Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Transparency and Freedom

First a trio of announcements:

1) An expanded version of my essay "Black Lives Matter, So Demand Tech!" was featured in The Global Post and picked up widely by aggregators like Google News.  I suggest that cameras or all kinds -- copcams, dashcams, cellcams and so on -- are bringing real change on our streets, and in citizens' relationship with power.  "Give us more tech!" should be an additional rallying cry. (More on this, below.)

2) WIll you be in or near the Hudson River valley this October? I'll be speaking at a Conference on Privacy at Bard College, October 15-16. It is said that Edward Snowden will be skyping in. (I'll be lingering a while at Bard, and possibly also speaking at West point.)
3) Meanwhile -- August 16 will be Worldwide Wave Back at Surveillance Day. An ad-hoc and as-yet wannabe “event.” But hey, keeping with my ethos in The Transparent Society, let them (the elites who watch) know that we know they are watching. That we are unafraid. It's a step. “Waving” is just the beginning of our determination to look back via “sousveillance.” And if they are nice, innocent little elites? Why then, they have nothing to hide from us!

Wave back at the cameras! Let them know we know what they know... and we intend to know even better.

As usual, Tom Tomorrow is spot on.  If privacy truly is zero-sum, then we are bound for revolution and it won't be pretty.  On the other hand, it can be positive sum.  But it requires that light flow in all directions.

And now... our status report on Transparency and Freedom.

== Will Tyrannies take our Liberty? ==

Eye in the Skynet: How Regimes Can Quell Social Movements Before they Begin: In Foreign Affairs, Gregory Maus describes a series of algorithmic systems that empower states to data-mine the location, statements and activities of citizens.  In the hands of an authoritarian regime… or indeed, if skullduggerously used by giga-corporations… these methods, some of them verging on AI, could lead to cyberpunk futures or even Big Brother.

An important article, well worth reading… though alas, typical of most modern jeremiads, this one is devoid of anything even remotely like a suggestion as to what can be done about it.  On the rare occasion when a pundit – e.g. Bruce Schneier – does make a recommendation, it almost always boils down to “everybody hide!”

It is apparently beyond psychological reach to imagine that the same processes that gave us the wild and woolly freedom of the Internet might be applied yet again, to keep the renaissance going. Those processes were bold, but effective, stymieing tyrants for three decades. All right, so now they think they have sussed ways around to turn our info-meshes into systems of control. Might we then learn from freedom’s past tool kit?

1) The early nineties saw state actions that showed politicians aren’t always the enemy, e.g. Al Gore’s far-seeing bill that unleashed an unregulated Internet upon the world. New laws might make it incumbent upon our trading partners to loosen their grip, or face market disincentives.

2) Providing multiple paths of access. Modems gave way to ISPs, but when those came under state control, it became incumbent upon us to widen the field again. New satellite systems may give people all over the world access points their own governments cannot control.  We need to make this a matter of top concern, right now, and not let that opportunity be squelched.

3) Reciprocal accountability can only be applied through sousveillance, using light.  Cowering and hiding from elites has never worked and cannot work. As shown in The Transparent Society, light can be used even in despotisms, if clever combinations of courage and technology expose corrupt officials, for example.

These are the methods that gave us our renaissance.  So tyrants are adapting?  That is only to be expected, and not an occasion for hand-wringing or chicken-little cries.

An Example: Ian Bremmer, author of the book Superpower: Three Choices for America's Role in the World, said in a recent newsletter: “I’d be remiss not to mention the Chinese government conducting research into implementing a single nationwide identification system that would tie the online/virtual identity of citizens to their physical identity. it's a serious effort, being driven by the ministry of science and technology, the national development and reform commission and the ministry of public security. Chinese media is reporting that the legislature will pass a new national security law, a draft form of which called for "cyberspace sovereignty:

“Ultimately a free and open internet is incompatible with authoritarianism and state capitalism. there’s every sense the Chinese government understands this and wants to build the technology to create an alternative system. problematic for western multinationals hoping to operate in the chinese space? I’d say so.”

== Secretive Stingray Systems ==

Secretive use of “stingray” systems – fake cell phone towers, set up by authorities to tap or track calls made by suspects, and others loosely related to a case – have begun to backfire on law enforcement, “with states beginning to pass laws that require police to obtain a warrant before they can set up a fake cell phone tower for surveillance. Virginia, Minnesota, Utah and Washington State now have laws regulating stingray use, with California and Texas considering similar measures. Proposed federal legislation to prevent the government from tracking people’s cell phone or GPS location without a warrant could also include stingray technology.”

One document recently revealed that the Baltimore Police Department has used a cell site simulator 4,300 times since 2007 and signed a nondisclosure agreement with the FBI that instructed prosecutors to drop cases rather than reveal the department’s use of the stingray.

The key point here is not the one pushed by law enforcement or by its civil libertarian opponents, both of whom suffer from technological myopia and “tradeoff disease” – a mental ailment that causes sincere people to make statements like “we must sacrifice a little privacy for public safety” or – alternatively – “we must be brave enough to endure some danger in order to preserve freedom.”  

Let us be clear that such people -- even "pundits" with large followings -- are in fact mentally ill. I mean that, with no exaggeration.  They spread the noxious notion of the zero-sum game. That we must choose between freedom and safety for our children.  A choice that I absolutely refuse to make - and neither should you - between two absolutely necessary things that make life worth living. It is a dichotomy and "choice" put forward by simplistic morons.

Proof: No people in all of human history have ever been safer than we are right now… and no people have ever been as free. The two rise and fall together. And if you are not demanding ways to get both, you are more the fool.

The tech-myopia part comes in when federal agents act as if methods like Stingray can be kept secret over an extended period.  My Gosh, what kind of society do they think they are living in?  All they accomplish with blanket and frantic gag orders is to increase the frisson of suspicion aimed toward them by citizens who know that we must be aware of what civil servants are doing, lest freedom vanish.

Temporary and tactical secrecy are useful tools for the Professional Protector Caste (PPC).  But technology and society keep moving forward and gag orders will not prevent it. 

== The Big Corollary ==

Steve Mann called it “Brin’s Corrollary to Moore’s Law”… that cameras will keep getting smaller, cheaper, faster, better and more mobile faster than Moore’s Law.  And hence, our only option for preventing Big Brother is to use them (to look back at power), not to hide from them. 

Now comes Go-Pro , the sports camera maker, with its smallest unit yet. 40% lighter than last year’s best model, easier to use and less expensive. And waterproof. 

And please, all you Jeremiahs preaching safety-by-obscurity? We’re still waiting to see your plan – other than holding out your arms toward a tsunami inevitable light, screaming “stop!”

And finally, getting back to cop-cams...

The official government data on killings by police is so bad that it's all but useless: The last official estimate from the FBI was that 400 people per year are killed by police. The Guardian maintains its own count of people killed by the police in the United States -- which has reached 711 so far this year. Again, sure, be activist and march and chant. But the thing making a real difference is tech.  Demand more. 


Treebeard said...

“New satellite systems may give people all over the world access points their own governments cannot control. We need to make this a matter of top concern, right now, and not let that opportunity be squelched.”

(Here’s a cynical take on this suggestion):

In practice I think what you’re suggesting is giving the entire world a mainline into our (US-centric) global economic and cultural control system, lest someone put un-American ideas into their heads. It’s the neoliberal “crack dealer” approach to conquest, conveniently ignoring the ideologically and culturally loaded nature of the corporations and institutions who control the system. But it’s a great scheme if the product you’re pushing is the neoliberal Pax Americana New World Order.

It’s never about some abstract thing called “freedom”, which is a cultural construct. What you call freedom, the Islamic State calls the tyranny and corruption of man-made law, and what they call freedom you call oppressive theocracy. It’s a war to conquer minds so you can define what freedom means, and this satellite internet idea sounds like an ambitious attempt to do that on a global scale. Of course it won’t be called that, because the people pushing such schemes tend not to be transparent about their real motives (power and control). They’ll say it’s about “freedom”, “economic opportunity”, “transparency”, etc., but if a government attempts to exert its sovereignty over this (ideologically-loaded and often hostile) global (US-centric) control system, they will be called “oppressive”, “censors”, “un-democratic” etc. If they persist, they will be targeted with sanctions, if not bombs.

I guess this is what makes Pax Americana an innovation over previous expansionist empires: it targets minds first, using its very sophisticated propaganda capabilities, and only sends in the drones, aircraft carriers and marines if that approach fails. Frankly I don't think China or Russia can compete with it, but I do think a revived Islam has some prospects of creating a counter-civilization (which probably explains why it is being targeted rather aggressively at the present time). Personally, I don't want either a Federation or a global Caliphate ending history and mainlining its propaganda into my lands unopposed, so I'll continue to oppose them both.

David Brin said...

Although this missive from Treebeard is far more logical and cogent and less... well... evil and pathetic... it still fails the Perspective Test. What he will never do is examine his own values -- e.g. the underlying and fundamentally western value by which he criticizes western assumptions of superiority.

He's proclaiming - in effect -- "it's subjective and our opponents have a point of vierw that's different and how do we know it's worse?" Without pausing to admit that saying THAT is a pro

David Brin said...

..... that saying THAT is a profoundly Western thing to do. No member of a "single-celled or single-memed" culture would even parse the comparison. It is the proclamation of a member - albeit an ungrateful and overweening one -- member of the first multicultral or multicellular society.

Only note that he thereupon assumes no one ELSE can see the ironies or seek to defend diversity.

Tony Fisk said...

Looks like Brin's corollary to Moore's Law may apply to drones, as well.

Duncan Cairncross said...

I wonder if rather than having a camera perched on our shoulders we will all end up with a personal drone hovering just above us

Jumper said...

Why right above you? Then people will know it's yours. How about anonymous drones. Then you could shoot down other people's drones with yours and no one would know it was yours doing it. No one would know that the remaining drone is yours. Then only you would have the advantage.

Duncan Cairncross said...

"Then only you would have the advantage."

We NEED an icon for maniacal laughter to accompany statements like this

Catfish N. Cod said...

Dr. Brin, an article this morning on Slate -- and the book it's taken from -- are highly relevant to your "Black Lives Matter, So Demand Tech" thesis.

The Hidden Bias of Cameras

TL;DR summary: there is an inherent perception bias from the fact that a dashcam records from the physical perspective of the law enforcement officer. In the egregious cases so far publicized, that doesn't matter; they are too extreme for subtle psychological effects to come into play. But there are almost certainly cases where a judge or jury will be swayed if they can only literally see things from the cop's point of view. Having both the driver AND the cop with video records would rebalance this.

Ultimately, cameras should probably become standard equipment on everyone's car -- retrofitted if necessary. The push to create self-driving cars will increase the likelihood of this.

And finally, if you stop and think, (honest) cops everywhere should applaud such an occurrence. Everyone will have a lot easier time sussing out if a car and operator are involved in a crime.... innocent people will happily, gleefully present their hard drives as evidence, or even post them publicly. Stupid criminals will, too. Now, some grizzled privacy advocates will refuse on principle to release their video"tape"... but so will the (smarter-than-rocks) criminals. Either way, you've eliminated a huge number of investigations and bogus prosecutions for very little effort (on cops' and lawyers' parts, anyway -- there will of course be distributed and automated labor in installing a hundred million cameras and hard drives all across America).

Paul SB said...

Yesterday they were interviewing one of the guys from NWA on the radio, and since my daughter had my ipod, I listened to it anyway (not my style of music, though an old friend of mine was a fan - ironically she was Jewish.) I was hoping to hear some sign that they had grown up from their juvenile "Straight Outta Compton" days, but at one point the interviewer asked the guy about how they sang about police brutality back then, and wondered what he had to say about recent events. The first thing out of his mouth was something to the effect that this stuff is going on all the time, and not just in the ghetto, but now everyone has cameras. I don't see Dr. Brin as an NWA fan, but I'm sure he will appreciate the support for his notion.

Paul SB said...

"I guess this is what makes Pax Americana an innovation over previous expansionist empires: ... Personally, I don't want either a Federation or a global Caliphate ending history and mainlining its propaganda into my lands unopposed, so I'll continue to oppose them both."

This smacks of the Nirvana Fallacy. see #4

among others

Jumper said...

No, really, it's not MY drone. Honest!

Alex Tolley said...

He's proclaiming - in effect -- "it's subjective and our opponents have a point of vierw that's different and how do we know it's worse?" Without pausing to admit that saying THAT is a pro

You are making the assumptions;
1. that WE thinking (perspective test?) is a pro.
2. That the Pax Americana, as currently practiced and in the future will be practiced, is grounded in WE thinking. This is dubious given the current GOP thinking.
3. That religions are incapable of making good decisions, or that that their historic decisions are bad. We really do not know that, it is liberal ideology that assumes that, based on the successes of the scientific empirical process to understand nature (but not so good at understanding phenomena with agency).

I think we are better not trying to make too many judgements of what constitutes "better" culture, particularly as this usually devolves into a sort of jingoism.

Where I think treebeard goes astray is assuming that an either/or for Pax Americana of an Islamic Caliphate. If either side launches an independent "propaganda" internet, so can other nations or corporations. This could create the multiple "walled gardens" that so many are trying to [rightly IMO] oppose, like Facebook's attempts at doing so via their application and offering data free service in parts of the world. A truly independent, open, uncontrolled internet would be more preferable, warts and all.

Alex Tolley said...

"This smacks of the Nirvana Fallacy.

Doesn't that assume that the 2 options are good policies and that there isn't an even better one[s] to replace either that requires blocking these 2 options?

raito said...

False dichotomies being pushed on us? Like either DNC or GOP? Perish the thought...

The key point of the stingray flap is that it flies in the face of the idea that law enforcement must have judicial oversight when gathering evidence in crimes they do not directly see committed. (I didn't put that very well, but I think the idea is plain)

And one would think that law enforcement would really love to have at least 3 video points of view on every case. The police, the suspect, and an uninvolved third party. But this assumes that the goal is justice. And it isn't, at least as long as DA's get measured by convictions. No one wants to be Hamilton Burger, even though the actual murderer gets caught every time) (though I think that what happens after the end of eery Perry Mason story is that the judge declares a mistrial, the confessor is put on trial, and Burger wins again!)

locumranch said...

The assumption of universal fallacy is also known as the 'Flibbertigibbet Fallacy'.

But, putting aside the video-mediated perspective bias for the moment, we are still left with any number discriminatory biases inherent in the western legal system, especially those of an economic, behavioral & racial nature, the fact being that such rules and laws were deliberately created to subjugate those self-same classes thought undesirable, meaning that transparency does not necessarily translate into either equality or justice.

Regardless of 'transparency', a biased pro-government legal system will always favour the 'In Group', especially the entrenched, rich, powerful & privileged, and this is the unvarnished truth. The rich will still purchase preferential justice; the sexual, domestic & recreational behaviours of the lower classes will still be criminalised and deemed 'punish-worthy'; and the government will always favour government policies AND agents over those criminal, poor, powerless or marginalised groups & individuals.

What transparency WILL do, however, is demonstrate the injustice inherent in the system which will EITHER give the underclass the (unlikely) opportunity to reform a system stacked against them OR (most likely) accelerate the demise of an irredeemably corrupt system that transparency was (mistakenly) designed to protect.


Unknown said...

Off topic: High Frequency Trading: it's getting even more messy.

Looks like the NASDAQ might be delaying their quotes by 225 microseconds (1/1000th of a millisecond) compared to the faster feed they provide to HFT's.

The Smart Order Routers (SOR) that brokers use for client orders (i.e. yours and mine) do attempt to send them out so they hit all exchanges at once to counteract the HFT's. However that strategy does not work if the SOR is looking at stale, old data. As well, an exchange in Canada (Alpha) is adding a 1 to 3 millisecond "speed bump" to most orders (not all) allowing HFT's to use faster cancels to pull quotes before they're hit.

More distressing: the alternative exchange ITS set up an in-house HFT that had access to the dark market and used it to prey on anyone who used it.

"As described the SEC — and, unusually, admitted to by ITG ITG — there were two main charges — that the company operated a proprietary trading desk when it claimed to be “agency only,” and that it then used the confidential trading information of its dark-pool subscribers without disclosing that."

It had to give back 10x what it earned to the SEC.

The markets are getting more rigged every year.

Jumper said...

Some more video-mediated perspective anti-bias, on Paul's topic:
This one names a few names, which I enjoyed.

Laurent Weppe said...

*"I think we are better not trying to make too many judgements of what constitutes "better" culture, particularly as this usually devolves into a sort of jingoism."

Or becomes an excuse to justify oppression: far-rightists are increasingly often pulling "The Western Culture being intrinsically better than the others, we'll keep immigrants disenfranchised until they demonstrate that they assimilated our values and rejected their forefathers'" bullshit argument in order to justify establishing the 2.0 version of rigged literacy tests.


*"The markets are getting more rigged every year."

Until people get pissed enough to follow the lead of the first fanatic and/or sociopath shouting "let's slaughter the oligarchs, loot their mansions, and restart from a fairer scratch"

Paul SB said...

Alex, I wasn't assuming anything here, just going with the two choices Treebeard gave us. I would certainly hope there are more than two choices here. It's a big world full of ideas...

Paul SB said...

The Fallacy Fallacy

David Brin said...

Eep! What happened, did I switch universe tracks? locum wasn't even at all dizzy, this time, but cogent -- if a bit cynical. Whaaaaaa?

OTOH Alex T's "I think we are better not trying to make too many judgements of what constitutes "better" culture, particularly as this usually devolves into a sort of jingoism."

Again, whaaa? The exact TOPIC was reflexively making criticisms of the west's inadequate multi-polarity... based on wholly western assumptions the wide perspective and multipolarity is good. The topic is stepping back and looking at your own reflexes. That was the TOPIC, son.

Jumper said...

I see a paradox looming just ahead. Or infinite regress. If it's "better" to consider values other than my own, that belief is just my own biased value of what "better" is.
I should add this sort of sophistry doesn't bother me as the questions have repelled efforts from better minds than mine for a long time.

David Brin said...

The fact that you don't mind, Jumper, reflects that same value system, which smiles at contingency and ambiguity and looks upon them as opportunities, not threats or insults.

Alfred Differ said...

@treebeard: “It’s the neoliberal “crack dealer” approach to conquest...”

Yah. Essentially. It’s a Hearts-and-Minds program that relies upon Maslow’s hierarchy of needs being essentially universal. If you aren’t hungry or physically threatened, you might expand your horizon of inclusion a bit and be friendly toward those who helped make it happen. Where it doesn’t work as conquest, though, is the fact that the horizon expander is not required to swallow the whole package. They can adapt it. History is full of examples of ‘conquered’ people doing this even with guns pointed at their heads. Adaptation at the fringe is common because the oppressor must spend to force rigid adoption. At some point, the extra costs for enforcing the fringe demands aren’t worth it.

I think you are flexing far too much by giving any credit to the ISIL vultures for an alternative view of ‘tyranny’ and ‘freedom.’ What they are engaged in is pure propaganda where they muddy our message enough to preserve their troop morale and attract a few more. Saddam Hussein did something similar before the first war in Iraq. Do you remember the pre-land invasion news video of him talking to children? Nice, right? Pfft. Thinly veiled threat is what it was... delivered as propaganda. His perspective was that of a war lord who had been useful during the Cold War. He believed too much in the illusion and it wound up costing him his nation and his dynasty.

You don’t have to swallow the US perspective on things (as if there was only one of those) to recognize the usefulness of Machiavelli’s perspective.

You missed a layer between the hearts-and-minds campaign and the drones and tomahawks. There is an intermediate layer where we balance competing forces in an area so we don’t have to send our own troops. The reason the war in Iraq was really stupid is there was no way the US was ever going to be willing to commit the millions of soldiers it would have taken to occupy the country. How many soldiers do you need to send to occupy a nation of about 33 million people when they aren’t willing to sit down and shut up just ‘cause we say so? It’s a trick question, of course. The answer is zero because the US usually isn’t that dumb. We get others who live closer to do the job first by motivating them.

Jumper said...

The number of soldiers in Iraq had little to do with failure there, I argue, though a Gulf War veteran just schooled me on the difference in numbers between the two: W used less at any given time. Still, I fault the lack of imperial bureaucrats we supplied. The whole thing seemed like a fools game, with abandonment as some sort of grand strategy.
Which is not to say I am in favor of imperialism. I'm not in favor of abandoning all sanity, in thinking you can invade a country, destroy it utterly, walk away, and then expect no resulting problems. In other words, Bush refused to follow through, and Obama gets blamed for his failure to actually take over and build the empire.

Tony Fisk said...

I wonder what techniques can be used to 'admonish' HFTs?
Such lightning reaction times usually have a downside ('ringing')
Maybe signalling the intention to buy a dud stock, and *immediately* cancelling?

David Brin said...

There is a difference between imperial "pax" use of force with a combination of surgical precision and professionalism... vs doing it like thuggish playground bullies yelling yee haw and pretending you are George Freaking Patton.

mirror locum said...

More proof that we have entered a mirror-universe:

Mirror Jumper lapses into solipsism about how "it's better to consider values other than my own (even when) that belief is just my own biased value of what better is"; Mirror Brin endorses that same solipsism despite Actual Brin's perennial rejection of any non-blue & non-inclusive value system; Mirror Alfred simultaneously condemns and condones (what Treebeard terms) the West's 'neoliberal crack dealer approach to conquest' by admitting (more or less) that Maslow's Hierarchy of Western Needs does not necessarily apply to non-western cultures like ISIL; and, by adopting an imperial perspective, the once-caring blue agenda has purpled into uncaring shades of authoritarian red.

As an enlightened bullet is just as deadly as a thuggish one, I wonder if the recently 'pacified' notice any difference between the enlightened use of (surgical; precise; professional) force and the more thuggish application thereof employed by 'yee haw' yelling playground bullies?

What a long, strange trip it's been.


David Brin said...

Ahhhhhhh. He's back. Back to zero curiosity-even, about what this "color" thing is... or that other blindness. Positive sum games.

Jumper said...

It's a mirror, all right: that solipsism was specifically a reflection of you, locumranch.

Jonathan S. said...

I gave up reading locum's rants years back. Did my blood pressure a world of good.

Now I just skim until the name of a sane person pops up. If Treebeard immediately follows locum, well, that's just that much more skimming. Considering other viewpoints doesn't mean I have to listen to the guy standing on the corner screaming at the clouds, after all...

Alfred Differ said...

I'm thinking the only thing to be done in Iraq that made any sense was to step in surgically and kill the dynasty. The consequences were sure to multiply, but so are the consequences of tolerating insane princes.

The only non-abandonment trick I think could work would be to fold them into the markets of the world. Pushing for more than that (nation building) is the fools game especially in that ancient land. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@mirror locum: I honestly don’t see how you could conclude that I think Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs doesn’t apply to non-western cultures. It does just as much for them as us. It is a human thing being described. There really aren’t all that many differences between us at the lower levels while the higher levels can be interpreted and adapted. As an atheist, my ‘spiritual’ needs (higher up the diagram) aren’t going to map to the same social institutions as my neighbor theists, but the abstraction behind the map still applies.

What the ISIL folks are doing is lying much as Saddam and his people did and they do it for power. “Freedom is Tyranny and Tyranny is Freedom” is intentional doublespeak. Honest people can have differences about what constitutes Freedom up until they point guns at each other. No reasonable outsider will accept their definitions at that point.

My ‘imperial’ perspective comes from the fact that I hate enslavers. I will happily carve them into pieces and feed them to the dogs. My attitude isn’t really imperial, though. It’s just hostile toward their propaganda and survival expectations. Humanity has suffered through enough millennia already. Our enlightenment civilization is the first to make slavery uneconomical and I want it to stay that way.

David Brin said...

I was perfectly willing to support pax imperial intervention to remove Saddam's vicious insanity. Especially since in 1991 the Saudis and Kuwaitis were so-scared that they PAID the costs of their own rescue. A win-win-win... except for those poor Iraqi draftees.

Where I became ballistic was over Bush Sr.'s betrayal of Gen Schwarzkopff and the Iraqi Shiite southern Arabs whom he had urged to "rise up" in our name. Possibly a million of them died as a result of his betrayal and their subsequent hatred of us - to this day - was well-earned by the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Bush-Saudi cabal, on our behalf. An oil rich shiite arab state might have been a problem for the Saudis (the reason they ordered Bush Sr to betray them) but it would have loved us! And not Iran. And the middle east would be different today.

locumranch said...

Just as Progressive Blue blends with Conservative Red to produce the Imperial Purple of Pax Americana, I believe that mirror locum is just as confused by your statements as you are, from Jumper's 'I'm rubber & you're glue, my solipsism bounces off me & sticks to you' to Alfred's observation that ISIL places self-actualisation (plus tribal belonging) right after 'physiological needs' but BEFORE 'safety' in repudiation of Maslow's hierarchy.

That, and the fact that any nation (including Iraq) cannot be 'saved' through even the most 'enlightened' outside military intervention, just as similar US attempts to 'destroy a village to save it' were so eminently unsuccessful in locales like Libya & Vietnam, mostly because 'saving' and conquest are non-homologous concepts.

This Modern White's Man Burden, this 'enlightened' desire to Help Others Without Their Cooperation or Consent, is entirely misplaced, a violation of the Trekkie Prime Directive AND most reflective of the Evil Captain Kirk from the Mirror Universe (which is why, IMHO, why mirror-locum was so surprised & disgusted to find such antisocial views expressed here).


Jumper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jumper said...

I don't know why you're so confused, locumranch; your whole shtick seems based on snarking that any values are opinions which have no weight.

Alfred Differ said...

I’m not convinced the Shiite Arab state that would have arisen after ’91 would have been independent of Iran. There are two historic centers of empire in the region. There are the old Ottoman and Persian cores. The interests of the peoples between them are generally subverted or divided. The Kurds, for example, get along with each other best when there is an external enemy; otherwise they are divided by partial loyalties to these old cores. Loyalty webs are complex in tribal nations and especially old ones. While Iran wasn’t in a position to step in so quickly back then as now, there was really no way the other Arab nations could have stopped them from using old loyalties. In this light, Bush Sr’s betrayal makes Machiavellian sense. Kuwait would be free and the status quo restored. No borders would collapse, though a lot of people had to die to accomplish this.

Obviously, the betrayal was highly immoral, but it wasn’t illogical. Consider the consequences of an error regarding your belief that the Iraqi state would have been independent. I think Bush Sr considered that possibility or was sold on it and historically it makes sense. Those river valleys rarely belong to people who are strong enough to be politically independent of the empires near them. Iraq as an independent state is an historical aberration.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: ISIL does no such thing. Whoever is running the show places safety FOR THEMSELVES before self-actualization. Their propaganda is designed to say otherwise FOR ANOTHER who fights for them. Raise a man’s indignation/anger high enough and he will set aside his personal safety to defend family. This can be used by a savvy Prince and has been since before we were human I suspect.

Where I depart from Maslow (and Rand for that matter) is in my belief that individual people are not the atoms we think they are. Physiological needs (lowest level) apply to the atomic unit. One young bachelor out and about looks after his own. Marry him off and give him children and he might blur his personal and family needs. I don’t think multiple levels in the hierarchy are needed if we recognize he is no longer the atom to which these apply. It’s even more apparent with women and their children and how they are inclined to shed their husbands if the pressure is high enough. A fusion occurs changing the nature of the atoms. What constitutes the atom varies from culture to culture, but the hierarchy us universal enough with this abstraction to be applied to all.

With respect to Libya, you might take note of how little we got involved. That was a French and Italian thing and they both have delivered an impressively embarrassing performance. While it is a horrible thing to watch, there isn’t much for us to do that would make any sense for our Pax. Libya is a multi-nation state as are many others in the Middle East, so this has been a long time coming. The borders have only been as stable as they were because of our Cold War desire to fix them in place. The Cold War ended and that desire has eroded.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

My ‘imperial’ perspective comes from the fact that I hate enslavers. I will happily carve them into pieces and feed them to the dogs...

My attitude is similar and tangential. I hate bullies. And I will gladly restrict the freedom of bullies in order to insure freedom from bullying for the rest of us. Does that make me a hypocrite? If so, I can live with it.

David Brin said...

Yes, a small shiite Arab, oil-rich state that severed itself from Iraq in 1991 would have been tempted by the "shiite" part to align with Iran... but don't forget the "arab" part!

It was OUR actions, betraying them to Saddam, that made them emphasize the former. If they had viewed us as rescuers and loved us for it, they might have let us talk them into emphasizing the latter. In any event, if there is ANY justified imposition of imperial will it is liberating a murdered and oppressed people from a vicious tyrant that they uniformly hate.



Gregory Maus said...

As the author of the "Eye in the Skynet" article quoted here, I would like to add that I do have a proposed solution, but unfortunately I didn't really have the space in the article to explain it.

My proposal involves moving what is currently effectively a black market for personal data into an open, transparent market, so that data brokers can be held accountable while also fostering further research into sociological data analytics by democratic societies so that we can keep up with this refined tool of warfare.

I intend to explain this in further depth in later articles.