anyone else from the 507th who might have been held prisoner with her.

    Remember little things like this the next time you see a Saddam apologist waving a sign that tries to make America into the villain.

    I just wanted to point you to an earlier post about women in combat.
    POST-WAR IRAQ, STRAW OUT OF THE LOOP?: This Times Online article has some quotes by Jack Straw, the British Foreign Secretary, about the rebuilding if Iraq and potential future military campaigns. I don't think that it's likely that the US will desire military action against Syria or Iran, and so I take no issue with his statements on that issue, but I think that Mr. Straw may be out of the loop when it comes to the plans for rebuilding Iraq.
    Mr Straw also insisted that the United Nations would have a key role in a post-war Iraq and that Iraqis, not foreigners, would run a new government.

    He said: "What we have agreed with the United States is that the post-conflict arrangements should be endorsed by the UN.

    "They have got to be acceptable to the UN, and what we will be seeking is a representative government, an interim Iraqi authority, moving to a more representative government which is drawn from the Iraqi people.

    "There could be advisers from other countries but there will not be foreign nationals running the Iraqi government, that is not the purpose of this action."

    I have a feeling that the US won't be quite so eager to pander to the UN, and I think that it has already been decided by the US that we will indeed run the Iraqi government for a while at least. Maybe Mr. Straw is referring to some later time, but it seems virtually certain that the Iraqi government will be run by Americans for the foreseeable future.

    Tuesday, April 01, 2003

    SADDAM IS DEAD: I've said it before, and everyone knows it: Saddam is dead. Iraqi TV had promised us that Saddam himself would address the world at 8pm local time (9am PST), but of course he didn't show up. Instead, the Iraqi Information Minister read a statement on his behalf calling for jihad against American and Britain. Whether he's alive or not (he's not), the use of "jihad" language is further evidence that he's in bed with Islamofacist terrorists.
    DIVERSITY ADDS LITTLE TO EDUCATION: I picked up a hardcopy of the Daily Bruin today on my way to class, and saw on the front page:"Diversity adds little to education, study says".

    "Our study found no positive relationship between increasing minority population in a university and educational experience, except in the case of Asians," said Stanley Rothman, director for the Center for the Study of Social and Political Change at Smith College and one of the study's authors. ...

    The study findings are significant because, while the study did not prove racial diversity is harmful, "the findings failed to support the argument that enrollment diversity improves the education and racial milieu at American colleges and universities," the study reported.

    "We have not established it is bad, we have just found it is not necessarily good," Rothman said. ...

    The study, which focused on racial diversity at predominantly and historically white colleges and universities after the admittance of black students, found negative correlations between minority enrollment and the degree to which students appreciate and benefit from their education.

    "As the proportion of black students enrolled at the institution rose, student satisfaction with their university experience dropped, as did assessments of the quality of their education and the work efforts of their peers," the study reported.

    Gary Orfield, Harvard professor of education and social policy and co-director of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard says that "The thing about racial diversity is it doesn't necessarily make you happy, but it is better for you." Another thing that may be good for you: not being rejected by a college because of your race.

    Near the end of the article are quotes from two students:

    "Southern California has a weird understanding of diversity; every race is represented, but every race stays to itself," Bert said.

    Dyudyuk agreed, "It ends up being segregated anyway. People don't get out of their bubbles."

    WHAT IF WE HAD GOTTEN THE UN ON OUR SIDE?: This is the question that Eugene Volokh asks over at the Conspiracy. His analysis largely makes sense, and the only issue that I have with it is that I believe that even if France, Germany, et al had been bribed or coerced into joining our coalition, they would have worked at every opportunity to resist us and to thwart our objectives. Even if they had joined in name, they would not have joined in good faith, and this is the essential element of his analysis.

    In my opinion, we would have risked a great deal in allowing France and Germany into the coalition, and we had little to gain. The most that the UN had to offer us was "legitimacy" among our own people, and as recent polls have shown (for what they're worth) coalition countries already approve of Bush and Blair's actions. What other countries think isn't nearly as important, because none of the other countries can really stop us, and it's not like anti-Americanism just came into fashion September 11th, 2001. Even if the attack was UN-sanctioned, most other countries would have recognized that the UN was merely acting as an American puppet.

    It seems very unlikely that UN approval would have had significant benefits, even if France and Germany had joined us in good faith. Saddam's loyalists are fighting because they know that they will be killed and/or stripped of their livelyhood if they lose. French involvement would not have saved the lives of many (if any) Iraqi civilians, because the vast majority of Iraqi civilian casualties are the direct result of Iraqi military/paramilitary actions.

    The only potential benefit that I can see would be if French soldiers were able to instruct the Iraqis on how to surrender more effectively.
    AMERICAN MEDIA: Geraldo Rivera is voluntarily leaving Iraq rather than being expelled by the military for revealing operational details that could have resulted in soldiers being killed. Yeah right, nice sophistry.

    In other embarrassing news, Peter Arnett has been hired by The Mirror after having been fired by MSNBC for granting an interview with Saddam-controlled Iraqi TV during a time of war, &c.

    What a proud time for American journalism.
    MODERN RACISM: Iraq's Information Minister, Mohammed Saeed al Sahaf, has been watching American TV or something, because he has discovered the one issue that trumps all others in American politics:
    Referring to Monday's fatal shootings by U.S. soldiers of at least seven women and children at a checkpoint in southern Iraq, Sahaf said "all those who do such acts are definitely racist."

    The soldiers fired on the van carrying the Iraqis when it failed to stop after repeated warnings,the coalition's Central Command said Monday.

    He forgets to mention, of course, that the families of these women were held hostage by Iraqi forces, and the driver was told that if she slowed down or stopped her family would be killed.
    NO WAR UNDER GORE: On CNSNews I read an article wherein New Zealand's prime minister says that there would be no war in Iraq if Al Gore were president. Well duh. Just one more reason to be grateful that Al Gore lost.

    Apparently Helen Clark, the Kiwi PM, has been making all sorts of anti-American noise recently, and her political opposition is trying to take advantage of her break from Australia, Britain, and the US -- traditionally New Zealand's closest allies. The leader of the opposition party, Bill English, also objects to statements made by the government in the UN.
    English also took the government to task for a statement it made to the U.N. during a debate last week on the war.

    New Zealand envoy Don MacKay's statement to the world body focused on meeting Iraqis' future humanitarian needs, but also referred to "the loss of life on both sides" and the need for "all parties" to adhere to the Geneva Conventions.

    Speaking in parliament, English called the statement "a disgrace," saying it failed to express support for the coalition forces and seemed to make no distinction between the two sides in the war.

    But of course...
    Clark has shrugged off the criticism, denying that her government's stance would have negative repercussions in the future.

    She said it was childish to suggest that those who oppose the war on a matter of principle were anti-American.

    On her comments about Gore, Clark said it wasn't a novel suggestion that "things may have been different with a different president. Who knows? Really, it's neither here nor there."

    Clark also suggested that the U.S. wouldn't be especially concerned about her government's stance, saying New Zealand was "the merest blip on the furthest horizon on a radar screen" in Washington.

    That's the spirit! Come on people of the world: wake up! Things aren't the same as they were on September 10th, 2001. When you take every opportunity to stick your thumb in our eye, you'd better realize that it will indeed have negative repercussions in the future.

    Monday, March 31, 2003

    BOMBERS: The Iraqi Airforce was a no-show, and the Iraqi anti-aircraft systems have been nearly completely shut down. Coalition forces have total air supremacy... now what? Bombers, that's what. Let's look at the three main types of bombers that the US uses.

    B-52 -- The last of the 102 B-52H's currently in service was delivered to the USAF in 1962, and is expected to last until 2037; a 75 year service life. The B-52 has been the backbone of US bombarbment capability since the Vietnam War, and has been one of the three prongs of US nuclear deterrence (the other two being nuclear-armed subs and ICBMs). B-52s can fly as high as 50,000 feet (out of range of most surface-to-air weapons) at up to 650 mph; they have a range of more than 8,800 miles without mid-air refueling, and essentially unlimited range with refueling. A single B-52 can carry up to 70,000 pounds of munitions, including JDAMs and cruise missiles.
    B-52 Image Gallery

    B-1B -- The B-1 flies at a lower altitude than the B-52 (over 30,000 ft. ceiling), and carries fewer munitions (still more than 60,000 pounds), but can fly at supersonic speeds and "holds several world records for speed, payload and distance." With a range of over 7,500 miles the B-1 is close to the B-52, but can move more quickly and has a much smaller radar signature and advanced electronic countermeasures that greatly increase its survivability.
    B-1B Image Gallery

    B-2 -- The B-2 Spirit, also known as the "stealth bomber", is the most recent addition to the US bomber force. Its stealth characteristics and high aerodynamic efficiency make it harder to detect and attack than other bombers, and its high payload capacity allows the B-2 to pack quite a punch. Like the B-52 it is subsonic (essential for stealth, to avoid sonic booms), and it has a range of over 6,000 miles. In 1987 the USAF ordered 132 B-2s, but with the end of the Cold War and the fragmentation of the USSR, this number was reduced to 21; because of this drastically shortened production run, the cost-per-unit skyrocketed to $2.1 billion each.
    B-2 Image Gallery

    The future: HyperSoar -- The HyperSoar concept represents the potential future of bomber design. Flying 6,700 mph at an altitude of 130,000 ft., the HyperSoar would "skip" in and out of the atmosphere and be able to deliver its payload to any location on the globe. Crazy stuff, but more economical than ICBMs if the concept can be made to work.
    NO-LIMIT: Via GeekPress, a Boston Globe article by James McManus on the relationship between military strategy and no-limit poker. It's quite an interesting read that covers a bit of game theory, history, gambling, and bluffing, and how all of those play into military and political strategy.
    SPACE ELEVATOR: I would absolutely love to work on a space elevator; maybe when I finish up school I'll have the chance. Meanwhile, I have been emailing some of the groups involved and trying to scope out the scene, and I think that the project concept is entirely realistic, even if it sounds like science fiction.

    The basic idea is simple: put a large satellite or space station in geosynchronous orbit, and then drop a cable down to the surface of the earth. Since the satellite would be stationary relative to the planet below, the cable would hang motionless in the atmosphere and could be used by an elevator system to lift cargo and people up into orbit at a tiny fraction of the cost that current rocket technologies require. The science needed to make this concept a reality already exists, and LiftPort Inc. (and the related company, HighLift Systems) intends to follow through and build the thing within 15 years.

    Rather than rehash what has already been written, please take a look at the links below:

    How Space Elevators Will Work.
    LiftPrt Inc., a company created to build a space elevator within 15 years. article, "The Space Elevator Comes Closer to Reality".
    Wired article, "To the Moon in a Space Elevator?"
    HISTORY: If you haven't noticed yet, Bill Whittle has another excellent essay up on his site.
    DEMOCRATS IN CRISIS: Robert Bartley highlights some problems that the Democratic Party is facing. Most significant, in my mind, is that "barring some sudden swing in public opinion, Democrats are caught between grindstones; their primary base is irreconcilable with the broader electorate." Some 70% of the American population supports the battle in Iraq, but the Democratic base (who votes in the primaries and thus selects their presidential candidate) almost entirely contains the remaining 30% who oppose the war.

    Similarly, Democrats are holding up the confirmation/rejection of Miguel Estrada by filibustering rather than allowing a vote, and this is playing poorly to most Americans but playing well among the Democrats' base. The main issue that unifies the Democratic Party is abortion, and there is a primal fear that Mr. Estrada will eventually be appointed to the Supreme Court and vote to overturn Roe v. Wade (which may or may not be the case). Along the same line, 70% of Americans are opposed to leaving partial-birth abortions legal. Congress has already passed bans on partial-birth abortions twice and had them vetoed by Clinton. Bush is ready to sign the bill that the Senate recently passed banning the procedure, but which fewer than a third of the Democratic senators voted for. Appearing to be anti-abortion in any form is a death sentence for any Democratic with political aspirations.

    Summarizing the situation well, Mr. Bartley concludes that: "When the dust settles, Senate Democrats are likely to find that their current obstructionism has put them on the wrong side of a defining event."
    CONFLICT RESOLUTION: Orin Kerr over at the Volokh Conspiracy points out a Washington Post article that connects "conflict resolution" as taught in public schools to the perspective of our youth on the battle of Iraq.
    "My school was telling us not to call names or beat people up, and now we see the government bombing Iraq," [a high school student] says. "It seems it's 'Do as we say, not as we do.' I'm very against the war."

    Certainly not everyone the age of Mulligan and Miles views the conflict in Iraq as wrong. But talking with even young supporters, one is struck by the lens through which they view the war: the way they examine arguments pro and con, assume that none of the players is irredeemable, and fault President Bush and his advisers for poor communication skills.

    "Americans are dictating for the Iraqi people what a 'good life' looks like," says Puneet Gambhir, a sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria. "Why didn't we communicate directly with the Iraqi people, ask them what a government for their families and friends would look like, allow them to buy into our dream? We never created buy-in."

    Classic conflict-resolution talk.

    Teaching kids that "violence is never the answer" is foolish, and it's interesting to see this connection if it truly exists. It's easy to see why the kids might be confused, however, since even the Pope doesn't seem to get it.
    POST-WAR IRAQ: Continuing my earlier posts about the future of Iraq, I offer you this article by Amir Taheri in which he gives some background for the current despotisms in the Middle-East and describes what needs to happen for them to be overcome.

    Via Instapundit.
    BIG MEDIA ISN'T MEETING EXPECTATIONS: Does this mean they're losing the media war against the net and the blogs? Obviously! I routinely make the mistake of hitting Instapundit as soon as I fire up my computer, and then I read every story and find myself with nothing left to write. Oh well.... Go read Glenn's Tech Central Station article about how big media is missing the boat, and how pleased the Pentagon must be about it.

    Yeah, I was just about to write that.
    AMERICAN MEDIA: I made some disparaging remarks earlier about unpatriotic "American" media, and so I wanted to point out the recent Peter Arnett situation to stand in contrast to my previous remarks. NBC, MSNBC, and National Geographic Explorer have fired him "after the journalist told state-run Iraqi TV that the U.S.-led coalition's initial war plan had failed and that reports from Baghdad about civilian casualties had helped antiwar protesters undermine the Bush administration’s strategy."
    "IT WAS wrong for Mr. Arnett to grant an interview to state controlled Iraqi TV — especially at a time of war — and it was wrong for him to discuss his personal observations and opinions in that interview," NBC News President Neal Shapiro said in a statement. "Therefore, Peter Arnett will no longer be reporting for NBC News and MSNBC."

    National Geographic, for whom Arnett first traveled to Baghdad, said it too had "terminated the service of Peter Arnett."

    "The Society did not authorize or have any prior knowledge of Arnett’s television interview with Iraqi television," it said in a statement, "and had we been consulted, would not have allowed it. His decision to grant an interview and express his personal views on state controlled Iraqi television, especially during a time of war, was a serious error in judgment and wrong."

    NBC originally backed Arnett's interview (purely on reflex, no doubt), but then higher-ups changed the company's position and fired him amidst widespread criticism. Giving an interview to Saddam-controlled Iraqi TV was stupid enough, but the nature of his remarks were additionally despicable and will likely directly lead to many Iraqi civilian deaths.
    THERE IS NO POINT SPREAD IN WAR 2: Continued from directly below:

    SDB writes to me that he never said that we need to humiliate the Iraqis in order to defeat Saddam, but that he has made a similar point with regard to the Palestinians. I can see how the situations are different, since the Iraqis as a whole loath Saddam, but the Palestinian people themselves are waging war against Israel. I stand by my original point, however: it may not be necessary to humiliate the Iraqi people, but when the fighting stops there must not be any doubt in anyone's mind that we have achieved complete victory.

    Sunday, March 30, 2003

    THERE IS NO POINT SPREAD IN WAR: SDB has a long article about the mistaken mentality that many reporters have regarding the war. He says that because the Iraqi army is causing "more damage than we expected" many reporters are acting as if they're winning. Additionally, the fact that US supply lines are being harassed by irregular forces means that we aren't living up to expectations, and so we're "losing". SDB points out that war is not a sporting event where one side can win just by "beating the spread". Even if Iraqi units aren't behaving the exact way we hoped, we're still prepared for reality and we're still decimating them.

    On another note, in the same post he writes:
    We hoped in this war it would be possible to cause wholesale surrender of major Iraqi units. That turned out to be less successful than some thought it might, although it may instead have encouraged wholesale desertion in many units, which would be less apparent to us now but no less significant militarily. It was worth a try, but the plan didn't require it. Since many of the remaining Iraqi units won't surrender or sit out the war, we're going to have to destroy them. That means that we're going to have to kill a lot of the men in those units, which means that all hope of a nearly-bloodless war are now gone. And it also means our units will be in combat, which means some of our people will die or be wounded.

    I read somewhere a couple of weeks ago (maybe even on USS Clueless) that there is a school of thought that believes that the only way we can ultimately win and meet our international political goals is to actually inflict heavy casualties on the Iraqi army, and to completely break the will of the Iraqi people to fight. That's how we beat Germany and Japan in WW2, and the fact that we utterly broke their spirits was instrumental in allowing us to occupy their territory and rebuild their cultures from the ground up. Since we hope to accomplish similar objectives in Iraq, it may be reasonable to believe that we will need to break the Iraqi people as well.

    Mass surrender would be nice from a humanitarian standpoint, but it is essential that when the war is over there is absolutely no question but that Iraq has been completely defeated. We must annihilate their ability to make war, and we must eliminate their desire to do so. This total defeat will also serve as a warning to other oppressive Arab regimes, and to other dictators all over the world. We're through cutting deals, and we're through letting you finance the murder of Americans with nothing more than a wink and a nudge.
    ANOTHER CHANCE: It's been a strange day. Here's a short piece called Another Chance. As always, if the direct link doesn't work, just go to The Forge and look for March 30, 2003.
    NORTH KOREA: North Korea is in deep trouble, as I've written before. Their only lifeline to the outside world is China, and the Chinese have always maintained that North Korea is their friend, and that they would oppose any economic sanctions against them. Without Chinese participation, no sanction regime could possibly be implemented successfully. In fact, North Korea already has little money to buy goods from anyone even without sanctions in place. Now that the US has cut off the oil supply we were bribing them with, China is North Korea's only real source of energy.

    According to this article,
    For three straight days in recent weeks, something remarkable happened to the oil pipeline running through northeast China to North Korea - the oil stopped flowing, according to diplomatic sources, temporarily cutting off a vital lifeline for North Korea.

    The pipeline shutdown, officially ascribed to a technical problem, followed an unusually blunt message delivered by China to its longtime ally in a high-level meeting in Beijing last month, the sources said. Stop your provocations about the possible development of nuclear weapons, China warned its neighbor, or face Chinese support for economic sanctions against the regime.

    This might send the tough message that the North Koreans need to hear. Ideally, China will cut them off and their government will collapse with a wimper.
    THE WAR: Well, after being out of the news loop for two whole days... I realize that I didn't miss very much. Most of America seems to be treating The War as the latest in a long line of reality shows, and I certainly admit that there is a voyeristic attraction surrounding the life and death of those directly involved. In spite of this, or because of it, I am finding myself reluctant to post a bunch of links to recent war news. Until something actually happens, there just isn't much to say, and I don't feel like writing filler.
    URBAN COMBAT: You may have seen this type of thing elsewhere, but Phil Carter has a good primer on urban combat, which includes some info on why it's so dangerous.