Monday, July 31, 2006

Nature of the Game

I have been a bit depressed by the news recently. I am saddened that Lebanon is under attack, and I am saddened that Israel has been forced to attack it as well. I can’t help but suspect that Israel is somehow mistaken here. The Israelis are, to my limited understanding, unmatched in military competence. They are not, however, the masters of gamesmanship. It might be that democracies really can’t excel at gamesmanship by their very nature. My feeling is that these Katyusha rockets are not particularly effective. Why bother hunting them down when you could go after the big game.

If someone sics his Chihuahua on you, should you kick the dog or punch the owner? There is no way to hurt Hezbollah directly without losing the propaganda war. Israel has been gravely, gravely embarrassed by the deaths of civilians who had been transfixed as human shields for precisely that purpose. The story now comes out (by way of TigerHawk) that the civilians may actually have died hours after the bombing when the building collapsed. Now, ask yourself how that could have happened. If we were in their shoes, wouldn’t we have evacuated such a damaged building? We evacuated all seven WTC buildings even though we had no idea that the towers were going to collapse. Not a single person was lost in the collapse of WTC 7. Wouldn’t the local "authorities" in Hezbollahland have done the same once a building was obviously damaged?

But then again, we value life, not death. When civilians die in Israel, it is a propaganda victory for Hezbollah. When civilians die in Lebanon, it is a propaganda victory for Hezbollah. When civilians die in New York, it is a propaganda victory for Al Qaeda. When civilians die in Iraq, it is a propaganda victory for Al Qaeda. Somehow, the scales have to be re-balanced.

Can anyone explain to me why HB admirers mobbed the UN facility? What's their beef with the UN?

7/31/2006 12:50 AM

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Scruples in WW II

Christopher Hitchens has an excellent article in the Weekly Standard on Allied terror bombing. Dresden gave everyone the shivers, but Hitchens points out that there were, despite the enormity of the event, ambivalent feelings toward the strategy, as there are today about Hiroshima.

It's instructive to review the thoughts expressed at the time in light of current events.

7/24/2006 9:55 PM

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Pipes Says I Told You So

Daniel Pipes was the first serious thinker I encountered who recognized with open eyes that Islamic Fascism represents a serious and implacable threat. I was fortunate to hear his message early on. It gave me a chance to understand the unfolding events since 1979 without blaming neo-colonialism, oil-imperialism or CIA machinations. Lately, he has lost me somewhat in renouncing Israel's recent peace offerings. I felt that a Palestinian state, run by elected moderates, was essential to eventual peace for Israel. Even the election of Hamas did not completely destroy my hopes. Hamas could choose to change. Lebanon also gave me hope. I felt that it could integrate itself into a true state despite the drag of Hezbollah.

It appears, however, that I have been wrong about Hamas and probably wrong about the value of unilateral peace offerings. I am also convinced now that Iraq, as well, can never enjoy peace until the militias are disarmed. I am still not willing to accept DP’s prescription of absolute strength and eternal vigilance. I feel there has to be some way to win this thing.

Here is a somewhat butchered extract of the strongest points in his latest post. RTWT.

Israel's Unnecessary War

by Daniel Pipes
New York Sun
July 18, 2006

[NY Sun title: "Mistakes That Led to This Unnecessary War"]

The blame for the current fighting falls entirely on Israel's enemies, … [but] erroneous Israeli decisions in the last 13 years have led to an unnecessary war.

For 45 years, 1948-93, Israel's strategic vision … [blah, blah, blah] focused on the enemy's mind and mood, adopting policies designed to degrade his morale, with the goal of inducing a sense of defeat, a realization that the Jewish state is permanent and cannot be undone.

… By 1993, this record of success imbued Israelis with a sense of overconfidence. … Palestinian Arabs and other enemies had not given up their goal of eliminating Israel. … fatigue and hubris, came flooding out. … permitted their enemies to create a quasi-governmental structure … and to amass hoards of armaments (Hezbollah's nearly 12,000 Katyusha rockets in southern Lebanon, … shamelessly traded captured terrorists for hostages.

In this mishmash of appeasement and retreat, Israel's enemies rapidly lost their fear … replaced with a disdain that borders on contempt. … [D]eterrence … means renouncing the foolish plans of compromise, the dreamy hopes for good will, the irresponsibility of releasing terrorists, the self-indulgence of weariness, and the idiocy of unilateral withdrawal … episodic displays of muscle have no utility. …

Each disillusionment inspires an orgy of Israeli remorse and reconsideration, followed by a quiet return to appeasement and retreat. I fear that the Gaza and Lebanon operations are focused not on defeating the enemy but on winning the release of one or two soldiers – a strange war goal, one perhaps unprecedented in the history of warfare – suggesting that matters will soon enough revert to form.

7/18/2006 2:16 PM

Related Posts:

04/21/2006 Pipesters Prevail
01/13/2006 Democracy Evangelism
09/25/2005 The Cybernetics of Radicalism
09/08/2005 The Criminal Form of Islam
09/07/2005 Speechless in Gaza (Belmont Club)
05/26/2005 Pandemics in Contrast
05/12/2005 Asymmetric Madness
04/26/2005 More Addictive than Nicotine
04/12/2005 Handy Rules for Identifying the Enemy (Donald Sensing)

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Coulter Unmasked

Right wingers have justly pilloried left-leaning writers for incidents of plagiarism. Isn't it nice to see one of them receive the same treatment?

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Skeptics Discuss Wind and Nuclear

Donald Sensing has a great piece at Winds of Change on how to end our fossil fuel dependence. He refers to Steven Den Beste's classic series of posts on why nothing but nuclear will do the job. And Den Beste showed up for the conversation! The extensive comments by him and M. Simon are well worth reading -- smart people butting heads politely.

7/7/2006 7:47 PM

PS: I'll be offline for a week.

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Interlocking Systems

RealClimate has a post discussing geo-engineering solutions to the climate change problem. The spotlighted suggestion is that we should release sulfate aerosols into the upper atmosphere, an action which would serve, much as a volcanic eruption does, to screen some sunlight from the planet.

Yes, we would be cooler. However, there is the concomitant impact of acid rain to consider. How much damage does acid rain do to the planet, killing trees that sequester CO2, for instance, possibly damaging health and agricultural productivity? I think it's also important to consider the primary intended impact of this method. The reduction of sunshine is not completely benign. The effect on agriculture summed worldwide must be incorporated into any evaluation of cost. Does reduced sunlight equal reduced agricultural productivity? The other issue is that we won't be able to stop. One commenter call this the "Old lady who swallowed the fly" technique.

There are other geo-engineering approaches. Directly sequestering CO2 and methane seem to me more direct and desirable. Climate is so complex, and this is about more than just climate. The cybernetics of the situation are daunting and unintended consequences are likely. The safest approach is to undo what we have done. Can that really be done?

Well worth reading. There are many interesting comments as well.

There are still other geo-engineering approaches, such as seeding the nutrient-poor South Pacific with iron dust. The sudden bloom of life would certainly change something, but would it actually reduce the CO2? What else would it do?

My deepest concern here is that in the face of a clear and present danger, most convinced scientists are running around looking for solutions under every rock, while the influential members of the skeptical minority are in various degrees of denial. We do not have a government that processes information very well, and we do not have a government that can take appropriate and timely steps to protect the planet. Simply put, the government collectively does not have enough brains or strength to do what must be done. It does not truly represent us. Furthermore, I cannot see where a simple change of party or personnel is going to make any difference whatsoever. The US responds pretty well to crisis, but unless you are willing to wait for such an event, we should be thinking about the problem of governance as a preliminary step to solving the environmental problem.

7/3/2006 3:32 PM

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Sharks Lost

Steve Sturgill links to a news story about the largest hammerhead shark ever caught. The shark was donated to Mote Marine Laboratory for which they were grateful. Unfortunately, it was pregnant with 55 pups.

I think this event might change some minds. Who knows.

7/1/2006 12:36 PM

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Why Krypton Was Destroyed

Found on the Web:

Posted by biped on June 9th, 2000 06:24 PM:

DEADLY FART WREAKS HAVOC

Metropolis-- Twelve city blocks were instantly demolished today after what stunned witnesses described as "the loudest, most powerful fart" they had ever heard ripped through the downtown area shortly after lunchtime. The deadly blast, which left in its wake a noxious cloud that had citizens gagging and passing out like flies, seems to have originated near the Daily Planet building.
"It was horrible," said reporter Lois Lane, a witness. "I had just returned from my lunch date with another reporter, Clark Kent, after a large meal of tamales, chili, and bean nachos. Clark excused himself and ducked into a nearby broom closet, which he is often known to do for some reason or another. And then all hell broke loose."
Clark Kent could not be reached for comment, although co-worker Jimmy Olsen summed the whole thing up by saying, "This was bad -- by far the worst fart I've ever experienced. And I've been to a three-bean chili supper at Ted Kennedy's house."

7/1/2006 1:10 AM

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