When is a first strike not a first strike?
When it's Anticipatory Retaliation.

December 31, 2004

A New Year

Bravo Romeo Delta

My clever readers will probably note that posting has been quite sparse as of late. And for this, I feel that my readers, both of you, deserve an explanation. Or, at least since you keep showing up, I think one is in order. So, my take on the two principle elements which have combined to drive posting down, what I intend to do about it, and finally, a request from all y'all.


Problem the First:

With an increasing burden of other things in my life dragging me down, blogging had moved from being a source of recreation and release to becoming a loathsome burden. I had rather hoped to avoid the "indefinite hiatus" approach to taking a break, because that approach seems to have some significant drawbacks, based on what I've seen with other bloggers.

Problem the Second:

Of the many things I have been described as, as a blogger, Closing Pitcher (courtesy Winds of Change) I think may be the most appropriate. This caused me to recall something I heard from a major league baseball player quite some years ago, but which may be applicable here. After ending a hitting slump, the player was asked what he had changed. He stated that instead of worrying about hitting the ball out of the park each time, he was just focusing on making contact. Once he started making contact more reliably, then he started to pay attention to hitting the ball harder.

In this same vein, I had (believe it or not) fallen into the trap of trying to make every post a homerun. I suppose, in an effort, to track down some of that proverbial crazy blog money. Then I realized that I had no PayPal tip jar, so it was kind of a moot point anyway.


Well, it seems that the two problems are closely related. Insofar as blogging became an effort to turn into Wretchard or Steven den Beste overnight, I quite working on just doing my own damn thing. Hence, before even posting, I started creating all these unnecessary conditions and requirements that started getting me away from the simple act of writing itself.

Hence forth, I have a simple solution. Write more, rather than just thinking about writing. That might also improve my readability vastly. Additionally, I have, as you can probably tell right now, been inclined to move to a different format. This isn't fixed in stone, but you can see that I am in motion on this front.


Anyone know a decent blog page designer they would recommend? As you can see, I'm to blog design what the French are to a military.

Final Note

Happy Holidays!!!

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at 08:36 AM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (3)

December 21, 2004


Bravo Romeo Delta

Possible robbery turned into a hostage situation at a Washington DC Rite-Aid Pharmacy. Details to follow. Link 1 Link 2 Link 3

(Simultaneously launched by Bravo Romeo Delta from Demosophia, The Jawa Picyaune, & Anticipatory Retaliation)

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at 04:11 PM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (0)

December 18, 2004

Hiatus, and a Tropical Merry Christmas!


Sorry I haven't been posting much, but have been trying to catch up on some backlogged work. I'm also going to the Caribbean for about three weeks for my family's first "Tropical Christmas," so probably won't be posting from there very much. Check back in January. In the mean time my blog co-conspirators Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report always have captivating things to say. After the first of the year I'll also be doing a periodic Iraq briefing on Winds of Change, which is typically a wealth of insight, inspiration and understanding.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)

Launched by Demosophist at 06:12 PM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (0)

December 14, 2004

Murder and Warfare

Bravo Romeo Delta

Ok, I’ve been dodging writing, which is just no good at all, so time to pick up the keyboard once again and get to work, so to speak.

So, where to begin? Well, this bit about the Marine shooting that guy in Fallujah brings to mind a whole lot of things about the nature of warfare that, I think, get lost in the airy-fairy discussion of the mechanics of killing people and breaking things. Donald Sensing, in this post, points out the first, and by far, the most disturbing, class of error made in understanding warfare. The notion that war isn’t about killing people, but rather some sort of arcane (possibly obsolete) form of political expression, is not just stupid, but downright deadly. For it ignores not only what the point of warfare is, but completely obscures the very features of warfare that distinguish it from mass murder. In fact, this kind of mistaken thinking is entwined with barracks lawyering about just war theory and the Geneva Convention.

The second, fairly pervasive misunderstanding is that war is only about killing people. Oddly enough, these two errors are often spouted by the same people (although not at the same time). On one hand, when war is thought of in the abstract, these folks will tend to view it as some sort of clinical form of the application of pressure, but once the balloon goes up, then they quite often revert to the industrialized slaughter view of warfare, particularly when confronted by images of the very real cost of the butcher’s bill. I suspect that the core of this is due to the fact that the Second World War generated so much film footage, that for many people, they can make no fundamental distinction between armor battles involving panzers and T-34s at Kursk, and the drive to Baghdad. Or to look at it another way, two noted futurists, Alvin and Heidi Toffler assert that, essentially, the lethality of weapons systems has increased by an order of magnitude every decade since the end of the Second World War. Thus, current systems would be more than six orders of magnitude – or a million times – more lethal than their Second World War counterparts.

There are a huge numbers of other common misperceptions on the nature and qualities of soldiers themselves, the purposes and effectiveness of weapons, the costs of war, and reasonable expectations about the realities of the battlefield. All these and more are things that are sources of error that pollute discussion about current events in Iraq, and, more generally, the employment of force in conflicts. But this incident in Fallujah effectively highlights the dangers of the first two kinds of errors.

Ok, having looked at some common errors, let’s see if we can’t, in one single blog entry, explain war.

To start with, there are only two things that govern wars: capability and fear of retaliation. That said, what, exactly, is war?

You’ve probably heard the notion that warfare is a continuation of politics by other means. Ok, so, what is politics? What does Clausewitz’s aphorism mean? Does this make warfare some sort of high-tech, high-lethality way of delivering bribes? Is this logrolling with cluster bombs?

Well, as I’ve mentioned in earlier writings, there are a number of analogies between organizations and organisms (see the things listed under the "Mother of All Blathers" on the right-hand side). Without rehashing that material in detail, let’s just cut to the punch line and note that organizations exist to allow both cooperation and specialization, such that the organization becomes more effective than the sum of its components. The role of politics is very tightly tied to that of leadership – getting other people to do things. Now that we’ve a broad definition of what politics is, I have a confession to make. There’s no really good definition of what politics, much less war, is. But at least in establishing this kind of basic notion, we can at least drill down a couple of things about warfare. First off, the purpose of a military is more than just fighting wars, but rather a large portion of their mission is not fighting, but rather retaining a credible and viable option to fight. This is the difference between compellance and deterrence. In either case, a negative incentive is used to either get people to do something. In compellance, force is used to get someone to do something or to stop them from continuing to do something. With deterrence, the threat of force is used to essentially used to preserve the status quo in some respect. In both cases, the military/warfare option is unique in that when all else fails and the object of control refuses to bend themselves to your will, they will then be made unable to resist, often because they will have been killed.

To put it another way, a distinguishing feature of warfare is that it does provide an answer, a rather final one at that, to the question of “What happens if I don’t want to?” Generally, the answer is that I’ll kill you. Now the astute observer will note that this says nothing, absolutely nothing, about whether the person in question is armed, unarmed, combatant, civilian, wounded, or healthy. This is where a lot of the just war theory comes into play.

Now, first off, just war theory is an incredibly useful tool, provided one is not getting shot at – in other words, it truly is a luxury afforded to the bystander. To the guy on point, he is final master and arbiter of his fate, and his choices are his alone. That out of the way, let’s look at what characterizes a non-combatant. A noncombatant is not simply someone in an active theater of conflict who doesn’t fight, but more accurately someone who, implicitly has agreed to follow the dictates of the guys with the guns. Conversely, a combatant has instead, opted to use force to resist the dictates of the other guys with guns.

Now, you’ll note that there is a class of people who may not be armed or may not be using force but still haven’t agreed to follow the dictates of the armed folks. This is a deceptive category, largely because it really doesn’t exist in a combat theater. The problem is that there aren’t really such things as dangerous weapons – only dangerous people. Now, before anyone goes off the handle, would you shoot a man on a plane with a box cutter? It’s not a dangerous weapon, per se. But in the hands of dangerous people…

That’s about it kids. Uniformed, not uniformed, wounded or not, the binary decision of whether or not you’re a combatant or not, is simply whether or not you’ve finally thrown in the towel and agreed to do what the people with weapons tell you to do. Once you’ve gone from the willingness to use force to resist the dictates of some soldier, to the willingness to submit to the directions of the guys with the guns, then you’ve gone from combatant to noncombatant.

The hell about this, is that it really is a question of state of mind, rather than any direct physical manifestation. As such, the decision of who to shoot and when becomes, essentially, an ethical question. Now, at this point, as a general background reference, I would recommend checking out part of a series on ethics run by the Annenberg CPB project (Episodes 6 & 7 - click on the "VoD" icon to view the episodes) on ethics in combat and war.

Now, at this point, I have another confirmed proof of my ongoing onset of senility (“For a purely untrustworthy human organ, the memory is right in there with the penis”), I swear high and low that there’s an exchange that I remember seeing when the series was aired, but doesn’t appear in the streaming video (and I’ve gone over the footage many times in the process of researching this post).

At any rate, the bit that I remember (perhaps erroneously) was a hypothetical scenario – went approximately something like this:

Moderator: Ok, let’s say that while you’re going up this hill, you capture some prisoners.

Panelist: Are they disarmed?

M: Yes, these guys have thrown down their weapons and have come out with their hands up. What do you do?

P: Well, assuming that the situation is now under control, I take control of the prisoners and assign a soldier to take them back for processing.

M: What do you do if they refuse to cooperate?

P: Well, I shoot one.

M (shocked): You just shoot one? Just like that, you kill them?

P: Well, yeah.

M: What happens if they still continue to refuse to obey your orders?

P: Well, I shoot another one. One way or another, they’ll either do what I tell them to do, or they won’t be my problem.

This exchange hit on the very core issue on half of what warfare is. It is the exercise of any means necessary, up to and including lethal force, to exert your influence over another individual or group of individuals. That’s the first half.

The second half is the fine tissue that separates warfare from organized murder. And that’s the existence of an overarching political direction to the conflict. When war edges into the realm of killing simply for killing’s sake, and ceases to have a distinct political objective (save that of racking up a body count) – we then have something similar to what Clauswitz called “Absolute War”. Somewhere in this notion of Absolute War lies the significance of 9/11 and bin Laden’s most recent tape – but that’s a post for a different day.

But the important thing to note that in a condition of Absolute War, there is no such thing, from a target eligibility point of view, as a non-combatant – and I mean No Such Thing. If you envision paratroopers assaulting an orphanage with the express intention of taking no child prisoner, then you’re thinking along the right lines. Beslan approached, but did not quite meet this standard – for hostages are, by definition, non-combatants of a sort. So, the reason that the existence and identification of non-combatants is a pretty significant thing.

This is why the brouhaha over the fabled Marine in Fallujah is important, not just locally, but as a snapshot into the controlled disaster that is warfare. And this is where it ties back to into the two factors that regulate warfare: capability and retaliation.

Right now, both sides have the capability to do things like play possum or take schools full of children hostage. There’s a specific reason that the US doesn’t typically engage in such behaviors: given the capabilities of our systems, and our troops, and whatnot it frankly isn’t the most efficient way to pursue our political goals. Now, the muj, on the other hand don’t really have a lot of capability to take us head on – so what to do? Well, bad guys have been pursuing an asymmetric strategy so they don’t have to take us on in our strong suit. This includes things like playing possum, holing up in mosques, and so on.

Above the capability based reason for the insurgents to pursue such tactics, there’s also the fact that these guys really don’t have any sort of retaliation to fear, largely because such “terrorist” tactics really aren’t the most efficient use of our forces from both a practical and political point of view.

Now, the bad guys have been banking on their ability to do stuff like this without fear of retaliation, but this notion implies two things. First, that such tactics will continue to be useful. This is a fair speculation, given our performance in Somalia and the continuing effort of political factions to “Vietnamize” the war. Although it is important to note that the change in tone of bin Laden’s last proclamation suggests that the terrorists may feel that such an approach may not yield the hoped for results.

From another point of view, the tactical effectiveness of such tactics also seems to be diminishing. This goes back to one of the first lessons of warfare “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” Or, to put it a little more bluntly, the shooting of the insurgent in Fallujah is one of the most reliable ways to ensure that we never have another shooting of a legitimately wounded, non-combatant insurgent. As long as playing possum continues to work (or is thought to work), then legitimately wounded non-combatants will continue to die because they represent a risk to American troops if taken into custody.

But, you may ask one of the most often asked questions about treatment of prisoners in this conflict – “Won’t this cause the insurgents to treat any captured soldiers more harshly?” To which I have three words that don’t even form a sentence, but certainly describe a frame of mind: Beslan, 9/11, beheadings.

If that isn’t apparent to those who would stand in judgment, then I fear that the
entire lesson taught by the immolation of 3,000 people still hasn’t sunk in.

(Simultaneously launched by Bravo Romeo Delta from Demosophia, The Jawa Journal, & Anticipatory Retaliation)

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at 06:12 AM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (2)
» Opinion8 - Not just one man's opinion Retaliates with: The how and why of action during war
» Murdoc Online Retaliates with: Happy Solstice
» The Jawa Report Retaliates with: Murder and Warfare, Redux

December 10, 2004

The Anglo/American Pocket Breakout


Samuel Beer, one of our top echelon of political sociologists, talks about the "Whig Rebellion," but I'm not sure whether that term wasn't coined by him. When I use it with most Brits I get a blank stare. That could be a deficiency of their education system. Anyway he considers the American Revolution a continuation of this Whig Rebellion..., and the US as the ideological offspring of the "Scottish Enlightenment." No doubt the foundations of that enlightenment have to do with English history and tradition, even though it was frequently arrayed in opposition.

At one time I was rather taken with reading up on Oliver Protector, and that whole era of English history that dovetails into the Whig Rebellion, but found Antonia Fraser's book so tedious that I'd almost rather cut my throat than read it. Why didn't someone slap her? Anyway, what attracted me about that period was the juxtaposition of the concepts of Puritanism and Providence, and the fact that Protestantism became militantly revolutionary for a time. There was an interesting group of radicals around during that period called the Fifth Monarchists, who were the seventeenth century forerunners of the Phalange, except that they were Protestant rather than Papist. Unlike the rest of the Calvinists, they weren't content to wait until things got settled in Heaven. They wanted to perfect mankind NOW. Had they taken over Calvinism, it would have developed into a warrior cult.

Well, that's the essence of my theory. Cromwell's defeat changed the character of Calvinism, from a religion that was somewhat focused directly on God's Plan for this world, into one that saw the things of this world as merely a "sign" of what could be expected in the next. This shift from actual to potential, and from temporal to eternal, was profound, and it's essentially what makes the Calvinists different from the Islamists (apart from the obvious doctrinal differences between Christians and Muslims). It's why Osama's silly "crusades" talk misses the point, and why Islam has been so "backward." That military defeat is when Calvinism was "defanged." There is no small irony contained in the fact that ignoring this world tended to have the greatest impact on it, and a focus on the next world tended to order the things of this world to the greatest effect.

Which brings me to America, or the United States of America if you happen to see things from a continental perspective. According to a friend of mine (whose name happens to be Lavine) the culture of the United States of American is composed of three cultural elements: The dominant ones are the two twins: the Enlightenment and the Reformation. We are an essentially Lockean culture, in that individual sovereignty is more than merely one of many strains of thought or allegiance, but the primary allegiance. In addition, we're puritanical in the classic sense, borrowing some of our militancy from Oliver Protector... So when we go to war it's always against the Devil... and woe unto any President or statesman who is imprudent enough to allow the Devil to escape his just deserts. Bush II understands this principle, which is why he doesn't commune with his father, and why Al Qaeda is doomed (even though the Left says we're not paying sufficient attention to those rascals).

But, not to wander too far off topic, the third element of America's culture is recessive rather than dominant. It was manifested in the American version of the Counter-enlightenment, through people like Emerson, Thoreau and Margaret Fuller (i.e. Transcendentalism). And although Michael Moore and even Noam Chomsky derive part of their legitimacy from this genuine strain of Americanism, they don't do so sensibly. For if they did, they'd be far more cognizant of principle, and far less inclined to lie "for the cause." In fact, it was probably Thoreau himself who coined the phrase "a fish in the milk," which is an agrarian literary reference if there ever was one.

People like Pete Hamel, and few others in the genuine tradition of Emerson and Fuller, tend to see American "conservatism" as recessive, and therefore temporary... but he at least sees it as necessary (which it is). I guess what he doesn't quite grasp with both claws is the notion that we're not really "conservative," so much as anchored in Puritanism and Lockean liberalism (or whigism). For awhile, until the Civil War, we even had a political party called the Whigs... but they couldn't cope with the challenge of slavery. And that brings us very close to the main point of the ramble...

The Democrats of the 19th century were even worse than their cousins, the Whigs, having established the Copperhead movement in opposition to Lincoln. But unlike the Whigs they had no close ideological rival willing to lay down their wishful thinking in order to "get it right." So they weren't displaced as were the Whigs. They survived, but as I recall (and I could be slightly off so feel free to check) from the Civil War until the election of FDR there were only two Democrat Presidents (although one was elected twice), and they were also the minority in Congress for most of that period. So they paid a heavy price for being on the "wrong side of history," even though they didn't exit the stage with the Whigs.

Which brings me very close to the point. I think Totalitarianism is the challenge of the 20th and 21st centuries, as slavery was the challenge of the 19th. Like slavery it is a problem that has been with us from the very inception of civilization, and may even represent a kind of civilizational mitochondria. And the struggle against it will transform us, because we've been so intimate with it... and because its inherent evil and symbiotic character is now almost completely unmasked.

The struggle against totalitarianism has transformed the United States of America from a kind of backwater in the 1900s into a superpower after WWII, and finally into the sole superpower. Every branch of my family has been involved, and every one of them has sacrificed their sons and daughters The world is completely mistaken, however, to conclude that this is about "empire." It's far more elemental than that.

Although we've taken the lead it'll soon be the world's turn. As it has transformed us it will ultimately transform the world, and in the same direction. Though "the world" is far closer in character and temperament to the recessive element of American culture, it is bound far closer to us than it realizes When the mood shifts from detractor to partner, it will happen rather quickly... and will be largely and shockingly unexpected by the "powers that be." They think they've carved out quite a little haven behind the protective walls of pure anti-Americanism... not really having appreciated what America is, and what we're about.

I just heard Robert Kaplan speak at AEI recently, and he made observed that what surprised him the most about the Middle East in recent months is the fact that the US can conduct some genuinely brutal actions in Fallujah and other parts of the Sunni triangle, and there's really very little protest from the "Arab street." One would think that if the characterizations of America as the cause of all evil on the planet had as much legitimacy as some would have us think, the "common Arab" just wouldn't stand for a lot of what we've done. (They weren't even that riled by the Abu Ghraib mantra, in spite of all the hype.) So I suspect they're plumb fed up with their tyrants and autocrats, and aren't really all that keen to see a new crop ascend to power dressed in religious robes. They may have about had their fill of that.

About the oil. I guess we all need that, don't we? But who, besides America, protects the Straits of Malacca and protects the shipping lanes that supply a good share of the world's oil free from terrorist pirates? Those lanes are nowhere near the Middle East. We foot the bill for that protective function, and we pretty much do that alone, even though most of the peoples of far flung countries that tend to hate us are benefited. If you don't think this is a critical function perhaps we could stand down for a brief period... just long enough to see what happens. Maybe the UN will step into the breach? :-^

The truth is that if one looks at history counterfactually, the British Empire left the world a lot better off than where they found it... and also better off than where it would have been absent the Empire. Even now, long after the demise of that empire the strongest correlate of emerging democracy and the rule of law is whether a particular nation was ever a British colony. So, Iraq really looks better on that score than one might think, for although it was only a protectorate, that's close enough.

Or it would be close enough, in a mostly sane world. But what we have in the stead of that world are slaughterhouses whose closest ancestors are Dachau and the Gulag Archipelago. And to make matters worse, the heirs of the forebears of the recessive component of American culture are wont to refer to these manifestations of a three-thousand-year-old-evil as "freedom fighters," equivalent to the minutemen who would literally have wretched their precious stomach contents onto the soil of Valley Forge had they seen it.

We are not at the beginning of something, here... but at the beginning of the end. What emerges must be a kind of political institution that transcends ethnically established "nations" by as far as those nations transcended tribes. There is a moral imperative so compelling that the willingness to strap on a bomb in a futile attempt to subvert destiny will seem positively anemic and cowardly.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)

Launched by Demosophist at 12:43 AM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (6)

December 09, 2004

Poncho, Poncho, Ponchoman

Bravo Romeo Delta

In the army, there is a form of punishment called an RBI (Reinforcement By Indorsement) in which the soldier is required to write a 1,000 word essay to describe his errors in judgment and so on. In this case, I have been forwarded an RBI written by a gentleman who failed to bring all his proper equipment to a function. And it is well, well worth the read. It starts a little something like this...

"It is Extremely Important that I Bring my Equipment Every Day Because if I Don't the Drill Sergeant makes me write a stupid R.B.I., which I must write, because if I don't the Army will kick me out, instantly ruining my life because I will be unable to get a job, and I will wind up living in a cardboard box because sometimes society can be a cruel, cruel entity.

Therefore, I will always from now on bring my poncho to chow because as everyone knows, it often rains inside of the mess hall. I also do not like to live in a cardboard box."

From there, it just gets funnier, and includes such phrases as "... some stunning orchids, or perhaps maybe a Rhododendron."

(Simultaneously launched by Bravo Romeo Delta from Demosophia, The Jawa Telegraph, & Anticipatory Retaliation)

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at 04:30 PM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (2)
» Let's Try Freedom Retaliates with: Omnibus Blogroll Megapost

December 08, 2004

Now THIS Is What the Internet Was Made For!


If's like vandalism, without a victim.

(Practical Hint: If you want to pop a bunch at one time, hold down the shift key and drag the mouse pointer. Alternatively, just check the "Manic Mode!" box.) (hat tip: Ace of Spades and Pundit Guy)

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)

Launched by Demosophist at 06:24 AM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (0)

December 07, 2004

Do The Math

Bravo Romeo Delta


(Simuntaneously launched by Bravo Romeo Delta from Demosophia, The Jawa Sun, & Anticipatory Retaliation)

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at 03:45 PM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (0)
» hubs and spokes Retaliates with: ?=evil

December 06, 2004

The Iraq War as Present Value


Richard Posner, on the brand-spanking-new Becker-Posner blog, manages to say in a few succinct words what I've been attempting to say in a far less economical way for over a year. One implication of the exposte anti-war argument concerning Iraq is that the Administration knew the probability of Saddam having WMD was zero, but chose to invade anyway for some unambiguously self-serving reason. That's essentially what all the "Bush lied" talk was about. The other, less well articulated, implication is that there was no estimate made of the probability, because it didn't matter. We would have attacked whether the probability of a future WMD attack from Saddam was 1 or 0, or anything in between. The former implication, that we knew the probability was zero and acted as though it were closer to 1 really has little merit. Had we known with certainty that there was no threat, then there'd have been no debate at all about the evidence. If it had been faked, the fakery would have been undetectable, because the deception would have been coldly premeditated. There would have been no bungling attempt at a poorly constructed "yellow-cake" document from Niger.

But the second implication at least has some small degree of merit. The administration may well have decided that the real issue was not whether Saddam was about to attack the US, but whether in the fullness of time, a radicalizing Arab Middle East would have become an unacceptable threat. If an administration had concluded that this was a significant probability, then the only question left would be where to intervene.

Which Middle Eastern nation presented the ripest opportunity? With the objective of "interfering with" the gradual development of a totalitarian Middle East, not only potentially capable of attack, but also capable of withholding oil resources (though there's an inherent conflict between obtaining resources to build weapons and cutting off the inflow of petro-dollars) Iraq seems ideal. Not only did it have a recalcitrant leader with parochially flawed strategic judgment, but he was also a crazy murdering S.O.B. About as unlovable a character as they make.

And geographically, Iraq is at the center of things in the Middle East. From there we could not only launch "our vanguard" for liberal democracy, to counter the Salafist vanguard for militant Islamism, but if necessary we could have a launch point for operations against other Middle Eastern threats as they emerged.

By the numbers, from Posner:

Suppose there is a probability of .5 that the adversary will attack at some future time, when he has completed a military build up, that the attack will, if resisted with only the victim's current strength, inflict a cost on the victim of 100, so that the expected cost of the attack is 50 (100 x .5), but that the expected cost can be reduced to 20 if the victim incurs additional defense costs of 15. Suppose further that at an additional cost of only 5, the victim can by a preventive strike today eliminate all possibility of the future attack. Since 5 is less than 35 (the sum of injury and defensive costs if the future enemy attack is not prevented), the preventive war is cost-justified.

A historical example that illustrates this analysis is the Nazi reoccupation of the Rhineland area of Germany in 1936, an area that had been demilitarized by the Treaty of Versailles. Had France and Great Britain responded to this treaty violation by invading Germany, in all likelihood Hitler would have been overthrown and World War II averted. (It is unlikely that Japan would have attacked the United States and Great Britain in 1941 had it not thought that Germany would be victorious.) The benefits of preventive war would in that instance have greatly exceeded the costs.

In the case of the Iraq War the probability isn't really made concerning Saddam, because the larger probability concerns the Islamist movement, as a whole. Having watched the Middle East slowly radicalize over a period of 40-plus years, leading inexorably to the 9-11 attacks... whether Saddam were an imminent or a growing and gathering threat may simply not have mattered.

Consider this analogy: You have reason to believe, with a probability of 0.5, that there's a ticking time bomb in a room of a larger building held by a terrorist gang, and the bomb is capable of destroying the better part of a city that can't be evacuated. (You can't evacuate the world, yet. Nor could we even evacuate a single country.) Your decision is whether to forcefully enter the building, which could endanger some hostages. The fact that the room may also contain fully automatic weapons and other ordnance wielded by thugs is important to your plan of entry, but it matters little to your decision of whether or not to enter if your cost-benefit calculation dictates that you must attempt to defuse the bomb. (I know there are a few problems with this analogy, such as the possibility that the thugs might trigger the bomb themselves if you enter, but in this scenario we assume that for some reason they can't do that.)

I guess the question arises as to whether you consult the public, but lets suppose that the calculations about the bomb involve some specialized knowledge that can't be shared with the public. Not only that, but you don't happen to enjoy a great deal of favor with the public so that they cannot simply take your word for the validity of your prediction. Your assessment of the probability of the larger risk is 0.5, but even after being told of it theirs is more likely to be something like 0.05 or even 0.005.

So, instead of presenting the larger but less familiar threat you present the lesser, but more familiar one... and hope that you can make a good enough case to convince people that the action is necessary.

If one consults the history of the run up to the Iraq War, the Bush administration did attempt to make a case that was concerned with the introduction of liberal government to Iraq, at least as a kind of humanitarian mission coupled to a larger strategic security. This argument sufficiently impressed Paul Berman and Bernard Kouchner that they each wrote eloquent defenses of the pending action on those liberal grounds alone. Neither, however, were widely read. Nor did they generate much of a political groundswell. One must doubt that had the case been made to the public on these grounds it would have had much heft. The lack of interest may simply have been because the case seemed more humanitarian than pragmatic. Even though there is a profoundly pragmatic reason for humanitarian action one is liable to be skeptical of such "unrealistic" naiveté'.

At any rate, the decision calculus of the public is probably a different topic, and in that calculus the issue of Saddamite WMD was the top priority. However, it's important to recognize that a top priority doesn't mean it was the only priority that concerned Americans, though it had been virtually the only priority of either "Old Europe" or the UN itself.

I guess the only point left to make is that if you're convinced of the growing threat of Islamo/fascism as even greater than the short term threat posed by Saddam, then you're also likely to be convinced that there's a greater expected cost to Arab Middle Eastern populations for the "act later" scenario. (See Armed Liberal for that argument.) In terms of Posner's calculus, acting in Europe during 1936 would not merely have saved more allied, but also a great many more German lives. (Few would have been cynical enough to have predicted the deaths of six million Jews .)

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)

Launched by Demosophist at 05:54 AM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (0)

December 03, 2004

Apparently Al Jazeera's a Jewish Plot


Tehran Times: "Al Jazeera Run by Zionists" (Hat tip: Jihad Watch)

Didn't you just know this, in your heart of hearts? One of a strange family of new conspiracy theories, all on the basic theme that the actions and rhetoric of the Jihadists are a deliberate plot to turn the world against Islam. On the bright side it at least hints at some sensitivity to the unflattering image that has accumulated, but unfortunately the whole conspiracy-theory thing is also seen as a signature of Islam, which will eventually have to be incorporated into a new conspiracy theory about conspiracy theories about Islam... which will strike most westerners as a sort of ominously threatening episode of I Love Lucy. Which, of course, brings us right back to the Joos.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)

Launched by Demosophist at 03:21 PM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (0)

December 02, 2004

You There! Vote! or Whatever!

Bravo Romeo Delta

Not only should you vote, you should vote early, often, and fraudulently, if possible. We here are going to save you some of the difficult steps of actually choosing who to vote for in a few, randomly selected, but terribly important categories:

Vote for My Pet Jawa for Best New Blog (Established 2004).

Vote for Ace O' Spades for Best of the Top 100 Blogs.

Vote for Anticipatory Retaliation for Best of the Top 1750 - 2500 Blogs.

And perhaps most importantly... Vote for Munuviana for Best Online Community.

Thank you for your participation in this fine democracy.

(Simultaneously launched by Bravo Romeo Delta from Anticipatory Retaliation, Demosophist, The Jawa Picayune)

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» The Jawa Report Retaliates with: You There! Vote! or Whatever!

Gun-Shy In the Cut


I'm pretty much down on Hollywierd these days, although I think the new generation coming up is going to be considerably different from their predecessors. And I'd heard that the movie with Meg Ryan and Kevin Bacon called In the Cut was a little strange. If I weren't profoundly and clinically attracted to Meg Ryan I'd have switched the channel early on, but instead I just got drawn in by the unconventional image of her. (My mother doesn't understand why I like Meg. Mothers just don't understand these things, by definition.)

I was also pretty leery of director, Jane Campion, who for no better reason than assonance I identified with Joan Didion, who wrote me a very snarky letter back in 1981 and whose political ideas aren't inconsistent with those of Noam Chomsky. And the movie also impressed me as having what Gene Siskel (with whom I went to high school) would have called an "idiot plot." An idiot plot is a sequence of events whereby if any of the characters weren't idiots, the plot would never have evolved in the first place. Why did Meg's character never tell the police investigator that the reason she thought she recognized him in the bar that night was his ace-of-hearts tattoo? Why was the scene in the police station, where she was asked to look at photos, so unprofessional? What was she doing there? If she noticed the tattoo on the detective's wrist, why didn't she ever notice the same tattoo on the wrist of his partner? How did she get back to the apartment, a distance of at least 30 miles, on foot, with blood and trauma, without having been stopped by any authorities or even a good Samaritan alarmed by her bloody appearance on the highway? None of these elements of the plot make much sense, in the real world. Had either she, or the detective, or anyone else, ever used common sense the movie would have ended abruptly, which is Siskel's definition of an "idiot plot."

But they didn't use common sense, and the reason they didn't is, I think, essential to the message of the movie. They were "swept up" in passion, and were never really using common sense about anything. They were both dumb as posts to the everyday world, but fearless in the sense that they both knew they were virtually helpless and "ploddy ploddy forward" anyway. Every turn of events was uncomfortable, and ominous, if not simply terrifying. She and the detective drive upstate (or perhaps downstate to the "barrens") for no particular reason, and he steers off into a secluded wilderness perfect for a serial murder or (as she puts it) "burying bodies." But it's also pastoral, and comforting. She asks what might be in some garbage bags floating near the shore, and he fires away at them with his .357. She's terrified at the sound, and says she's "afraid of guns," which prompts him to suggest that she learn to shoot. He hands her the gun, but gives her no "paternal direction" about what to do with it. She fires a round one-handed, at the water, and then fires several two-handed rounds hitting the garbage bags. It's just a tool. Nothing more, and nothing less. No mystique.

(At this point I'm wondering what liberal pinko message Jane Campion is trying to send. Guns make innocuous situations threatening, perhaps? Where will she take this?)
But the tension dissipates, the characters head back to the travails of city life without even consummating their lust... and romantic tension builds, for reasons that aren't at all clear.)

I'm not going to reveal the end... because I think the movie is worth watching, but suffice to say that the message of the film is, indeed, fearlessness in the face of fear and confusion. It isn't logic, or coherence, or romance, or justice, or anything that will make you feel particularly comfortable. But it's genuine.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)

Launched by Demosophist at 08:29 PM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (1)

December 01, 2004

The Steaming Hot Broth Of Posting

Bravo Romeo Delta

Ok, not much posting as of late. You know how, after an illness, people first start up with clear broth before moving on to heartier fare? Well, that's kind of what I'm doing right now. A couple links to a couple of the day's grins, and a bit of commentary for flavor.

With this, and a winning lottery ticket, I should be back to meatier posts in no time at all.

Ravishing Light documents the rise of the super, ultra, massive protests and associated chaos and mass riots in Canadia against McChimpySmirkyHalliburtonEvilBushHitlerCheney coming to feast on the blood of Candian Muslim children. At aforementioned insurrection, there were four signs that qualified as clever (or at least original) to my eyes. (Courtesy the Daily Jawa)

Elsewhere, Baldilocks hits a nail on the head. The unintentionally willing association of the black with the underclass. If you drill down a bit, a case can be made that the blacks in this country have come, themselves, to associate blackness with being underclass. Thus, any black person who succeeds somehow violates convention. Before anyone gets in a fit, you and I both know blacks to whom this doesn't apply, but you can't tell me you've never heard the generalization being made before, by blacks. Troublesome, that is.

Still working on how that meshes with some of my earlier posts on race

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at 06:42 PM | Retaliatory Launches Detected (0)

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