Iran: the board is set, the pieces are moving

Iran appears dead-set on constructing a nuclear weapon. The agreement to suspend uranium enrichment has been broken off, and Iranian officials are stonewalling the international community in classic Middle-East fashion. They claim that their nuclear program is for civilian purposes, and therefore the world has no right to interfere. The absurdity of that claim is obvious when one considers that Iran is sitting on huge oil reserves, which would be far cheaper and easier to use for electricity than nuclear power. One need only recall the December 13, 2001 speech by former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani in which he said:

"If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave any thing in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world…. Jews shall expect to be once again scattered and wandering around the globe the day when this appendix [i.e. Israel] is extracted from the region and the Muslim world." (www.iran-press-service.com)

So much for Iranian intentions. The United States and especially Israel have no intention of letting this come to pass. At the moment the United States is in a poor position to deal with the threat directly; not only would they have serious political and diplomatic fallout to deal with, but they do not appear to have the necessary troops free. This leaves Israel, which already has one destroyed nuke program to its credit (the Osirak project in Iraq). Israel has stated that it intends to destroy Iran's reactors, to which Iran reacted by threatening a "very strong" response.

There are three possible avenues for a response that I can see. First, a direct attack via the latest version of the Shahab medium-range missile. Second, a series of coordinated terror attacks in Israel by Hizb'Allah, Iran's proxy. Third, Hizb'Allah launching the 15,000-plus rockets in place on the Lebanese frontier (delivered by Iran) toward Tel-Aviv.

Israel and the United States appear to be dealing with each of these threats. To defend against rocket or missile attack Israel has the jointly-developed Arrow-3, derived from the Patriot missile. The United States and Israel are also cooperating on a ground-based laser system designed to destroy rockets and mortar shells, currently being tested at White Sands, NM. This would likely be deployed behind the Lebanese border against Hizb'Allah weapons.

The United States and Germany have also called for Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon, and secured a UN resolution to that effect. (Break out the champagne, the UN did something right for once!) Syria seems to be flinching, and has withdrawn 3,000 troops as of this writing, leaving 15,000 to go. A Syrian withdrawal, laudable on its own, would also serve to weaken Hizb'Allah by removing some of its "institutional" protection, easing the way for the inevitable Israeli air strikes on the rocket positions.

Israel is also striking hard against Hizb'Allah cells in Israel and the Territories. Many of the recent assassinations have targeted Hamas terrorists linked to Hizb'Allah, in an attempt to disrupt cooperation between the two groups. (Cf. www.debka.com) Several Hizb'Allah agents in Israel proper have also been arrested in recent weeks. It remains to be seen how effectively Israel can shut down Hizb'Allah's terror operations.

Israeli intelligence is doubtless working overtime to find all of the Iranian nuclear installations. Israel just purchased 500 bunker-buster munitions from the United States, which seem earmarked for Iran. And the Israeli Air Force (IAF) has been working for over three years to try to extend the range of Israel's planes to bring all of Iran in range, without refueling. As we begin moving into the endgame, questions remain. First: Will the MTHEL laser system be ready in time for the fireworks in the north? Second: will the Mossad find all of the critical nuclear sites? Third: Will Syria stand aside and let Hizb'Allah be crippled? Fourth: will the IAF be capable of the mission?

Whether you are a partisan of Israel, Iran, or neither, pray that Israel can succeed with its bombing mission. If not, Israel may well decide to fire its own nuclear weapons rather than allow its existence to be subject to the whim of Iran.


Citizen's Militias

Today's polisci classes were interesting. Among other things, we discussed the Offensive-Defensive Arms Balance component of defensive neorealist theory. Jargon aside, the basic idea is that a given weapon system is has an inherent value for defense and a value for offense. Minefields, for example, are almost completely defensive. Tanks, though capable of both offense and defense, generally are intended for offense; in WWI, the tank was the weapon that cracked Germany's trench-network.

Two theories are proposed. First, that the state of technology will favor either defense or offense. (At the beginning of WWI, trench warfare and the machine-gun made offensives bloody and generally futile. By WWII, warfighting technology had shifted far enough to the offense to permit the success of the German Blitzkrieg, and later the D-Day landing, in the face of every conventional defense available. Today the balance is even more towards the offense, I believe.) If the balance is toward defense, so goes the theory, states will find it too costly to go to war and will generally tend toward peace. If the balance is toward offense, no state will dare risk falling victim to a surprise attack, and will have an incentive to attack first, thus tending toward war. (The theory failed disastrously in WWI and before WWII because Europe's leadership didn't take the new technology into account, except for Nazi Germany.)

The second theory, which I think is more interesting practically, is that states send signals with their armaments. If a state has a military that is primarily defensive, surrounding states will understand that the first state does not mean to attack them. They will thus refrain from needless arms buildups which may increase the chance of war. Conversely, states with an offensive military will tip off their neighbors to prepare for war.

In essence: All else being equal, the presence of purely defensive weapons will influence a region towards peace.

Which brings me to the citizen's militia.

I believe in the benefits of private ownership of weapons. It acts as a check on tyranny, inspires self-reliance, and makes violent crime much more dangerous and less attractive. Many have argued that in an age of standing armies, private gun ownership is superfluous. (Never mind that standing armies tend to produce tyrannies...) But defensive neorealist theory would indicate that it is to the benefit of the state to have an armed populace, since citizen's militias are relatively cheap and easy to set up and are entirely defensive in character. They create a powerful deterrant to invasion, and thus allow the conventional military to be kept small and non-threatening. (Consider the case of Switzerland, where every household has a SIG Sauer assault-rifle.)

It is in the interest of world peace that I argue that every state should arm all of their citizens. It would also restrain corrupt governments quite effectively; unfortunately, we will see very few militias for that very reason.

If you want to get worried, think about the criminalization in the U.S. of private militia groups.


Workshopping in Creative Writing class

I'm in two creative writing classes this semester, so I've been doing quite a bit of writing so far. A few of my smaller pieces were presented in Screenwriting, but tonight the Fiction class got a look at the first written chapter of my "baby". It was a really good session. Some weaknesses were identified, and much good advice was given, and I think the piece stood up well overall. Once I sit down and rework it, it's going to get much stronger. I'm in a good mood!

Why must the Israeli labor unions strike every two weeks? Bunch of socialist sponges who are scared out of their wits by Bibi Netanyahu's recognizing that Israel's economy needs to become more open, or else the country will pull a Europe. The unions don't want an open economy, they want to stick it to everyone else in the country.

This could only happen to us. We finally get our home back, and it's founded by socialist statist loons. (Meaning no disrespect to Ben Gurion, just to his political party and everyone to his Left.)


Where teachers send their children...

The Drudge Report is carrying an article saying that 25% of Washington D.C. public school teachers send their children to private school. This is utterly unsurprising to me. If I remember correctly, D.C. public schools pay the highest and score the lowest in the country. Any sane parent would run in the opposite direction.

The problem, of course, is that the public school system is a government-subsidized monopoly, and works about as well as any other government-subsidized monopoly. You aren't even allowed to go to a public school outside of your district in most cases. If there is a single public school in the district, it has absolutely no incentive to do any better than the bare minimum. Moreover, the public school system is the favorite breeding-ground of the worst kinds of historical revisionism, absurd teaching philosophies with flashy booklets and powerful patrons, lowest common denominator teaching, and general incompetence.

Please note, there are quite a few excellent public schools out there. They should all be commended for struggling so mightily against the overwhelming tide of idiocy coming from the system. But they are exceptions to the rule.

More ominous, many people are reporting that the history books distributed by public schools place the Constitution in the appendices, devote more time to the Japanese-American internment in WWII than to the war itself, and do their best to promulgate very specific ideological frameworks which are more appropriate to Sweden than to America. As Orwell put it, "He who controls the past, controls the future…"

Send your kids to private schools. If you can, homeschool them. Count your lucky stars if you actually can take advantage of a decent public school, but even then watch over your children's education constantly. The bottom line is that the public school system, once the secret to our success, will end up destroying America… if we let it.


Ominous doings in Israel

According to the Jerusalem Post, the IDF is changing the name of the operation to pull the settlers out from Gaza. The original name, chosen randomly by a computer, was "Zohar ha-rakia," "glory of the firmament," and is a line from a prayer for the souls of the dead. Not a good sign, given all of the tensions that the pullout is causing in Israel.

Tommy Lapid, the leader of the militantly secularist Shinui Party, is agitating against the "Judaism for everyone" government project, in which seminars on general Jewish knowledge are held after Yom Kippur prayer services in 195 locations across the country. He's comparing it to proselytizing and missionizing. This is yet another example of the struggle between those who see Israel as a "Jewish State" and those who see it as a "State of Jews." The truth is that in twenty years or so, the secularists are going to be swamped by the religious Jews anyway because of the difference in birth-rates. Secular Jews have fewer than two children per couple, while religious Jews have more than five. Some communities average more than ten children per couple. It's only a matter of time.

Of course, the Arab population growth is higher than the total Jewish growth, at least for the moment…

New recommended reading

A few notes. First, I have actually only read "Man's Search for Meaning," which was excellent; but Hannah Arendt's "Eichmann in Jerusalem" is a classic, and an account by Dennis Ross of the so-called peace talks has got to be interesting. I hope to read both eventually, but first I've got to get through a stack of books that is several feet tall.

On a slightly unrelated note: WHY are some Harry Potter fans obsessed with predicting the new DADA professor?! On the fan sites people are speculating on everyone from Tonks to Lupin to Snape. News Flash: if Rowling holds to form, the professor will be an entirely new character. Live with it!

Gaah. It's not very fun to wait for the next book in a long series, especially if you've got three series to wait for… On the bright side, Rowling is doing a much better job than the other two authors of keeping the fans happy while they wait.

Rumsfeld was right!

(I knew that would wake people up… By the way, I just noticed and removed the restrictions on comments. Now anyone can comment on my posts, though I will restrict it again if people start spamming the blog.)

In the buildup to the war, the "military experts" were united in their criticism of Rumsfeld for supposedly deploying too few soldiers to the Iraqi front. Our forces were doomed, said the naysayers, because less than 150,000 of them were in theater, and not 400,000 or more as many wanted. Such a small force would be unable to control the country, and ananrchy would result.

Their worst fears seemed justified by the outbreak of looting in Baghdad, and later by the mass movement of terrorists across the border. But the looting could have easily been stopped had the local commander not been a slack-jawed overspecialized trees-before-the-forest type and appreciated how important civil order was in Iraq, and imposed martial law with summary executions of looters. And even a much larger force would have found it difficult indeed to police Iraq's huge, arbitrary border, though they would have had at least some additional impact.

More serious was the growth of no-go enclaves like Fallujah and (previously) Samarra. Here it is entirely possible that more troops would have allowed the commanders to deal with these cities sooner. That said, if 20,000 troops would have made a difference, 200,000 troops would have been overkill.

But what is lost in the debate is that any additional mobilization of forces on the Iraqi frontier would have posponed the beginning of the war by months at least. We know now that we are racing against the Iranians to see if we can turn over Iraq to the ING and free up our own forces before they build nukes; any delay would have been deadly. (On that note, we should fire or shoot the State Department idiots who opposed de-Ba'athification and the rebuilding of the ING. They lost us at least three crucial months.)

As well, a larger war effort would have been much more expensive. In the election, it would have made a huge difference if the war had cost $300 billion and not $100 billion so far (for example). It would have also made our stance against North Korea seem suspect and in danger of overreach.

Now, Iraqi units are coming online in great numbers. The terror groups are slowly being contained, civil order is largely restored, U.S. forces are freed up to go on the offensive, Samarra just kicked out the terrorists that had been based there, and things are looking favorable in general. Factoring in all the issues, I believe that Rumsfeld was justified in his decision.


Post-Rosh Hashanah thoughts

This year, Rosh Hashanah ran into Friday night/Saturday, which made it a three day holiday for all intents and purposes. There is nothing more pleasing to my senses as that delicate aroma of several hundred male college students who haven't washed for three days packed in a close space. Ahh, true bliss!

In all seriousness, the next week is part of the Ten Days of Repentence, when we are called upon to examine our deeds and resolve to improve them. The principle of self-examination is a good one whether you are a Jew or not, as nobody is perfect. Most people (I hope) do not have problems with things like theft, abuse of others or other things of that nature; but one issue that many, many people (myself among them) get tripped up by is "Lashon Hara," evil speech, variously translated as gossip or slander. It really is neither, but is closer to gossip.

Evil speech is when you should speak badly about a person when there is no specific need to do so. Exact definitions I will leave to the many great scholars who have written on the subject, but the snide comment behind someone's back, the casual tale-bearing of juicy gossip, the subtle undermining of trust with a well-placed remark, all are considered evil speech.

This is one of the easiest and yet most destructive transgressions to commit. Social discord, ruined reputations, simmering enmity, humiliation, estrangement, all these come from the uncontrolled use of speech. As you examine your deeds and look for ways to improve, do not neglect the seemingly minor hurts you do to others with speech. May you have much success in making yourself a better and kinder person, and may the next year be sweet and good for all of Creation.

Moving on… thinking about my last post, it seemed as though I were endorsing immoral behavior in the interest of perpetuating American power. I think that needs to be clarified. Rather, certain classes of behavior which would seem immoral (spying, economic and military coercion, war if need be) can be legitimate tools for a state; but it all depends on context. For example, I believe the Iraq War to have been justified; but a war on Turkey would not be. But the history of U.S. policy in the last decades has convinced me that U.S. support for dictatorships can never be moral (unless the alternative is pure anarchy). We are now reaping the bitter fruit of our support for the Shah of Iran, the House of Saud, and the Egyptian pseudo-parliamentary dictatorship, just as we did from our support for a dictator in Vietnam and China prior to the Communist takeovers (though that was more complicated). Sometimes the needs of the hour would seem to force us to support a dictator, but we must know that such support will never be without great cost down the line.

I did a lot of reading over the holiday, and though it's starting to blend together it was interesting. The main practical conclusion I came to is that we need to get our forces out of Europe as fast as we can without leaving a power vaccum, so that the Europeans will be forced to defend themselves. Their absurd neo-Socialist statist systems are possible because they don't have to pay for decent armies. If they have to raise armies, two things could happen depending on whether they have the guts to cut back their social programs to pay for it. If they do, their societies will benefit from the increased commerce and free-market activity. If they have become so infested with Socialism that they try to support both an army and their welfare states at the same time, they will a horrible death as did the Soviet Union before them. Seems like a win-win situation to me…

Have fun, buy silver, and good night.


Thoughts on the national interest

The last few days in my Political Science classes have been focused on power politics and ideas of the national interest. In summary, the Realists such as Morgenthau believe that the only thing which is in any country's national interest is the pursuit of power, which is inherently a zero-sum transaction given that if you have a finite power potential, one country's gain implies another country's loss. The ideal situation in politics is the presence of a balance of power between nations that forestalls war.

This is not necessarily an amoral position. Morgenthau escaped from Nazi Germany, and he believed that the failure of the European nations to contain Hitler was directly related to their unwillingness to put power politics before all other considerations. Furthermore, the international norms of behavior (such as they are in a Realist world) are dictated by the most powerful countries. Ergo, a Realist governed by moral concerns (it sounds contradictory, I know, but it isn't) could argue that the most moral countries have a moral imperative to behave immorally if necessary to extend their power! If they do not do so, they will fall to less moral challengers, with harmful consequenses for the people of the world. Thus, policies driven by explicit concerns of morality only divert strength from the important needs of power politics, ensuring disaster.

On the other side are the idealists, who believe that strong nations have the moral responsibility to promote morals with their power. How can we stand aside in Rwanda, for example, by saying that it is not in our national interest? According to the idealists, it is in the national interest of all nations to promote a more stable and just international system, even if a nation must take a short-term hit in the process.

Complicating things is the fact that the changing world has rendered large parts of the classic Realist position obsolete. With the advent of large-scale terrorism and similar dangers, maintaining the balance of power is not enough to ensure peace. State-sponsored terrorism in particular creates a large bias towards regime-change in the absence of more traditional power-political concerns. Furthermore, power has ceased to be a zero-sum game in many respects, particularly in the areas of trade and knowledge, thus removing many of the classic objections to some policies based on cooperation. As well, we should consider Dr. Matthews' 1989 argument that I mentioned earlier, that many of the pressing challenges we face today can only be dealt with on a regional level, and not by individual states.

America is in the unusual position of being so powerful that she can ensure her own security with vast resources to spare. I believe that this is a key factor. Our first responsibility should be to retain our position as hegemon of the world, for several reasons alluded to above; but we must also use the rest of our strength to advance democracy, capitalism and the welfare of mankind. This is particularly true since we have means at our disposal that increase our power as opposed to decreasing it, such as free trade. But it is even true if we should need to sacrifice some of our power for the good of others, because we have so very much to spare. We should of course be vigilant not to get carried away, as happened after World War I, and keep our main focus on power politics. But I believe that God will eventually reward those who act kindly and justly with others, all else being equal. The national interest is broad enough to include the cause of freedom.


Back from Boston

I attended a conference held by the Hartford Group in Boston on Friday, which had a number of fascinating parts to it. The part that is probably most relevant to this site was the presentation by their chief geopolitical analyst, Dr. Quincy Krosby. Here are the key points:

1. We can expect sizeable inflation for the next few years at least. Fed analysts estimate that a "neutral" interest rate (i.e. a rate that is neither accomodative nor restrictive for the credit markets) would presently be between 3.5%-4%. We are now below 2%, and until recently had been at 1% for a very long time. It will take over a year to raise the rates back to a normal level. Even when that happens, it takes about a year for the effects to ripple though the economy.

Why haven't we seen much inflation before now? The China Effect. China and India both exported deflation in the form of cheap goods and low wages, but their economies are both getting built up to the point where they will become relatively more expensive. On the flip side, the roaring economies of China and India are consuming a huge amount of natural resources, particularly oil, driving up prices for these. Which brings us to the next point:

2. Oil will stay pricey from now on, and could get worse depending on geopolitical factors. Global demand is rising dramatically, and production is beginning to level off. Worse, a lot of production is in unstable countries like Nigeria, Venezuela, and especially Saudi Arabia, which is inching closer and closer to a violent overthrow by the Islamist factions such as al-Qa'ida. (Editorial comment: start looking into solar power and better home insulation, etc.)

3. The market is scared stiff of a Kerry victory, because they know that he will wreck the economy. But whoever ends up winning, once the elections are over the traders will return to business as usual because the uncertainty will have disappeared. It's looking like the stock market should have a good year, especially solid large-caps. (Note: I am not dispensing investing advice, investing is risky, standard label warnings, and so forth. Caveat Emptor!)

That's enough for tonight. Much going on in the world that I don't have time to touch.


Interesting doings

Absolutely delicious. Kerry had a photo-op over the weekend at a gun club, and took several pictures with a shotgun which would have been illegal if legislation he co-sponsored, S. 1431 in 2003, had become law. The Drudge Report has the story now. (By the way, Kerry wasn't wearing eye and ear protection, which makes it highly unlikely that he actually fired the shotgun.)

I'm off to Boston in two days for a conference by the Hartford Group. Should be interesting, even if it messes up my schedule. I'll see if I can blog it.

I finally got fed up with the Google ads and removed them. (Take that, geodesic domes!!) Now I have a recommended reading section, which I have complete control over. I'll be swapping out entries periodically.

Blogger has been having some technical difficulties in the past few days. I hope things even out, or I may end up switching hosts.

I'll have to start blogging less frquently, since I just sold my soul to the devil. Actually I signed up for the YCDS play again this semester, despite my firm commitment not to. But, they're doing "The Boiler Room," and there's a part that Doc picked out just for me, and I'm as helpless as a crack-addict. On the bright side, it really helps me focus on my homework. Hehe.

Good night all!


Spending too much time browsing other blogs...

This letter excerpt, from Timothy Roscoe Carter to Matt Welch at mattwelch.com (linked to from janegalt.net) and dated November 6 2001, efficiently lays out how the Left has prevented itself as a matter of doctrine from doing a single thing about evil states:

"Credibility problems of the Left:
I. Everything the US does is wrong. In a previous column, you asked: What should we do about a repressive regime?

Option 1) Military Aid. Obviously wrong. We are providing the weapons that kill the innocent. See Israel, Turkey, Columbia, Reagan-era Iraq, etc.

Option 2) Economic Aid. Wrong. We are financially propping up the regime. See Egypt, Indonesia, etc.

Option 3) Humanitarian Aid. Still Wrong. By relieving the regime of its financial duty to feed its people, we free up their money for military uses. See Afghanistan, where the US supported the Taliban by providing $43 million in humanitarian aid in exchange for the Taliban not exporting Heroin, thus sacrificing 12 million women to the alter of the failed War on Drugs.

Option 4) Trade / Constructive Engagement. Wrong. This is merely an excuse for US corporations to profit off of the regime's repression of its own people. See China and Reagan-era South Africa.

Option 5) Economic Sanctions. Wrong. The economic sanctions in Iraq have killed 6,000 people a month for the past 11 years, or nearly 800,000 victims of US foreign policy.

Option 6) Military Attack. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong! War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! See every military conflict that the United States has every engaged in. (Caveat: There may be a possible exception for the US Civil War, which will be considered obviously justified if you are talking to any white person born in the former Confederacy.)

Option 7) The Prime Directive. Wrong. It is intolerable for the most powerful nation in history to sit by and do nothing while thousands die. It probably stems from a racist lack of concern for people of color of persons of other religions. See Rwanda, Bosnia (not to be confused with Kosovo, which falls under Option 6, above)."

Not much to add to that. In all the years since Iraq invaded Kuwait, I had not heard a single good Leftist solution for the Saddam problem, other than throwing up our hands and letting him do what he wanted without interference.


Firefox is a no-go...

Darn. I tried installing Mozilla Firefox so that I could interface better with my blog editor, but it went very weird on me very quickly. Never mind then. (I suppose I could just post from the library, but that would be a real pain. But how can you have a blog without lots of links? Decisions, decisions...)

Talk about your convention bounces! It looks like President Bush now has a ten-point lead over the junior senator from Massachusetts. Looking around the blogosphere, it looks like the Democrats are getting freaked out by the eerie similarities with the Dukakis campaign. Their thinking is that they've been too nice until now, and they need to get mudslinging with a vengeance.

Riiiight. And this is supposed to attract voters HOW? I think anyone who would be suckered by this approach probably already has been, in the three years since 9/11 during which every Socialist hack has been comparing Bush to Hitler. You can't really improve on that (if "improve" is the word I'm looking for). My guess is that the rest of the campaign-season is going to look like a train-wreck in slow motion.

And now, a Gee Whiz Moment™:

The blogosphere (the pseudo-organic network of blogs on the internet) is absolutely the best thing that has happened for democracy since the Xerox machine took down the Soviet Union. In days past, an event would happen and the major news networks would have their editors sit down behind closed doors, eat a few donuts, and decide how they wanted to spin the story. Sometimes, all the networks would sit on a story for months before mentioning it, if they ever did, because the story threatened their interests. Those stories that were publicized were massaged, torqued, blurred, impacted, digested and otherwise messed over to fit with the editorial agendas in play.

And then came the blogs, personified by the Drudge Report and the breaking of the Monica Lewinski story.

Matt Drudge saw that the networks were sitting on this story for over a month, and clearly had no intention of breaking it. So Drudge, working out of his apartment on a personal computer and a standard internet hookup, fired the shot heard 'round the Net and blew that thing sky-high. The world would never be the same.

Now, an event happens. Before the big networks have even closed the office door for their meeting of donut-eaters, a first-hand witness either does a writeup in his blog, or calls a blogger he knows who does the writeup instead. (Usually multiply this first step by ten or so.) Then "Vodkapundit" might be cruising around and notice the story, and whip up a few links to it from his own site. "Cold Fury" might pick it up from Vodkapundit, "Heartless Libertarian" could pick it up from Cold Fury, and then Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit notices and links back to the original site. (Next thought by the original blogger: "Holy @$%*, look at the traffic-counter! I musta been instalaunched!" Followed by celebratory alcohols or whatever.) Pretty soon the entire blogosphere is humming, with cross-references to seven different news-feeds, audio-content from primary sources, detailed analyses of the different media-spins on the story, and general scorn at the hacks over at the Associated Press.

The marketplace of ideas just got hooked up to a rocket-engine. Never again will the Old Media have the power that they wielded as recently as last election. The little guy now has all the multitudes of the blogosphere on his side. It really is amazing, and only good things can result.


Editorial Policies are a Pain

I just wrote a post on *certain events going on in Russia having to do with the disruption of education* and apparently Google has a policy of enforcing a blackout on posts about tragic events for an indeterminate period. Probably a good idea, since my post was rather vengeful. I'll try to be a little more vague this time.

I think that those who did this made a huge mistake. Russia is not exactly known for their "nuanced," "sensitive" responses toward these kinds of things. I would not be surprised if their attitude toward Israel makes a dramatic turnaround as well. This may well turn out to be a crucial turning point in "al-Harb ila irhaab" (synonym: campaign on fear).

I need to do something about Google's choice of content for the sidebar. At the moment, they seem to think that this is a Eco-freak site, and are assigning content accordingly. How can I tell them that I like the Jewish religion, policy analysis and electoral politics, Israel, military strategy, fiction and literature, music, animals, Israel, the Libertarian Party, the Boy Scouts of America, individual responsibility, investing and financial management, education, politics, and Ralph Vaughn Williams?

Oh yeah ;-) Let's see if that helps.

The massacre of Beslan

The latest news from Beslan in Russia is that over three hundred hostages were killed, over half of whom were children. I lack the words to truly express my horror and pain for the dead, and my rage at and revulsion for the murderers who did this. But I'll take a stab at it anyway:

These cannibals have shown themselves to be outcast from the human race. When al-Qa'ida said that they reserved the right to kill two million children, the naive among us considered it hyperbole; after all, who would be so barbaric as to deliberately kill children? Now we know, beyond the capacity of even the most delusional pacifist to explain away. Anyone who conducts such acts has lost the right to continue breathing, and it is the duty of all inhabitants of the earth to purify this world by eradicating these scum from it. Furthermore, anyone who IN ANY WAY gives aid and comfort to these spawn of Murder Incarnate is just as guilty as one who knowingly assists in the spread of the Black Death. There can be no quarter given. There can be no "nuance," no "sensitivity," no institutional procrastination, no waiting on the sufferance of the United Nations which has shown itself unworthy of the very color of its flag. (Blue is the color of exaltedness, not of nepotism, corruption, indifference to savagery and bloodshed, and obstruction of those who wish to defend human life.)

To those who wish for peace and justice, the hand of friendship. To those who wish for murder and rule by violence, the sword of annihilation. There can be no other way.

(Deep breath now...)


Whither Africa?

I was reading an essay by Jessica Tuchman Matthews from 1989 called "Redefining Security" which was assigned in one of my classes, in which she argued that enviromental issues such as soil erosion, deforestation, overpopulation, pollution and the like needed to be considered part of the national interest, and required nations to respond multilaterally and regionally to be effective.

The bright side is that many of the gloomier predictions have proven to be overstated. This is due in no small part to the recent influence of the enviromentalist movement, to be sure, but Matthews and others expected the major gains to be government mandated. It seems to me that most actual progress has come from social activism on the one hand, and the response of the free market on the other. Government efforts appear to be counterproductive in many cases, and on the whole have negligible effects. California offers a tax-credit for installing solar-power systems in your home of 50% of its cost; yet I can't think of anywhere in the state where I have seen a solar home, because the technology is not ready yet. Meanwhile, better insulation and other techniques which are widely available today could save a great deal of energy, but the government barely notices them. Not trendy enough, I suppose.

Back on topic... one area which worried Matthews greatly was Africa, because it combined rapid population growth, terrible resource-management and agriculture, rapid resource depletion as a result, and unstable societies. Africa has proven to be as bad as everyone feared (with a few twists). Efforts to feed starving populations and husband resources have often been disrupted by wars, corrupt governments, and other such fun things, so it seems that there is little that the developed world can do about it.

The twist is AIDS. At the moment AIDS is having its biggest effects in sub-Saharan Africa, though that may change in twenty years or so. Regardless, at the same time as the northern African states are becoming heavily populated and poor, the southern states, rich in mineral wealth and soil, are seeing a third of their population die off. I would guess that pretty soon now, we are going to see a series of horrific wars in Africa as the big states try to absorb the empty ones, and help the process along by emptying the native population early (read wholesale massacres by machete-swinging mobs). They've already started doing it to minority populations within their own borders, and it won't take long before some Sudanese general (for example) looks south and sees the chance for a land-grab.

Things may get very ugly, very quickly.

My writing classes look very cool. My polisci classes are going to be awesome. Much blogable material!


Reading the 9/11 Report

I'm a short ways into the 9/11 Report, and so far it has been quite interesting. A couple of points:

1. God bless the men and women on Flight 93! It is important for every American (and everyone else in the world, for that matter) to realize that submitting to the demands of terrorists in this day and age will probably not save your life. Look at how many hostages in Iraq have been executed, versus the tiny number who were freed. On the other hand, if you resist with all the violence available to you, you may save not only your own life but the lives of others as well. Even if you die, you will at least die on your feet and not on your knees.

If I should ever run into terrorists, I am already dead; it only remains to me to take a few of them with me, if I can.

2. The report mentions that the military, in their testimony, was so concerned with disguising the massive foul-ups in communication that went on, that they claimed to know about the hijackings before they even happened! For example, pg. 34: "...NORAD officials stated that at 9:16, NEADS received hijack notification of United 93 from the FAA. This statement was incorrect. There was no hijack to report at 9:16. United 93 was proceeding normally at that time."

I have serious problems with an organization that is more interested in covering their backside than in trying to fix problems so that they can do their job. Never mind that they were testifying under oath. The military hierarchy has issues with their priorities, and the culture over there really needs to be shaken up. I just hope that they can do it before their idiocy kills more people. For example, the XM-8 rifle needs to be chambered in something bigger than the 5.56 mm NATO "poodleshooter" round, but enough people are invested in maintaining the status quo so that it will be very tough to get changes going.

My first class in "Security Studies: Strategy" starts in a half hour. Should be fun.