Sunday, January 29, 2006

Did anyone expect Iran to be the Big Winner?

...and now for another chapter of Predictions Registry please!

See an excerpt from BLUEPRINT FOR ACTION: A Future Worth Creating, the latest book by US Naval Academy Prof. Thomas P. M. Barnett.

In this portion, he discusses “Securing the Middle East with a Nuclear Iran?” raising a point that I tried to bring up three years ago, during the drumbeat-prelude to our intervention in Iraq.

At that time, like many reasonable people, I was willing to take at face value the statements offered by a man of Colin Powell’s stature, assuring us that his administration colleagues were mature and responsible people, who had properly verified overwhelming intelligence from multiple sources, before committing the greatest nation on Earth to a costly foreign adventure. While pushing and chivvying reluctant allies into action, they told of an urgent need to act now in order to eliminate a clear and present danger from Saddam’s impending use of Weapons of Mass Destruction. A need so imminent and dire that it precluded every alternative solution, other than direct frontal assault upon Iraq’s regime.

In fact, I was more amenable to such action than most people, for reasons of national honor. For twelve years, I had felt a burning sense of shame over what our country did to the people of Iraq, in 1991. Back when the southern Shiite majority rose up in brave rebellion against their oppressors, counting on our solemn assurance -- given in President George H. W. Bush’s name -- that we were “on our way.” Had Gen. Schwarzkopf been given twelve more hours... but those assurances were cruelly betrayed, planting seeds of bitterness that we’re now reaping.

My willingness to see Saddam toppled -- and those people finally rescued -- was not untempered by a wish to see it done right! In ways that befit the skill already shown by our diplomatic and military professionals, in the Balkans and Afghanistan. In both of those crisis zones, the objectives of American intervention were made clear, and measures were taken so that local forces would do heavy lifting on the ground, assisted by hi-tech US air power. Losses, both civilian and among US troops, were minimized (total US losses in the Balkans were zero), while some thinking was also applied to managing the aftermath. Above all, both of those interventions were planned in such a way that America’s alliances and military readiness were left intact, when the dust finally settled.

Let me reiterate that point. An absolute rule that should be followed, whenever the United States engages in discretionary military action overseas should be “can this mission be accomplished in such a way that leaves our world standing, our alliances, our inner social cohesion and our readiness intact?” Clearly, any endeavor that satisfies these criteria will also be both moral and smart. This is evident because, as we have seen, a combination of gross immorality and stupidity destroys alliances, national cohesion, readiness and our standing in the world.

With these desiderata in mind, I tried -- before the Iraq Invasion -- to approach every contact I had in the defense, intelligence and diplomatic communities, asking why we should go after Saddam without trying, at the same time, to increase our engagement with Iran?

Repeatedly, I asked: “Since Iran will benefit most from toppling Saddam, should we not use this as an opportunity to get something from the Iranians, in return? Is it possible that this blatant and obvious overlap in our national interests might be leveraged, somehow, to end the post-1979 enmity and restore some commonality of purpose?

Let there be no mistake about this. It is now clear that Iran benefitted more than any other party, from our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2003, I called this likely outcome a no-brainer. It seemed obvious. Yet, I was called naive.

Here’s the suggestion I made then:

“With half a million Iranian troops just fifty miles from Basra, ready to liberate their fellow Shiites if only we pave the way, is there any good reason that any American boys and girls should die, in order to take the tyrant’s boot off Shiite necks? Either in a frontal assault or in policing the gritty aftermath?

“In the Balkans and Afghanistan, we combined US air power with local ground forces to achieve victory at low cost. Should we not at least consider doing the same in Southern Iraq?

“In any event, by helping free their fellow Shiites, by giving Iranians their revenge on Saddam, by removing the security threats on their borders -- and possibly by adding our own quick/painless apology for supporting the Shah -- would we not be offering Iran just about everything they asked for, and more? If they are sane enough to see self-interest -- deeming it more important than tantrums -- might they offer us something in return?

“Yes, they may not be sane enough to prefer self-interest. But isn’t it at least worth a try?”


====    ====    ====

That point merits repetition. When my defense, intelligence and diplomatic contacts said that “The Mullahs would never accept this.” I responded “What’s the downside of trying?”

So what if they reject the overture! We’d be seen by the world offering to kiss and make up. That’s good press! In contrast, the intransigent mullahs would be seen rejecting a chance to rescue their fellow Shiites and avenge a million dead Iranians. They lose face with their own people while we look like rejected peacemakers. And the downside for us is... what? Even a rebuff would have benefited us.

Alas, according to my contacts, the Iranian Option was never raised in the preliminary scenario planning stage, a time when all possibilities should be on the table. Not even mentioned. Because a brute force American drive from Kuwait to Baghdad -- followed by endless occupation -- had already been decided, at the highest level, even before orders went out for the CIA to find evidence for Iraqi WMD.

Moreover, in the political climate back then, the chief result of my question was that many DC acquaintances broke off further contact with me! One of them warned: “David, right now, this is not a town where ideas are welcome from anywhere but the top.”

Where, oh where, is that Predictions Registry? Now, pundits are talking about how “the biggest winner from our Iraq Incursion has been Iran.”

Um... duh? Can anybody look back and say this outcome shouldn’t have been obvious? Of course the winner would have to be Iran! Only... three years ago we could have made these Iranian benefits a matter of bargaining, and perhaps won concessions in return. Iran will dominate southern Iraq for a while... at least till the Shiite Arabs get sick of Teheran’s meddling -- a historically predictable eventuality. That was always in the cards. But it could have been a different Iran that reaped benefits from our intervention.

One where we used a successful military alliance to gain social and political influence. Perhaps even enough to let a million Iranian expatriates come home, adding their liberalizing influence to the rising Youth Movement... and...

...well, wouldn’t that have been worth aiming for? Especially since this approach would also have kept US forces mostly off the ground, in Iraq?

Instead -- and this diametrically-opposite approach needs noting -- at every opportunity, the Bush Administration has rattled the saber at Iran, choosing to rant about “axes of evil” or to hint that “you guys are next”...always at the very moment when harsh words can do the most harm to our image, our interests, our deteriorating position in that part of the world.

Go look up Thomas Barnett’s cogent analysis, and be glad that he is being read. Someday, we will be led by people capable of looking for win-win situations in the world. Instead of relentlessly seeking ways for us to lose-lose.

57 comments:

Simon Neville said...

Hey Folks
just reposting here, since David blogged again while I was writing this.

Just a quick post here an the Science Fiction/Fantasy debate. Yes science fiction is losing on a couple fronts, but it is also winning big time on other fronts. Readership is down compared to fantasy, OK, but in general most kids nowadays read very little compared to before. It used to be that SF magazines were the best medium to reach youth and inspire them.
Today I would say that medium is TV. Something kids do more than any other activity, and in that battle SF is kicking butt. I can think of only 2 fanasty series to have high ratings to come out on TV in the last decade (hercules/Xena). On the other hand SF has had a slew of high rating shows in the last decade, with my Favorite being Babylon 5. Other good shows were Sliders, Firefly, Andromena, Battlestar Galactica etc....

My point is that will our readship might be down, our viewing public is waaay up, and that is good for SF.

Simon Neville

Stefan Jones said...

I hate "topic mixing," but:

I think Simon is correct in stating that television-SF has replaced written SF as the place that young people turn for "wonder kicks."

Computer games are another source of "wonder kicks" that today's young'uns turn to.

I tried writing, late last year, an essay for Dr. Brin's upcoming book on Star Wars. I pointed out that, compared to when I was I was a budding SF dweeb, we live in a golden age of sci-fi culture:
Not only are there more shows out there, the best of them are actually pretty smart and thoughtful!

But . . . because of the nature of the medium, and further because of the constraints and demands forced on it by the ratings-and-advertising system, SF-television is not a replacement for written SF. It does somethings really well, but other poorly or not at all.

In other words, we're still in a pickle.

* * *

To get back on topic, somewhat:

I highly recommend the graphic novels Persepolis and Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi . . . now available in paperback.

They're by a expatriot Iranian lady, and are an account of how the revolution affected her (she was a school kid) and her family (middle class intellectuals). A real eye-opener.

Satrapi is doing work for the New York Times now. One piece that ran last spring concerned a turned-her-head-around visit to West Point.

Tony Fisk said...

It was pretty clear that americans, and the rest of the COW were being frogmarched into an Iraqi invasion when Powell gave such an unconvincing justification for it (See 'Colin Powell Does Sam Beckett', by Robert Fisk. No relation!). Australia witnessed the biggest protests since Vietnam on the issue: 100,000+ in both Melbourne and Sydney.

I agree that such invasions can be justified in some circumstances. These weren't evident in 2003.

Because a brute force American drive from Kuwait to Baghdad -- followed by endless occupation -- had already been decided, at the highest level, even before orders went out for the CIA to find evidence for Iraqi WMD.

Decided even before September 11. See the Downing Street Memos, and comments by Paul O'Neill which suggest it was on the agenda within a week of Bush's inauguration. Not to mention certain Rumsfeld thinktank documents going back to 1999.

I'm puzzled by two things:
1. Why hasn't North Korea (a clear and present 'non-transparent' nuclear lunocracy) received the same degree of attention, and
2. How come Vietnam hasn't make it onto the grudge list of evil?

----
On Science Fiction vs Fantasy (aka dragons vs dreadnoughts, tribbles vs trilogies, ALFers vs Elves, WarHammer vs WarHammer 40000). Given the prevailing opinion on dichotomies around here, I'm surprised this is getting an airing.

Speculative Fiction: 'nuff said!

I have subscribed to Jim Baen's universe (link here and am about to embark on Martin's 'A Feast For Crows'.

----
One final thought: why is that we insist on transferring reflective works of literature into reflexive works of cinema? Is it the challenge of getting it to work?

skribe said...

I just presumed the plan was to do Afghanistan and Iraq and then attack Iran from both sides. Sure, it wasn't a good plan or even a realistic one - you know with contingencies in case things got bogged down - but it was a plan.

--
@simon

Is it any wonder readership is down with all the dross they're putting out. Poorly conceived plots with cut-out stereotypical characters. Concepts that might fill 100 pages stretched to three or more 800+ page tomes. Does anyone write single 200-300 page novels anymore?

Also, at least here, new novels have crossed that metaphysical $A20 barrier (usually $A25+ now) so many are reluctant to try anything new in case it's crap. Even a tattered secondhand costs as much as a new novel did ten years ago.

Basically SF has become big business and that means art usually gives way to profit concerns.

SF is much more TV friendly than fantasy. Particularly in relation to how fights are resolved. Fantasy forfeits a lot of realism because of the blood issue, but also because it is easier to model a spacecraft interacting with other spacecrafts than it is to create a believable dragon interacting with live actors.

While TV may be booming I ask you where are the successful SF films (and rehashing 19th century stories doesn't count)?

skribe said...

One final thought: why is that we insist on transferring reflective works of literature into reflexive works of cinema? Is it the challenge of getting it to work?

One word: money.

Kevin said...

David,
It may be hard to believe in retrospect, but remember that the authors of our Iraq invasion expected to be greeted with rose petals and have the entire project quickly completed. Leaving our military positioned and ready to march on Tehran next.
And with Iranians cowed into submission by the swiftness of our total victory.
Everyone who expected the Iraqis to be less pleased to see us could see that Iran would be the ultimate beneficiary, but the non-reality based community in Washington.....

Don Quijote said...


1. Why hasn't North Korea (a clear and present 'non-transparent' nuclear lunocracy) received the same degree of attention, and


They have Nukes!!!
The Chinese will not tolerate a US Army on their border!
NO one really wants a replay of the Korean war, starting with the South Koreans.


2. How come Vietnam hasn't make it onto the grudge list of evil?

Even a bunch as historically illiterate as the American public has not yet forgotten the Joys of Vietnam.

They have already kicked our asses, bullies don't start fights unless they are 1000% sure to win!


Lessons learned by the entire planet thanks to the Bush Presidency.

If you think you may end up on the US shit list or have something that the US wants (OIL), Build a strong competant Army, if you can't get Nukes, if you can't get yourself a protector (China, Russia, EU, India) .

Max Andersson said...

" An absolute rule that should be followed, whenever the United States engages in discretionary military action overseas should be “can this mission be accomplished in such a way that leaves our world standing, our alliances, our inner social cohesion and our readiness intact?” Clearly, any endeavor that satisfies these criteria will also be both moral and smart."

It might be smart, but it's certainly not a guarantee that is moral. History shows, unfortunately, that the world standing of the US is not harmed greatly when US kills or support killing of civilians in small wars. The allliances are not threatened by what in real-politik would be described as minor matters. And the social cohesion of the US is only threatened if you are losing.

Sorry, but if a war is small, easily winnable and not up-setting to Chirac and Tony Blair that is not a guarantee that it is moral.

AC8 said...

David,
I accidently searched for 'Dabid Brin' when seeking out your web page and was surprised to see that it returned relevant results:

google:Dabid Brin

Rob Perkins said...

Regarding ID (since there are already off-topic comments here), a bit of self-correction appeared in Orson Scott Card's forums, by him, basically realizing the same thing, and conceding that the term "Intelligent Design" has been hijacked by Creation Scientists bent on teaching Genesis 1 in science class. He writes:

I do the unforgiveable: I separate evolution (which is obvious) from the belief in natural selection as a sufficient explanation of evolution, which has problems (problems that were partly addressed by serious scientists with the punctuational model, etc.) Everything I said is true enough - but if widely understood, would separate the aggressive, hostile Darwinist believers from sober and necessary science. Since they depend on being able to wrap their faith in the mantle of science, this is regarded as a grave challenge.

However, I was underinformed about one key point, which explains some of the hostility. I did not know that the phrase "intelligent design," which I think is a huge leap of faith anyway, has been adopted by the same old lying pinheads who created "creation science." CS was and always has been dishonest about what actual science is, and it deliberately misrepresents evidence. I have been informed since writing my essay that the same old CS trash has been repackaged using "intelligent design" as a catchphrase. So the legitimate questions originally raised by the earliest IDers have been swamped by the deceptions of the Creation Science people.

Still ... when people get as angry as the Darwinists are, you know I have trodden on their sacred faith; and since they have long smugly believed, in the fashion of most religious fanatics, that their beliefs are TRUTH and all others should bow before them, any challenge is regarded as heresy which must be stamped out, with vigor.

It's what I expected when I wrote the essay. People would respond, not to what I actually said, but to what they have to believe about anyone who challenges their faith. The nice thing is that rational people will realize that I have stated a formidably MODERATE position that basically says, would you all shut up and let the schools teach SCIENCE. But the fanatics are never content as along as anyone, anywhere does not concede the perfection of their doctrines.

koreyel said...

My willingness to see Saddam toppled -- and those people finally rescued -- was not untempered by a wish to see it done right!

I belive this is the first time I've seen you use an exclamation point.

Thankfully it is perfectly placed.

Michael J. Walker said...

Isn't it ironic that the most christian fundamentalist friendly US government in decades has turned out to be the most islamic fundamentalist friendly? Actually it may be ironic, but it's not all the surprising.

It's not even that the administration had a tin ear for the advice they were being given -- it appears they only sought council from those they already knew whould tell them what they wanted to hear (Ahmed Chalabi and his prediction of a "pro-Israel Iraqi government" for one - just how idiotic was that?)

The sad thing is that even though Iran may have been the big winner, the Iranian people were not. They have saddled themselves with a nutjob of a president and the religious clergy (where the real power lies) is more entrenched than ever. Yes, they didn't have to vote that man in, but without the bellicose Americans parked on their doorstep, more moderate forces in Iran may have been able to hold sway.

Since Bush embarked upon this hideously misbegotten adventure in Iraq, Islamic Fundamentalist political power has been on the upswing in Egypt, Palestine, Iran, and Lebanon. The only reason they haven't swept the whole region is the oil-rich pro-Western dictatorships holding them in check. I haven't heard Bush pushing for free elections in Saudi Arabia recently... I wonder why?

President Bush has achieved more in four years than Osama Bin Laden could have dreamed of in twenty. He's succeeded in radicalising half the Muslim world and ensured that militant Islamic fundamentalism will be something the rest of the world will have to fear for the next few decades or more.

P.S. If you want to reduce the number of these off-topic comments, might I suggest you create an "open thread" or two every day?

Hawker Hurricane said...

"President Bush has achieved more in four years than Osama Bin Laden could have dreamed of in twenty."

This cannot be emphasized enough.

Osama had no hope of overthrowing the secular dictatorship of Iraq.
The U.S. actions in the Balkans built up much good will in the Muslim world - The U.S. went and prevented Christians from murdering Muslims... and trying to get the Palastinians a fair deal while keeping Isreal safe... "Well, maybe the U.S. isn't the Great Satan after all!"

And we threw it away to 'Get Saddam'.
Now, Saddam is a (dirty word). He's murdering scum, who deserved to be overthrown...
But not in a way that guarentees a brand new anti U.S. theocracy OR a new U.S. puppet dictator who'll have to be as bad as Saddam to hold onto power.

I spent Operation Iraqi Liberation on a warship, following a Aircraft Carrier... and feared that we were wasting our time and money that could be better spent 'getting Osama'.
But it's worse than I feared; we not only wasted time and treasure and good will, we have actually strengthened Osama and Al Queda.
"Worse than a mistake, it was a blunder..."
HH, SM1(SW) USN (ret)

Francis said...

Congratulations, Mr. Card. You have just downgraded yourself from "Tool" to "Useful Idiot".

Before the creationist lobby got in on the act, there was a small but valid ID movement both in Theology and in Science. Mostly it sat around theorising. Back then there wasn't much of a controversy (or rather most of the controversy in evolutionary biology was elsewhere). The entire controversy you are commenting on was stirred up by the creationists

And as for your take on things, your essay started with
My first exposure to Intelligent Design theory was Michael Behe's book Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. While disavowing any Creationist agenda per se, Behe pointed out serious problems in the strict Darwinian model of evolution.
Next time learn who you are praising - Behe is a Creationist and member of the Discovery Institute (writers of the Wedge Strategy and talks as much nonsense as the rest of them.

At that point, you are defending the creationists (including a co-author of the revised "of pandas and people") by name as well as defending their cover. You then produce seven beliefs about the behaviour of scientists (you can probably find a very few examples where the middle five hold - but not many). You yourself admitted the last one to be true (and now admit the first one to be true).

You then wonder why you are about as welcome as someone wearing a black shirt in a Jewish neighbourhood is when he starts loudly defending National Socialism, even if what he means by National Socialism is that the belief that every country should look after itself and all members of that country.

The icing on the cake is your statement that If Darwinists persist in trying to tar the Designists with the Creation-Science brush, then it is bound to appear, to anyone who has actually examined both, that the Darwinists are trying to deceive us. - when, now you have examined both you admit that most of the Designists are in fact thinly disguised (and more media savvy) creationists. To quote what you claim about the "Darwinists", they’re apparently counting on most people to not care enough to discover the difference.

And seemingly it worked for a while...

[X-posted to OSC's forums]

Darrell said...

It is so perfectly clear that Iran would benefit the most from the fall of Saddam that I can only guess that the Bush administration knew this but simply did not care. This was one of the reasons why Saudi Arabia didn't want Bush Sr. to finish the job.

Off topic, but very relevant to this blog in general, check out this interesting article.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11079547/site/newsweek/

This is an article about some people in the DOJ (formerly) trying to fight the Bush Administration's grab for more executive power.

Kagehi said...

With all due respect, there where *many* people making predictions about what would happen and who would benefit from it, someone was bound to make predictions that turned out to be correct. And also, most of the stuff happening can't be pinned on invading Iraq. Groups like Hamas in Palestine and the current bunch of nuts in Iran have been working for years to convince ignorant idiots that their own terrorism and murder is a response to imaginary nebulous Xionists and the US. These power shifts have been in motion since long before we invaded and while we may have forced the time table a bit, they where going to happen anyway. And the people in those places have had thousands of years to get used to radicals and idiots leading them, instead of making their own choices. Is it a wonder that having spent the last 50 or more feeding propoganda to their state run news media, which supports the idea that terrorists are heroes, fundimentalists are rightous and everyone else in an enemy, than they elect fundimentalists with terrorists ties?

And who are most people listening to? People like Jaun Cole, who claim, based on some studies from 50 years ago in the countries in question, what things will happen, about half of which he has been wrong about, and who has more than once written articles claiming that in essense, he *believes* in the same Xionist conspiracies... This is sadly one of the lefts heroes, since every thing he ever says supports disaster, and he is right often enough to make it look like he knows what he is saying. Real experts, that didn't spend a few years being indoctrinated into the conspiracy believers views, but rather 20-30 learning about all of the ME, are ignored by *both* sides. And of course, so are any people living on those countries that don't support conspiracy or the like, never mind that in places like Iran and Syria, you are either a) lucky to not be found out or b) dead, if you write anything against the government.

I think Bush figured that hitting Iraq would either scare Iran into backing down, or expose their real goals and interests. No one in their right mind would have suggested giving Iran the task of helping the process. At best it would have produced a result that made the US look worse than it already does to any moderates in the ME, at worst, it would have produced the defacto annex of part of Iraq, and mass genocide that would have made Saddam's past attacks on his own people, or even the current death toll, look like a Sunday picnic. Sorry Brin, but you don't ask Pol Pot to help you remove Hitler. Not unless you are an even more obvious idiot than what is currently running the US. I don't think Bush and Co. indended Iran to benefit, or if they did, then it was with the full realization that any failure of the world to support Iraq, the resulting idiocy of Iran would be something *no one* could ignore or pretend sanctions and inspections could "contain". Stupid, but at least understandable, given the kind of ligic these morons use.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Fisk wrote:
I'm puzzled by two things:
1. Why hasn't North Korea (a clear and present 'non-transparent' nuclear lunocracy) received the same degree of attention, and
2. How come Vietnam hasn't make it onto the grudge list of evil?


In the case of North Korea, I'd guess a combination of their own nukes, the neighbouring Chinese, and the lack of exploitable resources like oil are probably enough.

As to Vietnam, what are they doing that would earn the wrath of the neocons? Sure, there's the Vietnam War, but that was a generation ago, and restarting it would open a lot of old wounds -- not to mention piss off the Chinese.

Michael J. Walker said...

Regarding North Korea--the fact that the North Koreans have hundreds of thousands of soldiers ready to pile over the border into South Korea at the slightest provocation may have something to with it. South Korea is very uneasy about American bellicosity towards North Korea and is steadfastly against military action.

Tony Fisk said...

Thanks for the replies, folk.
My questions were rhetorical (and, in the case of Vietnam, more than a bit cynical). However, I thought I'd trawl a line to see if I could hook what other people thought. No real surprises.

Hawker Hurricane said...

Why not Vietnam? Well, shoot, that's easy. The NeoCons... the real ones who invented the term in the 1980's... Were Trotskyites in the 1960's. They SUPPORTED North Vietnam! They aren't going to turn on them now!

Tony Fisk said...

From prior posting:

I've just been looking through that article on how Political bias affects brain activity. Interesting.

I always answered my party's call,
and I never bothered thinking for myself at all!

It seems Gilbert knew what he was talking about!

I would like to see how the results vary with age, religious background and with the degree of training in critical thinking. (Any other cuts?)

My guess is that the same effects would be seen *before* the inner critic wakes up and steps in. If there's no effect, what to do?

----
@HH: and I thought I was just being cynical!

Hawker Hurricane said...

"@HH: and I thought I was just being cynical!"

The problem with being a cynic is you are right too often.

"No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up!" - Lily Tomlin

But seriously...
While many Conservatives hate Vietnam, the leadership has accepted the results there, for many reasons... the Businessmen are doing business, the NeoCons never hated them, and the Religious have been aimed at the 'Liberals' for losing the war and told not to blame the Vietnamese.

The NeoCon's have no problem with Vietnam... thier ire is aimed at Iraq, Syria and Iran... Three states who were considered a threat not to the U.S., but rather to

Rik said...

To come back to the original question: No, I don't think so. I think for a time the administration seriously believed in its own Thog-thinking: Iraq = dictator, Irag hurt US, US hurt Iraq. And of course Saddam totally miscalculated, while (if memory serves) most in the West & MSM believed that Rafsanjani was an acceptable moderate. Well, now that we've seen the face of the Iranian establishment, he was a moderate, but only to Iranian standards, not ours. I think Iran has played The Game best of all ME countries.
What to do? Um... It all depends on what Iran's real goal is: attacking the US or taking out Israel? I'm better on the latter. I'm also betting that, even when Iranian, say, EMPs, would do enormous damage, that Iran knows it can't do anything more than that. Yes, that's extremely annoying.

* * *

PS. Question: (I hope contrarian to the contrarian) isn't Uplifting a form of ID?

* * *

Interesting essay by James DeLong (related to Bradford J.?) on TCS today. It's about Google and China, but alos on what may be happening in the US. Does that mean more people are beginning to notice? Good!

Jay Denari said...

Hmmm...

Sorry Brin, but you don't ask Pol Pot to help you remove Hitler.

No, we asked STALIN to do it. He was much worse...
But even his regime eventually collapsed and Eastern Europe is now largely democratic.

Might a similar thing have happened if we had asked for Teheran's help? Probably not immediately, but probably eventually. In 2003, Iran was definitely more of a democracy that 1939's Stalinist USSR and already had a fairly vocal progressive movement. Was it well represented politically? No, but that was a matter of time; as the older revolutionaries died off, the younger, more progressive folks would've had their chance. Yes, their version of progressive isn't quite what we define it as, but that's ok; it would be a lot easier to deal with than what Iran's presenting us with now.

Of course, Bush and his cronies can't deal with the concept of treating others as equals; they NEED a combative situation to promote their own fundamentalism...

Anonymous said...

Seems to me the USA is becoming the only really obvious pin~ata in the world today -- the big, rich, low-hanging one that if cracked open and destroyed would scatter rich bits and pieces everywhere.

This is the big problem with a huge disparity of wealth -- and a great many very poor people. While the rich are only tolerably richer, they seem necessary to keep the wealth growing and circulating.

Once the rich don't need the poor -- the poor come to believe they might get more from the destruction of the rich than their continued support.

Probably they won't -- but people gamble all the time on bad odds for the chance of getting something good.

Remember the last lines of John Brunner's "The Sheep Look Up" -- that the world's problems can be solved by the death of the most selfish ten percent of the world's population -- and the smoke blowing in across the Atlantic? "That's America burning."

I think Dr. Brin wrote the introduction to one edition of that book.

Has anyone established a Cassandra Prize for the best unrecognzied prophetic SF novel, yet?

Anonymous said...

Seems to me the USA is becoming the only really obvious pin~ata in the world today -- the big, rich, low-hanging one that if cracked open and destroyed would scatter rich bits and pieces everywhere.

I'm not sure this is true. How rich did the world get after the Spanish Empire collapsed? There are certain similarities.

Anonymous said...

Dear david

are you seriouse?"No, we asked STALIN to do it. He was much worse..."

asked? surely germany invaded russia not the other way around (at the begining)

also isnt '41- 89 a bit of a long payoff time, especialy as the intermediate years were spent litteraly looking over a wall at each other with guns in hand.

So not a good model for iraq then....

Hawker Hurricane said...

Anon...

You are correct, we didn't ask Stalin... it was a alliance of convenience. Even the old anti-communist Churchill had a comment...
"If Hitler invaded Hell I would say something nice about Lucifer on the floor of the Commons."

BUT...
1. Saddam wasn't Hitler. I've seen no evidence of Saddam attempting genocide. Yes, slaughtering large groups of people... but not a attempt to wipe out all of a certain grooup.
2. Iraq is not Germany... Germany in 1940 had the world's largest air force, the 3rd largest army (and best trained and organized), and the biggest industry in Europe. Iraq had oil wealth, but everything else was purchased with it... and was 2nd rate Russian cast offs (the Russians didn't sell the good stuff).
3. Iran is not the Soviet Union, and Iran's leaders are not Stalin. The Soviet Union had the world's largest army, the worlds biggest nation, and Stalin was the biggest mass murderer of all time. The Iranian mullah's are fanatics... but not like that. And offering Iran a 'seat at the table' would have strengthend the moderates at the expense of the mullahs.

For David Brin's proposal, I'm going to say I don't know if it would have been a good idea... but it should have been explored.

Ryan Somma said...

Fantastic post Dr. Brin as usual. I have several conservative friends who are outraged with the Bush administration for not invading Iran yet... and my response has always been, "With what troops???" So you've got my full agreement here.

But since you've created a perpetual discussion here, I wanted to exploit your comments section to blogwhore on a couple of recent topics.

Intelligent Design

My biggest complaint about ID is that it's strategy is an incredible waste of time. Why aren't IDer's spending those millions of dollars on publicity and legal fees on scientific research to deconstruct the nature of the universe when there are so many unexplicable, seemingly supernatural phenomenon that might lead to finding the hand of god?

The Ritual of the Streetcorner

As much of a pompus ass as he is, you would appreciate Richard Dawkins chapter entitled "Nice Guys Finish First" from his now classic "The Selfish Gene," where he mathematically proves that cooperation in society is more evolutionary sound than exploitation. I've summarized his arguments.

Thanks for the fantastic reads!

Tony Fisk said...

Off topic, but definitely not off theme:

David's commented before about Witness.
Now, Jamais at WorldChanging has just posted excerpts from an interview that BusinessWeek online conducted with Witness founders Peter Gabriel and Gillian Caldwell.

Apparently, they have plans to provide an online portal where people can deposit incriminating photos and films (currently, they rely on snail mail)

And, yeah, they want money.

David Brin said...

Just when I was poised to try and help Jamais and his team, and become a columnist at WorldChanging, along came AmazonShorts with an offer that's hard to refuse. Both of them seemed ideal for my more philosophical and les political musings about the future. But AMZS lets me publish in ways that get some wider play and can put bread on the table.

Mixed feelings, since I deeply believe that Worldchanging is a great site and one of the core locales where you can see a new modernism taking shape.

In any event, I will soon be announcing a few more AMZS essays. Yes, they cost 49 cents to download. In several cases, every penny I get will go to some good cause.

... like Project Witness. The archetype of modernist accountability/transparency as a weapon against the demons that plague us out of parasitical/predatory human nature. Please do your proxy power duty and help.

It is SOOOO scary to hear rightwing nut jobs speak of invading Iran. These supposedly pro military types have their heads in the sand. Iran has three times the population og Iraq, nearly all of them in the same ethnicity. They may disagree among themselves, but one single foreign bootlace on their soil will utterly unite them.

In fact, even the TALK of such an invasion only helps one group, the mullahs. Why is it so hard to imagine the other approach, smothering them with kisses?

I mean, as a FIRST thing to try! I'm not opposed to all military action, but shouldn't we spend out sons and daughters as a LAST resort?

Here are a few items that have stacked up:

On a completely different note, if any of you know rich people who REALLY love science fiction, the Clarion Workshop -- responsible for sparking the careers of many fine new writers -- can use a little help. Drop by http://www.theclarionfoundation.org

On similar lines: A fellow wrote to me to say he’s created a website dedicated to Hard Science Fiction. http://www.hardsf.net Have alook over and see if you like it or would like to help.

Want to laugh and cry at the same time? Drop by http://www.ourfuture.org/No_More_DeLays.cfm?ref=3799681 where the Public Campaign Action Fund, produced a series of mock campaign commercials targeting the corrupt politicians now vying for Tom DeLay's relinquished House Majority Leader position.

Ah but then there is this gem: “This year, both Groundhog Day and the State of the Union Address fell on the same day. As Air America Radio pointed out, "It is an ironic juxtaposition. One event involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication. The other involves a groundhog.”

Still, have I been saying that the most EFFICIENT way to save us would be for rescue from mad neocons to be achieved by decent American conservatives. Is it beginning at last?

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances (PRCB) today called upon Congress to hold open, substantive oversight hearings examining the President's authorization of the National Security Agency (NSA) to violate domestic surveillance requirements outlined in the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, chairman of PRCB, was joined by fellow conservatives Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR); David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union; Paul Weyrich, chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation and Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, in urging lawmakers to use NSA hearings to establish a solid foundation for restoring much needed constitutional checks and balances to intelligence law.


Grover Norquist... coming to the rescue? From loony ideologues? I mean... dang.

But right now, we really are desperate.

Rob Perkins said...

I read similar breathings from Mona Charen today, actually, about holding the Republican Party accountable.

I would personally oppose any invasion of Iran. My ongoing impression of the people who don't leave Iran are that they are at peace internally.

But at the same time, I did meet, 15 years ago, a woman with a son who had MS and a daughter, who were hiding from the Mullahs in Switzerland. She never said what her contention with them was (and I never asked), but based on that one anecdote I suppose there are things which really need fixing in Iran.

I certainly don't want to be their enemy.

Tony Fisk said...

Invading Iran is a good way of getting whupped, even with an army with reasonable resources. Let's not go there.

Glad to hear the antibodies are starting to percolate. I believe the case of wannabetyranitis is treatable, but we still have the treatment process to follow and endure.

The groundhog dig reminds me of the old joke about IBM and Jurassic Park: one being a theme park full of dinosaurs and the other a Spielberg movie.
That was early nineties, when the IBM empire was in free fall, but hadn't hit the ground yet. IBM has since managed to reinvent themselves (as have dinosaurs, come to think of it). Can the GOP?

Don Quijote said...

Still, have I been saying that the most EFFICIENT way to save us would be for rescue from mad neocons to be achieved by decent American conservatives. Is it beginning at last?

Repeat after me "There is no such thing as a DECENT CONSERVATIVE."

skribe said...

That was early nineties, when the IBM empire was in free fall, but hadn't hit the ground yet. IBM has since managed to reinvent themselves (as have dinosaurs, come to think of it). Can the GOP?

Not until after they stop chortling with delight at holding the WH, Congress and SCOTUS in their greedy little mits.

Stefan Jones said...

'Repeat after me "There is no such thing as a DECENT CONSERVATIVE."'

Pardon me, but: Don't be jackass. You're not helping.

This is the same kind of dopey crack as "There is no such thing as an intelligent liberal."

* * *

I strongly suspect that any attack on Iran would be a Rumsfeldian "shock and awe" air assault which might be effective in taking out an nuclear installation or two, but whose main effect will be to totally alienate any Iranians with fond feelings for the U.S. and further disgust and alarm the remaining moderate Arabs.

The Pentagon and State Department are probably chock-full of analysts who will tell Rumsfeld and Cheney just this, but they'll go ahead and do it anyway.

November can't come soon enough.

Stefan

Rob Perkins said...

A power shifting election might help. It might not. But I agree with Stefan: the sweeping demagoguery wins noone's affection, and therefore doesn't build consensus or catalyze conversions.

I'd write to my Senators telling them to oppose Iran invasions, but since they both already oppose the idea...

Don Quijote said...

Pardon me, but: Don't be jackass. You're not helping.

Name one Elected Conservative who has lived up to conservative ideas of balanced budgets and small goverment in the last twenty years.

This is the same kind of dopey crack as "There is no such thing as an intelligent liberal."

Plenty of intelligent liberals unfortunatly most of them are spineless.

David Brin said...

Guys, guys, cool it. Quijote is here as a bona fide subscriber to the left right axis, in all of its "Jedi versus Sith" purity. I find that he is useful, reminding us how hard it will be to ever convince a majority of our fellow citizens to abandon such comforting simplifications.

Especially in light of:
http://www.davidbrin.com/addiction.html

Indeed, he represents the wrath that will fall upon all of conservatism, if things continue down the path chosen by horrifically shortsighted kleptos and neocons. They decry all talk of "class warfare" without a scintilla of any historical awareness --

-- that ALL civilizations EXCEPT recent contemporary America had some form of class warfare going on, fed by disparities that the bottom of the pyramid perceived as unfair.

When... not if... an increase of unfair disparities (emphasis on "unfair" - Americans are very forgiving of outrageous wealth that is derived from goods and services)... when such unfair disparities rise too high above the post-WWII era's mood of blithe acceptance, we will see a return of class warfare simply as a reflex of human nature.

Do these idealists (Straussian/religious/aristo) actually believe that human nature has changed?

Or is their plan something more fell and dark? To impose new synergies of control that are as effective, or more, than the swords wielded by feudal knights were, at keeping peasants in place DESPITE class resentment?

No matter how many Orwellian tools they believe they can put in place, they have already proved their imbecility. Because only fools would COUNT on being able to impose such measures in a world experiencing so much flux. Especially since, so far, their every move has had the chief effect of increasing the supply of what Thomas Friedman has called "superempowered angry young men."

Now imagine that supply mega-empowered by a myriad radicalized scientists and engineers. If the kleptos do become our new lords, and hide inside magnificent gated communities, fed by robots, will they really be able to trust how those robots are programmed?

This is a really bad plan. It proves that they are not on a rising skyrocket of wealth because of inherent brains or merit. They are on the skyrocket because the truly creative members of society had better things to do than go on a hog wallow of shortsighted stealing. We are creating vast wealth and natural human predators are snatching some, thinking that it makes them “more equal” than us.

But we’ll prove that aristocratism is just a nasty old reflex, like drug addiction. I know this because there are half a million very rich guys out there who are NOT hog-wallowers. They got rich by delivering new goods and services. And they do not want to live in gated palaces.

They just want to be rich versions of us. And that’s just fine by us. Sooner or later, they will be our allies in this fight. And they are far, far smarter than the kleptos.

Stefan Jones said...

DB writes:

"If the kleptos do become our new lords, and hide inside magnificent gated communities, fed by robots, will they really be able to trust how those robots are programmed?"

Sounds like a good idea for novella, hint-hint.

* * *

One of Olaf Stapledon's later, darker novels showed a hideously stratified world dominated by Chinese aristocrats. Stapledon suggests that the skilled technical classes that kept the wheels rolling were the logical source of rebellion and reform . . . but that they enjoyed their minimal perks and meager social privileges too much, and eventually submitted to brain implants to ensure loyalty.

In a strange vibe with later times, the only sources of resistance in this world were Tibetian mystics and funky British counter-culture types.

Francis said...

Repeat after me "There is no such thing as a DECENT CONSERVATIVE."

Nonsense! A conservative is just someone who thinks that we've got things pretty good and therefore uncontrolled change is a bad thing. Politicians usually are people who want to change things - or they wouldn't go into politics (unless it's dynastic).

If you want to see an honest conservative, try looking down the police station, at soldiers and the military, at lawyers and judges, or at civil servants. That is where you will find most of them - shoring up the system from erosion and generally not trying to change too much. (Alternatively they'll be playing three brass monkeys and just getting on with their lives).

The NeoCons ain't conservatives. They're reactionaries. A reactionary is someone who looks back to some (usually slightly mythologised) time and thinks that the world was so much better then and hence wants to return the world to that state. From what I can tell, the NeoCons want a mixture of the 1980s and the 1950s (either of which can be seen as the effective peak of US leadership and power). No thanks. (For comparison, British reactionaries want to return us to Victorian times. I may like the Victorians and have a lot of respect for them - but (in large part through their efforts) the world has moved on and I consider anyone who wants to go back to that time crazy).

Unfortunately, conservatives identify much more strongly with reactionaries than they do with progressives - change is scary and reactionaries at least have a goal that is known and understood by conservatives (conservatives as a group tend to have good if slightly rose tinted memories). Conservatives will therefore tend to side with the reactionaries until something the reactionaries do comes for them and it's obvious that the progressives are less dangerous (and the conservatives who are likely to be active tend to put themselves in positions that should be apolitical, like the professional civil service and the military).

FWIW, you do find a decent conservative political movement in a country with a decent progressive/radical movement (see 19th Century Britain with the Whigs and 20th Century Britain (until about 1987 or 1992 with Labour) as the conservatives are needed to provide a check on the radicals daffier ideas - their job is to provide constructive criticism. CITOKATE. (Unfortunately, with the NeoCons being reactionaries, this role needs to be provided by the Democratic Party - something to which they (being largely weak progressives, and hence more likely to say yes than no) are not suited).

Don Quijote said...

They just want to be rich versions of us. And that’s just fine by us. Sooner or later, they will be our allies in this fight. And they are far, far smarter than the kleptos.

In which case they will join/displace the kleptos and be even bigger thiefs.

Francis said...

that ALL civilizations EXCEPT recent contemporary America had some form of class warfare going on, fed by disparities that the bottom of the pyramid perceived as unfair.

Tell it to Malcolm X.

To expand, the US has always had its class conflicts mixed up with its racial conflicts, thus making them much harder to spot. From what I see, this is stil true of the US (and is a very good way of persuading those not quite at the bottom to keep those right at the bottom down).

Now imagine that supply mega-empowered by a myriad radicalized scientists and engineers. If the kleptos do become our new lords, and hide inside magnificent gated communities, fed by robots, will they really be able to trust how those robots are programmed?

Or even whether what their remote cameras are feeding them is accurate... (I can quite picture a conspiracy to make sure they are happy and irrelevant - at least until the nukes have been taken off them).

Stefan Jones said...

Iran won't be the only "big winner" in this war.

Kleptocracy in action:

Former U.S. official admits to kickbacks in Iraq

Says he smuggled millions out of Iraq, laundered money in three countries

"WASHINGTON - A former U.S. occupation official in Iraq pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring to steal more than $2 million and rigging bids on $8.6 million in reconstruction contracts.

Robert J. Stein, 50, of Fayetteville, N.C., admitted that he and his coconspirators smuggled millions of dollars out of Iraq into the United States aboard commercial airliners and laundered cash through multiple bank accounts in Switzerland, Amsterdam and Romania."

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11148258/

When the president asks us to have "confidence" in the administration, to "stay the course," and to forget about past mistakes, what he's really saying is shut up, stop asking inconvenient questions, quit doubting our motives.

Sorry. We have to ask:

How many OTHER Robert Steins are out there?

What other places did that reconstruction money go?

David Brin said...

Is there even a peep about this, from the ranting morons who yammer about the UN's Oil For Food program? At least there we KNEW that Saddam would cheat all he could. It was included in the expectations. Indeed, the amount of theft and bribery was about at the level predicted.

It's quite another thing to utterly ignore the cronyism and old boy under the table circle jerking that's been going on among the rulers of the supposedly accountable USA.

Ah, but then, Quijote, close your eyes and fantacize about who YOU would put in charge. Some set of enlightened quasi MArxists? And once they are the "philosopher kings", exactly how are you going to keep THEM from stealing like mad?

Dig it. The far left has as many loony would-be tyrants as the right. But since the fall of the USSR, THAT failure mode became a joke. And the rightists who point that way, screaming (like Hannity and O'Reilly) know it. They are hired shills, helping bring us new masters.

Hawker Hurricane said...

stefan jones...
I saw you use the phrase "shock and awe" and wondered why my brain was tickling me... and I realized I had seen the concept in a book... so after I went to work I looked it up (how many people can say they have more books at work than at home?). James F. Dunnigan and Albert A. Nofi's "Shooting Blanks, Warmaking that doesn't Work" has a chapter on the common misconceptions... and one of them is 'The Surprise Attack': "Hit 'em hard and fast and scare them to death and it will before the leaves turn!"
"No matter how well your surprise attack works, the effect is commonly just the opposite of what was desired. The enemy becomes angrier and more determined to achieve retribution." (page 23).
On pages 14 to 16, the five basic ways of shooting blanks are described... they are...
1. Intelligence Confusion: not having, ignoring or misusing intelligence.
2. Amatuerism: Politicians often don't know what the military is and isn't capable of... and sometimes the military doesn't know either.
3. Media Muddle: The media often make mistakes about the military... and the politicians believe them. (getting tricked by your own propaganda)
4. Procurement Puzzle: Large budgets make for much opportunity to buy things that don't work as advertized.
5. Wrong-War Syndrome: the war you end up fighting may not be the one you prepared for.

How many of these mistakes did the U.S. make in Iraq?

Tony Fisk said...

francis said:
(I can quite picture a conspiracy to make sure they [kleptocrats] are happy and irrelevant - at least until the nukes have been taken off them).

Actually, this reminds me of the premise of C.M. Kornbluth's story: 'The Marching Morons'.

Don Quijote said:
In which case they [the very rich non-hog wallowers] will join/displace the kleptos and be even bigger thiefs.

No. But if they did displace the kleptos, we'd probably end up with Pohl's 'Midas Plague'!

----
@HH: Now that you mention it, I recall an article by someone just after 9/11 which described the 'shock and awe' tactic as essentially eastern in nature (I think he meant arabic). He went on to define 'western' warmaking strategies as essentially slow, methodical, and relentless.

Not being a military expert, I don't know how much to believe of that but, if true, then Rummy not only chose essentially dumb tactics, but tactics familiar to the enemy!

David Brin said...

In this case, the "intelligence confusion" was deliberate, as was the misled media.

As for fighting the wrong war, well, I do not fault our military for that, one bit. They are the first military in history to achieve fantastic and total victory... in 1991... and immediately DUMP the weapons and doctrines that wone it.

Not quite dump. de-emphasize. The M1A1 Abrams tank, for example. Its overwhelming success led our brilliant and well-educated and thoughtful officer corps to realize something -- that never again will any foe allow itself to face a US armored corps over open ground. In other words, the Abrams's very success, its overwhelming superiority, had rendered it obsolete. (Hence the switch over to lighter, Stryker Brigades.)

I know of no example in history of such sagacity being displayed by victors in a struggle. It's usually the losers who strive to re-invent themselves.

No, of the faults that you listed, it is #3... amateurism... that is plaguing us now. Amateurism of unholy, towering, overwhelmingly destructive and calamitous degrees.

At least.... amateurism is the BENIGN explanation. It is not the one that really makes the most sense.

Stefan Jones said...

Thanks for the book description, HH. Here is the Amazon link:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0688140661

I'm going to pick that up and maybe some others by the same author.

James F. Dunnigan is (was?) one of the grand old men of wargame design. The old hex-map and cardboard square kind of boardgame.

Don Quijote said...

Here is a decent conservative at work:

New York Daily News - Judge hot over 9/11 air Rips EPA's all-clear, OKs suit

A federal judge blasted former Environmental Protection Agency head Christie Whitman yesterday for telling residents and workers in lower Manhattan that the air was safe to breathe immediately following 9/11.

"Whitman's deliberate and misleading statements to the press, where she reassured the public that the air was safe to breathe around lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, and that there would be no health risk presented to those returning to those areas, shocks the conscience," Manhattan Federal Judge Deborah Batts wrote.

Hawker Hurricane said...

James Dunnigan is alive and well and writing books...
http://jimdunnigan.com/

David, I would say that mistakes 1, 2 and 3 are obvious...
1. Intelligence was misused.
2. The professionals who disagreed with the amatuers were cut out of the loop/retired and not listened to.
3. The media didn't investigate AND believed our own propaganda.

As for victors reinventing themselves, I do know of ONE occassion from memory...
At the turn of the last century, the most victorious naval power of all time realized that with oil fired steam turbines thier ships could be faster than anyone elses, that a fast ship could decide what range the battle was fought, that if you planned to fight at long range you didn't need all those medium sized guns and could carry nothing but large guns, and while we're at it, we'll use case-hardened steel for armor...
The result was rendering every existing ship of the line obsolete, including thier own.
At a time when a Battleship typically carried four 10" guns at 12 knots, the new ship carried ten 12" guns at 21 knots.
HMS Dreadnaught was a bigger 'rethinking' by a victor than the 'striker brigade' concept...
But the U.S. military has constantly (well, except the Air Force) 'rethought' itself since WW2.

Francis said...

David, which level of the US military are you accustomed to dealing with? I ask because a general is a very different thing from a colonel, particularly in terms of flexibility. (To the point where generals are considered, with reason, to be politicians rather than warriors).

The US military has always (well, since WWII (they may have won, but really learned from the results of riding into battle in Shermans (also known as Ronsons*)) been an effective sledgehammer - but the soldiers creed only lists one means of interaction suitable for a soldier - "engage, and destroy". And a lot of the US military thinks that this is a good thing - see the Origins of the military coup of 2012 for one take (from 1992) on what would happen were the US military to become more flexible.

Also, the methods used to turn the US military into a more flexible force would not have been universally popular in the military even had they been universally agreed with. One major one is trying to use people for things for which they were not trained - never popular, but frequently necessary. The second, and really unpopular one, is the post-gulf war reduction in the number of army divisions from 16 to 10. This lead to 16 divisions worth of officers squabbling over 10 divisions worth of positions and hence having serious problems getting promoted. It also lead to the smarter lieutenants spotting this, serving their time and bailing out rather than becoming captains with almost no prospect of further promotion. Leading to the notorious exodus of the captains suffered by the US military (by 2000, the US army could only fill 56% of those positions intended for experienced captains with officers of the right quality and experience).

In short, yes things were learned from the gulf war and it triggered a restructuring which was almost certainly desirable - but had some really nasty side effects (losing all your competent company commanders ain't be good...). Just to make things worse, the current US administration appear to be trying to undo all the useful parts of the restructuring, while letting the competent officers leave and join mercenary companies...

FWIW, there are two countries with MBTs that can approximately match the M1A1 in open ground - but if things come to a shooting war between America and Britain or Israel, things have gone seriously wrong somewhere (and America will win through sheer size).

Note that the above is all armchair-quarterback analysis - I am neither a member of the military nor have close ties with it.

* "One flick and they light"

And why can't I use the <strike> tag?

Hawker Hurricane said...

We currently have more flag officers (Generals and Admirals) than we had at the height of World War Two.
We've got too many chiefs and not enough indians to use the enlisted vernacular.
In WW2, Arleigh Burke was promoted to full Commander, and relieved as commander Destroyer Squadron 23 because he was too senior for the job. Destroyer Squadron 23 currently has fewer ships than it did at it's wartime strength and is commanded by a Rear Admiral. A job that was 'too junior' for a Commander 50 years ago is now held by a 2 star.
If we are going to reduce the number of front line divisions, we need to reduce the number of generals to command them... reduce them to the point where there are promotion spaces open for captains again. But the brass never, ever, cuts itself.

Francis said...

Reminds me of the wag in the Royal Navy who bought a dozen remote controlled toy speed-boats so that every admiral in the RN could have his own ship.

And of course the Brass never cuts itself. That would be like MPs voting themselves a paycut (OK, there's the radical in Bolivia who did...). (Which is why Brass cuts must be made from the civillian overseers. Unfortunately that leaves things open for officer purges by those overseers).

Jai said...

Chiming in a little late, I know, but I just followed the link to this entry from the current one.

But to answer your question, it was hard for anyone to expect the Bush administration would bungle the post-war so badly that Iran would be the "big winner" that now seems likely.

But at least one person foresaw the potential. Wes Clark. Sadly, most of his predictions on the region have come to pass.

I'd like to recommend his latest set, presented as a "Real State of the Union" address to the New America Foundation on Jan 30, 2006.

The video is available at http://securingamerica.com/node/560
There is also an audio version for those on dial-up. Well worth the time and effort to watch.

Nicole Tedesco said...

David,

You, and many people, seem angry about the "lost alliances" with "the way the war was won." Oh, what short memories we have! There was no way, and I stress no way we were going to get anything but a black eye no matter how we approached war with Iraq. The French, Russians and Chinese have been dead set against it since the late 1990s. The cards were stacked against us the whole time. We could make sure sanctions remained enforced, which were killing scores of people by the day which we received the blame for (remember that France, Russia and China were trying to kill the sanction regime, so they escaped that "blame"). We could also have left the status quo in place in which sanctions were sure to erode completely within a year or two (thank you France, Russia and China). Alternately we could have done what we did, which is the action I have supported all along.

The alliances broke not because of the way we waged and implemented the war, but rather the alliances were broken to begin with.

Nicole Tedesco said...

David,

One of the reason why the Balkans was as successful as it was, in terms of U.S. lives lost, was that no one who had any skin in that game was actually waging war against us.

Iraq is different since Iran has been at a state of war with the United States since Khomeini. There is no, and was not be any, reproach with Iran especially since the their swindling and black eyeing us with the whole Iran/Contra affair (score one for Iranian intelligence). They have been, and are, utterly untrustworthy to anyone besides themselves. (The sad thing is that the Europeans don't seem to understand this.)

If I were in the President's seat, I wouldn't have bothered with the "Iranian option" either since there is no way--no way--that any agreement with them at all can be trusted.

David, don't fool yourself.