History's End

History will end only when Man does

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  • Sunday, May 30, 2004

    On the Front Lines-A Must read

    What are you waiting for, go read it at Dean's World.


    Spirit of America

    Armed Liberal over at WindsofChange has important news concerning himself and Spirit of America. Read this immediately.


    The Second American Civil War

    Note: It was a long and weird train of thought that took me here, and it is not entirely relevant to the issue at hand, so I won't bore you with that. I will merely address the issue of a possible second Civil War. However, it did come about from my reading of Thomas Barnett's weblog, which is something I recommend that you read daily. He is the person who wrote the famous analysis of the "Core" and the "Gap."

    The (first) American Civil War was the bloodiest in American history, with over half a million dead. The population at the time was only 26.5 million, so roughly 1 in every 50 Americans died in the war. The war was herald of things to come, as the tactics of Napoleon were applied to a battlefield that included weapons far more advanced than those used in the wars of Europe beforehand. Breech loading rifles and gatling guns were introduced in the Civil War, weapons that, in their final form, would turn the trenches and no man's land of Europe into a killing field a half a century later. The world should have looked hard at the Civil War, and seen what war had become, but it did not. And millions suffered and died because of that fact.

    There are many different opinions as to what the cause or causes of the Civil War were, with two schools of thought generally accepted. The more traditional one is that the war was over slavery and state's rights, while the second (neo-Marxist in origin) holds that purer Economic reasons were at play, the biggest of which is that a separate Confederacy would have its own tariffs, and because they would be lower than tariffs existing in the United States foreign factories would do better in selling to Southern Markets than Northern factories would. Tariffs back then were used to both raise money and protect industry, and thus the cost of cheaper, foreign goods ended up[ being higher than goods produced in the US. This, needless to say, didn't please Southerners very much, and when they attempted to leave the Union rich Factory owners persuaded the Federal Government to intervene. I don't really buy this though, because both parties had "rich factory owners" in them. I think that the reasons are much more complex.

    I happen to believe that two issues lead to the Civil War, although those two issues are really one. And that one issue in fact relates to something even higher up in importance, and is the ultimate reason why the Civil War occurred. The two issues mentioned above were institutionalized slavery and State's Rights. The right in specific being slavery. Now the Federal Government had gained a great deal of power since the Constitution was adopted, and the State's were less powerful because of it. That had caused problems before, and the issue of tariffs and nullification had almost lead to Civil War beforehand. However, slavery was something different. When Abraham Lincoln was elected President, he received a plurality of the votes cast. He didn't even receive 40%, and was still President. When this happened, the Southern Aristocrats, rich plantation owners, who owned lots of slaves and lots of land, realized they were in trouble. You see, before hand the South was needed for someone to win the Presidency. But now, thanks to demographic trends inside the US, specifically the massive population explosion inside the North, the South was no longer necessary to receive an electoral majority in the Electoral College. The Republican Party, as a whole, was opposed to the expansion of slavery in the territories, and thus the Southern Aristocrats realized that slavery was not likely to expand much more, if at all. The Republicans already had a Speaker, and it was possible that the South could do nothing to stop them. With slavery outlawed in the territories, new states would almost certainly be free states. Soon the South would even lose its power in the Senate, where it had traditionally been able to restrict the wealthier and more populous North. Southern leaders looked deep into the future, and realized that they would soon be minority players in politics. Eventually the North and West would have the votes they needed to outlaw slavery by amending the Constitution. Realizing that the game was up, they advocated secession, and convinced the poorer Southerners to go along with it.

    Slavery was critical to the Southern economy, to be sure. Much of the money that came to the region was from slave produced "cash crops" . However, simple economic reasons alone were not the primary force driving the average Southerner to support secession. Rather, we had a clash of cultures at work. The majority of southerners didn't own slaves, and most of those who did owned very few. So why did they support going to war for an economic benefit they didn't enjoy? It wasn't the economy, rather, it was what it meant to be American. Before the Civil War, the saying went: "The United States are." After the Civil War, it was "The United States is." People were loyal to their state before being loyal to the Union. Before the Civil War there was no single idea of America, no single belief on what the American dream was about. In the North it was to be rich, to own a fair amount of land, and perhaps some stocks and maybe a factory or two. But in the South you were considered a success if you owned a lot of land and a lot of slaves. To white Southerners, becoming a rich plantation owner was the American Dream. It was their ultimate goal, their ultimate hope. And here those damned Yankees had to come in and ruin their dreams. First off they wanted to prevent slavery from spreading further, which meant that no new land was available for up and comers so that they too could become part of the Southern Aristocracy. And then they likely wanted to outlaw slavery in totality. Oh sure, they said they didn't want to do it, but we know where their hearts truly lie... To paraphrase John Edwards, before the Civil War there were "Two Americas", one agrarian and one industrial, one rural and one urban, one based on slaves and the other on free-workers. Only one vision of America could be allowed to live in the United States of America, and thus the South set out to create their own Confederate States of America, where they could live their own "American Dream."

    To the South, the consequences of war could not possibly be worse than the consequences of peace, either way they faced the destruction of their way of live. Only by war could they save themselves from Northern dominance. Here we see the crux of the matter: War will occur when the price of war is possibly less than the price of peace. This was the case in the South during the Civil War, just as it was the case for the Soviets in Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising.

    To be continued...


    Saturday, May 29, 2004

    Tabla Rasa

    And no, I am not talking about Locke. I am having writer's block at the moment, and can't think of anything that I should write about at the moment. Should inspiration strike, then I will see if I can get something done.


    Thursday, May 27, 2004

    Iraqi-Al Qaeda Link Confirmed

    The Most Dangerous Man in Iraq

    Potentially big news, but I suspect that it will be ignored by the usual suspects.

    Thanks to Lt. Smash


    The Terror Triangle

    Blogger and History's End reader rumcrook has pointed out to me that there have been some worries about parts of South America being used as a nexus for Islamic terror groups, something that I remembered reading about a while ago, but forgot after time. Terror groups so close to home is extremely worrisome, especially because of the way that terrorists could use smuggling service normally reserved for illegal immigrants to infiltrate America. I have been looking around the web a bit, and found a number of different sources talking about this potential threat. The earliest is this piece by CNN, dated all the way back to November 2001. I find this significant, because if we knew about the problem that long ago, and haven't heard much of it since, then it might not be that big of a deal. However, this piece from FrontPage Magazine indicates that this problem might still be festering. From that article:
    Located where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet, the area is home to roughly 20,000 Middle Eastern immigrants—mostly from Lebanon and Syria—and has long been a hotbed for terrorist fundraising, arms and drug trafficking, counterfeiting and money laundering. By moving freely through the region’s porous borders, operatives from the terrorist organizations Hizbollah, Hamas, and according to some reports, al-Qaeda, are able to conduct arms-for-drugs deals with secular Latin American terrorist groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and Peru’s Sendero Luminosos (Shining Path). All told, U.S. officials believe that between $10 and $12 billion is funneled through the tri-border region each year, with Hizbollah among the prime beneficiaries.

    Needless to say, $10 to $12 Billion is a lot of money. And while only a fraction of it goes to different terrorist groups, that is still plenty of money. Now since it is Hizb'allah that is receiving most of that money, its not a problem, right? Wrong. Al Qaeda and Hizb'allah are not friends, to be sure, considering the one is Sunni and the other Shi'ite, but they do have a common enemy: America. Thus, it isn't impossible for them to work together. It should be noted that Hizb'allah was responsible for the Beruit barracks bombing back in 1983, so it has a proven track record of targeting Americans. So they should be dealt with even if Al Qaeda isn't involved. And there is no saying that they aren't. Plus, Iran is still an enemy.

    So what do I think? To tell the truth, not much. I simply don't know enough about the situation in South America to gauge the danger that this poses. I know that it isn't good, to be sure, but I can't give a proper sense of its importance in the grand scheme of things. I will continue looking for more information, and if I find anything noteworthy, I will try and update this.


    Wednesday, May 26, 2004




    Want to Understand the Middle East?

    Then read this.

    Hat Tip: LGF


    Economics and Blogging

    Recently I have been undergoing a rather large spate of traffic. In fact, yesterday I had 79 hits, over three times what I had pulled on average the week before. Already today I have 60 hits. When I checked my referrer logs, I saw that most of the traffic was coming from Colt's excellent blog, Eurabian Times. I checked his site out, and lo and behold, he had linked to some of my work on Russia's future. After noticing this, I remembered that Charles had linked to Colt's site, and that he had no doubt received a fairly large amount of traffic from LGF. Because Charles had linked to the main page of Eurabian Times, people for a while were focused on Colt's post about my Russian series. This undoubtably lead people to visit my site. I wouldn't be surprised if several people were directed from my site to a few of the lesser known sites on my blogroll, such as Rob's Crushing Dissent or LJ's Urban Empire. (Note: I would appreciate some info about possible referrals from here) So what appears to have happened is a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand people visited Colt's site(I am unable to determine the true extent with his count meter), and a couple of dozen people progressed from his site to mine, and possibly a couple of people moved from my site to Rob's or LJ's.

    So how does this relate to Economics? Simple, it is a perfect example of the Trickle Down Theory in action. People from LGF trickled down to Eurabian Times, and people then trickled down from Colt's site to History's End. And then perhaps some more trickled down to some site that I linked to. Trickle Down Theory is very contentious in the field of Economics, and has many critics, and thus few save avid partisans are sure of its effectiveness. But one thing is clear, it has proven its applicability to the blogosphere. This same pattern has been demonstrated time and time again, and is almost certainly how most blogs gain readers, with the possible exception of direct links from major Hubs and Gateways such as Instapundit and USS Clueless. "Insta-launching" isn't all too common, so therefor most blogs must get their traffic from the trickle down effect. Or at least, that is what a "top-to-bottom" theory would state. A "bottom-to-top" theory would argue that people get attention from smaller, specialty sites which direct their traffic to the Hubs/Gateways( I am a Top theory guy myself).

    UPDATE: Rumcrook said this of my theory that blogs I have linked to will have picked up some of the "LGF trickle":
    sounds about right, my stats have shown a few people trickling in from your link to me, and it didnt start untill you were linked by eurabian.

    kinda neat how the web of information mirrors the web of economics.

    Indeed. I wonder if there are any other ways that economic theory can be applied to blogs...


    I Wish That I Was This Skilled...

    ...because I would have some pretty heavy duty bragging rights.

    Scale Model B-52

    Impressive doesn't even begin to describe it. This model is a work of art. I can't even begin to imagine the work that went into it. My hat is off to the team that built this.


    Tuesday, May 25, 2004

    Bottled Sunshine

    Russia currently has round 8,400 operational nuclear weapons, according to the Center for Defense Information. That inventory poses a threat not only to Russia's possible enemies, but to Russia itself. Numerous problems exist with its current nuclear arsenal, and it is entirely possible that we could have Unsanctioned Use of Russian Nuclear Weapons sometime in the future. Nuclear weapons on the open market would be a disaster not just for the US or Israel, the most likely targets, but for Russia as well. The Chechan terrorist groups would love to get their hands on a nuke, and it is entirely possible that a successful nuclear attack in Moscow could throw Russia into turmoil. In my last post I described the status of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who seems to have assumed the mantle of Roman style dictator in Russia. Were he to die, and significant part of the the Russian government as well, the entire nation could descend into Anarchy. The country could literally fall apart before our very eyes.

    Now, knowing all of the dangers of its nuclear arsenal as we do, why has Russia been so reluctant to dismantle part of its nuclear arsenal, to downsize and make it more manageable? There are some public reasons, including the cost of dismantling weapons, as well as limits on how quickly they can be dismantled, but there are unspoken reasons as well. One of these is unspoken reasons is the status of the Russian Army. The Red Army is a shadow of its former strength. It was once the most powerful land army on the world, and when it wasn't, it was tied with the United States at number 1. It had millions of men, tens of thousands of tanks, APCs, howitzers, and every other instrument of war. It had an impressive airforce, and decent, but improving navy. Now it is rated as a 369 on the power rating by StrategyPage. China is currently rated at 827, well over twice the rated land power. The US, by contrast, is rated at an impressive 2488. You know understand part of Russia's problem. Its military has atrophied since the end of the Cold War, while China's has blossomed. Already China is rated much higher than Russia, and that rate difference is increasing, not decreasing. And the rating doesn't fully take into account the general status of much of the Russian military's equipment. Much of it is old, from the Soviet Union, is in poor repair, and spare parts are rare or non-existent. Cannibalism for spare parts is common. Only a fraction of the Russian Air Force is flightworthy. In short, the Russian military hasn't been in this bad a shape since just before World War 2.

    How does this relate to the issue of nuclear weapons? Simple: Russia now relies on its Strategic Nuclear Forces as the primary means of defending itself. Rob, of the blog Crushing Dissent, made this comment:
    I see one way Russia could thwart the Chinese. And it involves nukes of course. Mutually assured destruction is a nasty thing.
    That is exactly what Russia counts on when it comes to defending its territory. Russia's large nuclear arsenal is the only thing that has prevented China from making a move on the Far East(Siberian) provinces yet. Only with a large nuclear arsenal is Russian territorial integrity ensured. And much of Russia's nuclear arsenal is iffy at the moment. No one is completely sure just how effective the system is for launching a nuclear attack, many unseen problems could exist. Systems that haven't been fully tested could break down, communications could be more difficult than thought. And many of the weapons may not even work. So only by keeping a large arsenal around can Russia be sure that it has enough working weapons to act as credible deterrence. In a way Russia is hedging its bets: It hopes that in the time necessary to rebuild its conventional forces, none of its nukes are put to ill use. It is a pretty dangerous bet, and no doubt keeps many people up at night.

    So what happens if the central government were to fail? Either in a terrorist attack, or sometime in the future where it loses authority over parts of Russia? Well, in the latter part, I suspect that the government would have moved most of its nukes away from such areas, and kept them concentrated in zones of control. However, some could possibly escape government control, and fall into the black market. What happens then can only be bad. Most likely then it is sold to some third world country or terrorist group, who then attempt to use it as nuclear blackmail against someone, probably the United States. The same would likely happen if the central government were to fall in a terror attack. Initial confusion, and once people realized things weren't going to get better anytime soon, a mad rush by every officer with access to nukes to use them to his advantage. Either set himself up as a warlord, try and blackmail someone, or sell the weapon. Will it happen? Who knows. The Russians don't see many other options, so they took this one. Hopefully the US hasn't been idle, and has been making a real effort to deal with black market trading of nuclear material. I suspect that only in the case of failure will we hear anytime soon exactly what is going on when the nuclear black market is concerned.


    Monday, May 24, 2004

    A Step to the Sidelines

    In my recent series of posts on Russia, I have been examining the long term future of Russia, and more specifically the fate of Siberia, and of Russia as a whole in the long term. However, LJ at the blog The Urban Empire links to several articles on Russia and authoritarianism that are worth a detour to examine. The short-term future of Russia can have a huge impact on the long term situation, especially concerning government control. Two of the pieces concern Russia proper, namely an article on democracy in Russia, while the other deals with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The other article discusses authoritarianism in an age of terror.

    Here is the piece on Putin:
    Russians admire his youth, sobriety, steely restraint and love of order, and many find their own lives better and calmer. Foreign investors who ran away after the government default and economic crash in 1998 have flocked back. They extol the increasing stability of the economy, the growing power of consumers, the energy and imagination of entrepreneurs. They are convinced that the president and his economic reformers want to remove the distortions caused both by Soviet socialism and by the post-Soviet, crony-capitalist gold rush, and create a land in which the free market can flourish. They too will say, quietly, that the empress had a point.

    But both Russian and western political liberals look at Russia with a tightening knot of fear in their bellies. They see an authoritarian leader who has repressed the media and free speech, planted former secret agents and soldiers throughout the government, and turned both houses of parliament into dispensers of rubber stamps; who has encouraged the resurgence of nationalism and allowed the conflict-ridden republic of Chechnya to become a morass of banditry and killing on both sides; who has shown his taste for power and distaste for business by persecuting Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia's richest man; and whose “reforms” are at best ineffectual and at worst a charade.

    Putin is obviously a very complex man. He has turned out to be quite different from what was expected, and this unpredictability has no doubt helped him achieve his aims. But what are his aims? Is he a patriot, or a would be tyrant? It is too early to tell, but the time where the truth will be revealed isn't that far away. Putin is on his second term, and unless the Constitution is amended, he is prevented by term limits from running again. If he moves to amend the constitution to remove those limits, then I think it is safe to say that we have a would-be tyrant on our hands. I am sure that the world, much less the Russian people, have their eye on Putin, and don't trust him fully. Yet for Russia, at least, they have little choice. Putin
    tends to trust his fellow siloviki, men from the security services, yet he clearly understands the need for Russia to overcome the legacy of Soviet economic planning and rethink its position in the world.

    This is fascinating, on so very many levels. The first is that he appears to be trusting former members of the Secret Police, men who were feared during the days of the Soviet Union, and still are. However, I am not so sure that he trusts them as much as is indicated in this article. Rather than trust them, Putin knows them. He understands how they think, what they think about, and how the operate; and thus knows how to properly integrate them into his plans. Patriot or Tyrant? Who knows, but I suspect that Putin is in fact a Patriot, someone who wants to see Russia strong again. However, he realizes just how poor off Russia is at the moment. He recognized that unless things were turned around, Russia was doomed in the long run. In order for him to change things, he will need the full power of a unified central government. In order to get that power, he must reduce the authority of the legislative and judicial branches, and make them subordinate to the Executive. Putin realized some time ago that Russia needed a dictator, the Motherland needed a Cincinnatus. It is perhaps the height of arrogance to imagine yourself the leader who will save your country, through the force of your will, but if there is anyone in such a position today, it is Putin. Russia's troubles are many, and only a strong leader could solve them. There are two questions now: Is it true that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely? If so, then Putin might be on the path to becoming a tyrant. The second question, just as important, is this: Can Russia be saved at this point in time?

    Personally, I think that terrorism is actually a secondary problem for Russia. The Chechans are troublesome, to be sure, but they are a drop in the bucket compared to the other dangers that Russia faces at the moment. I think that even without that problem, Putin would have taken much the same steps he has taken thus far. Chechan terrorists merely add incentive to his consolidation of authority. What will be interesting is who replaces Putin, should he in fact end his term as dictated by the Constitution. Will he try and push a successor, someone that he thinks might continue what he has started? Or will he let the people truly choose their next leader? I suspect that he will push a successor, though try to cloak it with democratic language. Perhaps he will do what Yeltsin did, and resign a year early, and let his successor have some time in office to build legitimacy. The great worry of mine is that even if this cycle were to stop in the future, Russian civil society would not be in a position to fully exploit the opportunity for true democracy.

    If Russians like democracy so much, why don't they vote for pro-democracy politicians? One obvious reason is the way the Kremlin has rigged election campaigns, denying pro-democracy parties access to the broadcast media. But another, according to Levinson, is that pro-democracy parties have little to offer a public that has already bought into democratic values. Neither of Russia's pro-democracy parties have much of a platform, aside from affirming democracy itself. In fact, the people who, judging from the polls, consistently vote against Putin and pro-Putin parties are the die-hard Communists. The secret, it seems, is Putin's balancing act: As long as he manages to pay lip service to democratic values while keeping the actual democrats from forming an opposition force, he will continue to enjoy the support of Russia's increasingly pro-democracy public--even as he eviscerates Russia's democratic gains. This is not because Russians are crazy or hypocritical; it is because the state is far stronger than any institutions of civil society. And the imbalance is only increasing, in part because the state is steadily undermining civil society.

    I worry that Russia, because of a brief, or not so brief, stint with authoritarianism will not be ready for true democracy when, if, it should ever come. And therein lies a true sadness, the notion that even if strong leaders are able to "save" Russia from the threats that it now faces, it could still be done in by the decay of civil society and inexperience with democratic institutions. Hence you see now why I am so pessimistic about Russia's future. There are so many perils out there, I don't see how they can all be avoided.


    Sunday, May 23, 2004

    The New Feudalism

    In my piece The Death of Russia I examined the perils facing Russia today. A decline in population, rampant corruption and a lackluster economy all have contributed to a situation where the future of Russia is uncertain. Now Russia won't just disappear, it will break apart and be replaced by something altogether different. What exactly will replace it? No one is sure, but if I may hazard a guess it would be a form of neo-feudalism.

    History's End reader and blogger rumcrook made this comment:
    wow kind of sounds like the dark ages when Rome broke down and the common bonds of citizenship disappeared to be replaced by fealty to ones local lord

    I believe that he has accurately summed up what Russia will look like in the future. Now this may be several decades off mind you, inertia is a powerful force, both in physics and politics. The Soviet Union managed to last a long time after Stalin, even though his policies, while speeding up industrialization, helped set up long term economic decline. So it will be with Russia. It may take decades, but eventually things will start to fall apart. Like the Roman Empire, Russia has too few soldiers and capable administrators to hold its empire (for that is what it is) together. It will start with the provinces. Siberia will be first, but not last. Initially, towns and villages will interact with the central government occasionally, maybe once or twice a year. Then perhaps once a year, or every other year. Eventually they will cease to interact with the central government at all. Soon it will be cities that follow suite, although those cities will soon find themselves towns, a fraction of the size that they once were. It is possible that some people might move in from the outlying towns into the cities in order to stay a part of civilization, but not everyone. Soon entire regions will be devoid of any authority. Into this vacuum will step Organized Crime and military leaders. They will form their own little private armies, using old Soviet and Russian military equipment. They will become warlords, and will fight amongst themselves for land and people, the latter being a valuable resources. Likely people will flee this, and attempt to go to civilization. Some will succeed, others will fail.

    The end result is a depopulated wasteland in much of Eastern Russia, in fact most of the land east of the Urals will become "uncivilized." Likely the only centers of civilization left in Eastern Russia will be along the Trans-Siberian Railway, along the Pacific Ocean (like Vladivostok, before the PRC controls it), and perhaps some southernmost areas that are near other nations, cities like Omsk and Irkustsk. Anything that help promotes travel will be conducive to retaining civilization. However, cities like Noril'sk and Tiksi and Cherskty will become ghost towns, composed of perhaps a handful of survivors, and empty buildings and streets. At first it will likely start above the Arctic Circle, but then it will creep down. People will flee to places where civilization still exists, although some will remain, either to escape civilization, or perhaps out of nostalgia. Most will not survive long, though those that do will become the ultimate survivors, emulating their ancestors long ago. Meanwhile, China will not be idle.

    The spread of anarchy will spell the doom of Greater Russia, and Russia will soon become a European country once more, as it loses piece by piece its Asian provinces and cities. Warlords will come to rule those last centers of population. Perhaps, over time, the population will increase once again. Then we might see Mafia bosses and ex-military officers strive to create their own little kingdoms in what was once Russia. Maybe one could even bring together what was once the largest nation on the planet. Or maybe not. While still powerful, Russia will merely be counted as one of several major European nations, and no longer be recognized even as a former super-power. Perhaps it will share the same fate as its cultural predecessor, the Byzantine Empire. Once the most powerful nation in Europe, with an empire that stretched into the Middle East, it eventually declined to the point where it encompassed little more than parts of Greece and Turkey, until it was conquered by the Muslim Turks. Indeed, Russia might join the Byzantine and Roman Empires as another empire of note that disappeared into history and legend. Or perhaps another fate is in store for the Bear...


    I forgot to include Russia's nuclear arsenal in this post, but it is just as well. The subject is worth a post in and of itself, considering the importance of the topic. I should be able to get to it by Tuesday.


    Saturday, May 22, 2004

    Progress You Can See

    They have done it at last:

    The Blue Rose

    Scientists and horticulturists have attempted to create a blue rose for years, but have always been thwarted by nature. Now they have succeeded at last. And the most fascinating part is that the scientists who created the process were not even dealing with plants at all:
    "When we moved a liver enzyme into a bacterium, the bacterium turned blue," Dr Guengerich said. "We were aware that there were people in the world who had been interested in making coloured flowers, especially a blue rose, for a number of years.

    "Dr Gillam had the bright idea that we could capitalise on our discovery by moving the gene into plants - and produce a blue rose."

    Not just scientists, but smart and business savy ones at that.


    The Death of Russia

    As I have mentioned in my previous pieces, Colonization and Retro-Colonization, Russia is facing an existential crisis. Population Decline and the emergence of China as a world-class power poses the greatest threat to Russia's existence since Nazi Germany. Indeed, the two, combined with rampant corruption and the influence of Organized Crime could do what Hitler's 100+ divisions failed at: Destroy Russia. This post actually belongs before Retro-Colonization, at it examines Russia's options at length. Although there aren't that many available at the moment...

    First off, the Population problem.
    Figures from the State Statistics Committee predict a further population decline of 11 million, to about 134 million, in the world's largest country by 2015.

    That number is simply appalling. A population implosion is underway, and there appears to be no means by which Russia can bring those numbers up, save perhaps through massive immigration. That risks destroying the national character of Russia, as those immigrants won't be Russian, and Russia doesn't have the history of integrating immigrants like America does. And where will the immigrants come from? I can think of only a few places: China, the Muslim world, and perhaps a few others places as well, like India or the Americas. India presents some interesting options, as India and Russia are fairly close at the moment. But I don't know if such a thing could occur. Although if I was in Russia's place I would certainly look at it, pretty much anything is better than the alternative. Perhaps Russia could attract immigrants from a number of places in the hopes of balancing them out?

    I have seen numbers that indicates that the Russian population will be 70 million by 2050. Personally, I find those numbers to be misleading. You see, a unified Russia will likely not exist by then. Already organized crime has left many cities in the control of the Russian mob. The government has less authority in some parts than mobsters, and that trend will likely increase. With such few people, regions will tend to drift apart, and travel and communications decline. Russia will start to splinter, and isolation of certain regions will set in.

    Warlords, like those found in Africa and Afghanistan, will start to appear. They might be army officers or perhaps leaders of the local Mafia family, but they will soon start to be the authority in some regions. The central government simply won't have the power to do anything about it, and Russia will cease to exist. Instead, you will have semi-independent regions marked by oligarchies, military warlords and perhaps a few theocracies in the Muslim regions. Only in the westernmost parts of Russia will order remain. In many ways it will be a return to the Middle Ages in Russia, when it was only a fraction of the size it is today. Into this gap will step countries like China.

    China is hungry for resources to fuel its expanding economy. Already it has started
    colonizing parts of Siberia. Once the central government lacks the power to influence things in Siberia, the PRC will move on in. At first it will possibly start with "humanitarian aid." Then perhaps setting up local governments. But it will eventually end with Siberia "voting" to join the PRC. With Siberia's resources China will be stronger than ever. Russia will be fast in decline, and with out Siberian resources to help its economy, it may never recover. We could truly be watching the death of Russia.

    What can be done to stop it? Nothing comes to mind. Immigration will bring the people, but destroy what it means to be Russian. Russia will be destroyed in much the same manner that Western Europe is being destroyed today by Muslim immigration. Spreading your people out may appear good at first, but urbanization is important for a healthy economy, and thus it will suffer if you attempt to "ruralize." You can only promote large families so much, when kids are expensive and difficult to raise, it is hard to generate enough incentives. And the government can't support said incentives at the moment, and likely not before it will be too late. No, there is no easy solution. And thus Russia is going to need to look for hard solutions. Crazy solutions. Including such insane ideas as selling territory to America.


    Friday, May 21, 2004

    Good News for the Golden State

    California's Credit Rating has been raised, and that is good news for both the State and Governor Schwarzenegger.

    Citing an "established trend of recovery," Moody's raised California's rating to A3 from Baa1, reversing a downgrade it made in December out of concern over continued political deadlock and a move by Schwarzenegger to cut car license fees.

    Moody's rivals Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings said they want to see the budget that California lawmakers pass for the fiscal year starting in July before weighing ratings changes of their own.

    Schwarzenegger, who has proposed a budget plan that would close a $14 billion budget gap without raising taxes, applauded Moody's: "Their financial analysts have had a chance to carefully review our revised budget and our economic outlook, and they've concluded that it warrants an improvement in California's standing in the nation's financial markets."

    Moody's upgrade affects about $35 billion of outstanding general obligation bonds and nearly $9 billion of lease revenue bonds and enhanced tobacco bonds backed by the state's general fund. The upgrade was Moody's first since September 2000 for California's general obligation debt.

    That is good news both for the Governor, who's approval ratings are pretty good right now, and it is also good news for President Bush. A Republican in the the Governor's seat who is doing well could translate into votes for Bush in California, especially since a recent poll showing Bush close to Kerry in California, that is bad news for Kerry. Others have suggested that Bush would do well to let Arnold campaign for him in California, and to focus his attention elsewhere. Still, it will be interesting to see how



    No other word can describe the situation better if this is true. If it is true, then the United States was played like a violin by the Islamic Republic of Iran. And don't even talk to me about size. At the very least, George Tenet and much of the top level of the CIA needs to be fired. Heads need to roll, and in some cases it should be literal. This is perhaps the greatest intelligence fiasco since what befell the Germans in WW2. Certainly on par with the intelligence disaster that left Israel vulnerable during the Yom Kippur War. A total review of US intelligence where Iran might be involved is called for.

    One thing is for sure, though, and that is Iran needs to be dealt with, and soon. It is entirely possibly that by eliminating Saddam Hussein's regime the US has accomplished a long held goal for the Iranian Mullahs. The possibility that Iran might greatly benefit from this is intolerable. It is time to fight back. We need to start sneaking shipments of weapons into Iran, and send in Green Berets to help train an Iranian resistance. The Mullahs are greatly hated, it is time to make use of that hatred by the people of Iran. So far all internal attempts to remove the Mullahs from power have failed. That needs to change, and now. At the very least, Iran needs to be neutralized by the time elections are being held in Iraq. And preferably, before elections are held in the US as well. The time to act is now. Actually, we should have acted back in 1979, but that is the past, which is now only history. Hopefully we can manage to avoid adding similar history to the books in the coming days.



    My last piece, Colonization, detailed steps taken by the People's Republic of China to colonize Siberia, and eventually wrest it away from Russia's control. Rob, of the blog Crushing Dissent, wondered what steps could be done to thwart the Chinese plan. I had been thinking of that for a while, and have found no good solutions from the Russian side of things. They really can't afford to move enough people over to Siberia to counter-act the problem, and even if they do, it only delays the inevitable.

    One possible step to take would be for Russia to sell Siberia to the Chinese. If Russia can't hang onto Siberia anyways, it might as well get some profit off the loss. There is precedent, the Louisiana Purchase being most prominent of all. By selling Siberia to China, Russia can at least make something out of a bad situation. However, China will most likely not agree to such a deal. In the eyes of the Chinese leadership, Siberia is as good as theirs already. Simple numbers dictates that sooner or later they will exercise greater control there than Russia, and annexation is just a matter of time. Why buy now what you will get just a little into the future? China will most likely save the money and let the current plan precede apace.

    Russia could do its best to try and get people in Europe or elsewhere to migrate to Siberia, but that is something that will probably achieve little. For one, Siberia isn't exactly the nicest place to live. And neither is Russia proper. The government doesn't have the money to pay for enough people to move there, or to provide the jobs and services necessary to support those people. Insufficient incentives exist. Not now, and by the time it might be able to, it will be too late. Russia's hands are tied. The only way that Russia could possibly prevent China from taking Siberia from the Russian Federation would be to attack and cripple China. However, given Russia's current military state, that could only be accomplished with nuclear weapons. And China has enough nuclear weapons to ensure that Russia would be mortally wounded in such an exchange. A pyrrhic Victory, if you will. Not something I expect to occur.

    There is another option that Russia has, one that could possibly prevent China from taking over Siberia, and helping it on its path to super-powerdom. China in possession of Siberia would pose a mortal danger to Russia, and therefore something must be done to prevent China from possessing Siberia. That something is to sell Siberia to the United States of America.

    Why, you ask, would Russia be so crazy as to sell Siberia to America? Why not? The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 was worth 15 million Dollars US, and the area purchased was 2 million square miles. 15 million dollars worth of gold back then would have bought 300 million dollars today, at roughly 15 dollars per ounce of gold in 1803 and roughly 300 dollars per ounce of gold today (Interestingly, the US dollar was originally pegged against the silver Spanish 8-real peso, more famous as the "piece of 8" ). So the Louisiana Purchase was quite a deal. Alaska, by the way, was sold for 7 million dollars by Russia. So Russia selling Siberia to the USA isn't completely crazy, Russian territory has been sold to the US before. And not all of it has to be sold, only the easternmost parts, in fact. And plenty of precedent already exists. And selling Siberia to the US has a lot of benefits to Russia. First off, it will likely be sold for more than 300 million dollars, or even 3,000 million dollars. Russia could likely get billions for the deal, billions of dollars that it desperately needs to rebuild infrastructure ruined by decades of communist imposed socialism. A deal worth tens of billions of dollars could literally be a G-dsend to the Russians. Also, selling Siberia to America would turn the issue of eventual Chinese control of Siberia from a Russian problem to a US problem. Indeed, Russia could use it as a clever ploy to increase tensions between the US and China. With both focused on each other, Russia could improve its economy, military and world position.

    Why would America agree to this? Well, first of all Siberia is full of natural resources, many of which aren't being efficiently used by the Russians. Proper access to Siberian resources, whether lumber, oil or natural ores could provide a nice boost to the US economy, primarily in the long term. People could emigrate from the US to Siberia to benefit from new economic opportunities. Russians would also likely immigrate there as well, as the opportunities present under Siberia as US territory would be far greater. Also, the US controlling Siberia would be a big check against Chinese imperialist ambitions. China's leadership has been encouraging nationalist sentiment inside the nation in order to help cement their hold on power, and part of that nationalism hinges on recovering lost territory. Siberia, in Chinese hands, could provide resources that would help Chinese plans, including military ones. As a matter of strategic interest, the US can't let Siberia fall into Chinese hands. It would result in a massive shift in the current balance of power in China's favor, something that is decidedly not good for the US. In fact, parts of Siberia are very close to Alaska, and would allow the Chinese to possibly make moves against Alaska in a future conflict. The US has the military means of preventing China from taking Siberia from force, whereas Russia most likely doesn't at this point.

    Both Russia and the United States have an interest in preventing Siberia from falling into Chinese hands, and the best, and probably, only means of doing so is to sell Siberia to the US. And so the answer to Chinese attempts at colonizing Siberia is simple: Retro-Colonization. The United States of America must colonize Siberia first, before Siberia becomes part and parcel of the People's Republic of China.


    Thursday, May 20, 2004


    For those of you who are interested in future world crises, there is one down the road that has received little attention thus far, Russian Population decline . Russia's population is decreasing, and the rate of decline appears to be increasing. Some possible reasons:
    Drug use, alcoholism and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are leading reasons for the decline, said Murray Feshbach, a senior scholar at the Smithsonian Institution's Woodrow Wilson Center.

    "It's mind-boggling, frankly," he said.

    About 15% of Russian couples are infertile, he said.

    And as many as 75% of women experience serious medical problems during pregnancy.

    The official fertility rate - understood as the average number of children a woman has between the ages of 15 and 49 - was 1.17 in 1999.

    The minimum rate for a population to replace itself is 2.5, Mr Feshbach said.

    Russia's declining population posses an enormous risk for one of the world's largest nations. In fact, I dare say President Putin is correct in stating that population decline is Russia's greatest threat at the moment, greater in fact, than the threat posed by Chechen terrorists. Siberia especially is at great risk. There are only a few million Russians living there now, and a huge number, possibly over a million, of illegal Chinese immigrants are there as well. And that number is increasing daily. Eventually there will be more Chinese immigrants than Russians, and that will spell the doom of Russian control of Siberia. Eventually there will be insufficient Russians to defend it from Chinese aggression, or to even maintain administrative control. China might not even need to openly move to annex the territory, Serbian Chinese could probably rebel against Moscow and try and seccede from the Russian Federation. It is uncertain whether or not Russia would be capable of resisting, given the current state of its military. It is possible the Russian military might recover by then, but in that case you would have Chechnya writ large. If China were to supply the rebels with enough arms a proxy war could emerge, and Russia could face serious problems. Especially if Chinese "Volunteers" were to help out the rebels.

    So where does the colonization part come in? Simple. China is slowly colonizing Siberia, and eventually it will displace the "native" Russian population. While some of the migration is probably a matter of free will, I have no doubt that the Chinese government is actively promoting the movement of Chinese people into Siberia. The People's Republic of China is a large country, but with over 1.5 billion people they need a great deal more space than they have now. While Siberia doesn't have a lot of habitable space, it does have some, and would alleviate China's problems a bit. Siberia also contains many natural resources that could prove invaluable to the growing Chinese economy. If I was the Russian President right now, I would be very, very worried. Doom is coming, and little can be done to avert it.


    Wednesday, May 19, 2004

    Words Escape Me

    It is said that the story of a man's life is the story of humanity. If this man is the measure we will use to judge humanity, then hope remains for us as a species.

    The Real Heroes are Dead.


    An Excellent Quote

    What's it called when all of the contradictory evidence supports your conclusion again? Oh yes. Marxism.

    From An Inclination to Criticize, via Everyone's got one.


    Tuesday, May 18, 2004

    Partitioning Iraq

    Roger L. Simon has a post where he expresses some curiosity, and dare I say, sympathy, for the idea of partitioning Iraq. Without being rude to Roger, I find this to be a dreadful idea, for so very many reasons. Fortunately, several of the other commenters have done a good job explaining why it isn't as good as it may seem.

    I gave 4 simple reasons why it shouldn't be done:

    1. The Turks would never allow it.
    2. The Sunni Arabs in Iraq wouldn't like it, because none of the oil fields are in their part of the country.
    3. Minorities within the 3 or more parts of the split Iraq would be far more vulnerable, as they could no longer link up to other groups across the country to protect themselves.
    4. No fair division of land could ever be achieved.

    I will now go into much further detail.

    1. Turkey is still, at this point in time, adamantly opposed to the creation of an independent Kurdish state. Helping to set one up would create a great rift between Turkey, a secular Muslim majority democracy, and the United States. We would likely lose a great deal of influence, and such influence would likely be taken up other countries, which is strategically unsound for the US. Turkey is strategically placed near the center of the Eurasian landmass, and as such represents an important hub point that the US needs to be close to. At the very least, the US needs to prevent other powers from having unfettered access and control over Turkey. Close Turkish-US ties are the best means of ensuring that. Hence ticking off Turkey, especially if done so deliberately as payback for holding up the 4th ID, is plain unwise.

    2. This one doesn't require much thought. The sunni Arabs already dislike the US, and separating them completely from Iraqi oil revenue is going to cement that hatred. Unwise. Especially because Al Qaeda is based upon sunni Arabs. A separate Sunni Arab state would likely become a magnet for Al Qaeda, and we would almost necessarily have to keep troops there a long time to ensure that it remains largely Al Qaeda free. This would tie down a large number of our troops in the long run, so it should be avoided, if at all possible. Such a state, without oil revenue, would be isolated from any sea routes, and almost certainly economically stagnant. Partition should be avoided, if for this reason alone. Keeping the sunni Arab Iraqis as part of Iraq creates problems, but it also means that the other groups in Iraq will be able to restrict what the sunni Arabs could do.

    3. James Madison's Federalist 10 gives us a good reason why we should avoid partition. A large, Federal Republic of Iraq will help protect minorities and minority rights, far, far better than a number of smaller states will. There are a number of minorities in Iraq that would be far more powerless in a partitioned state, in a unified Iraq they can cooperate with the other minorities to form a bloc, that while small, can help protect them. Smaller partitioned states don't offer that advantage. A large, unified, heterogeneous Iraq will help nullify small groups of radicals, because they will represent a smaller part of the population in a unified Iraq, as compared to a sunni, shi'ite or Kurd state.

    Hence, it clearly appears, that the same advantage which a republic has over a democracy, in controlling the effects of faction, is enjoyed by a large over a small republic,..

    A Federal Iraqi state represents the best hope of the Iraqi people. It is the best state for restricting fundamentalism, protecting human and minority rights, and ensuring continued prosperity for the Iraqi people.

    4. Again, this largely speaks for itself. Who decides what the partition of land will be? As one of the commenters noted, this smacks of
    the old pictures of English politicians stooped over the maps of the colonies, with sharpened pencils.
    Any division of land between three or more states will create problems that will not be easily solved. Issues such as water rights, over-fly rights, transit rights, etc. will be brought into play. Long term enmities will likely emerge because one side or the other feels slighted from partition. Families could be cut off, tribes as well, and then there are the problems relating to national infrastructure. Simply put, it would be extremely complicated, and cause so many issues of contention we would never be able to put the fires out. Leaving it up to the Iraqis creates problems of its own, as then you can have a majority, likely Shi'ite, determining the fate of the rest of Iraq, and it would be nigh well impossible to fix down the road.

    5. Federalism is the future. If we want to avoid ethnic conflict in the future, we are going to have to make sure that people learn to live together. Iraq is a good place to start. If the coalition is unable to ensure that the people of Iraq can peacefully cooperate, then how can we put back together failed states around the globe? Cooperating across ethnic lines is a Must, if we want to have a peaceful future for future generations. Iraq needs to be a demonstration to the whole world that ethnic conflict isn't our destiny.

    6. Each of the smaller partitioned states would be far less capable of defending itself from its neighbors than a unified Iraq. This might not be an issue now, but it could be in twenty or more years. We have no idea what the future of the Middle East might look like, so it would behoove us to prevent a situation where one strong state (Iran?) could swallow piece by piece the different parts of the former Iraq. The Kurds especially would benefit, as a unified Iraq state would be far more powerful, militarily speaking, than an independent Kurdish state. A Federal Iraq remains the best means of securing the safety of every of the ethnic groups in Iraq.

    And those are just what I thought up of in one sitting. I will repeat what I said before: Partition is Unacceptable. Thinking outside of the box can be useful at times, but in this instance would only lead to problems down the road.


    John Moore has a response as well, you can find it here .


    Monday, May 17, 2004

    This Speaks for Itself

    Good news from Iraq: Iraq General Defends the US


    Sunday, May 16, 2004

    A Comment Worth Noting

    From Iraq at a Glance , here is a comment worth posting:

    There is an argument among certain anti-war activists in the west that, due to history and culture, Arabs are not able to become democratic modern societies. Therefore, we should immediately pull out of Iraq and stop trying to create a democratic state.

    These proposals involve either dividing Iraq into three parts, or identifying a suitably pliable strongman and turning power over to him.

    I believe these anti-war positions to be a fundamentally racist. Liberty and justice in a democratic society are the right of everyone in the world, regardless of geography, history, religion or ethnicity. If we give up on this goal, if we say that human rights are only for those people like us, then we will truly become the fascist imperialists that we are accused of being.

    Liberty, equality and brotherhood are right of every man, woman and child. We can never give up trying to help make a free and peaceful world, or we lose the right to call ourselves civilized.

    by Zayphar, who has a blog, One of Ours .


    Saturday, May 15, 2004

    The Syrian Connection

    Charles at LGF has linked to a fascinating bit of news . Apparently a number of "Syrian Technicians" were killed in the large train blast in North Korea not too long ago. An excerpt:

    A military source familiar with Korean Peninsula
    affairs revealed on 6 May that Syrian technicians were
    killed in a train explosion incident that occurred on
    22 April in Yongch'on in the northwestern part of the
    DPRK and that the damage was especially serious in
    that section of the train where the Syrians were
    aboard, along with large equipment. The same source
    noted that although the contents of the equipment are
    unknown, DPRK military-related personnel wearing
    protective suits arrived on the scene immediately
    after the explosion and removed debris only from that
    section of the train where the Syrian group had been
    aboard. Consequently, there is a strong likelihood
    that the accident occurred when military materials
    were being secretly transported between the DPRK and

    According to the same source, the technicians aboard
    the train had been sent from the Syrian technical
    research center called Centre d'Etudes et de Recherche
    Scientific (CERS). Although CERS was established to
    promote science and technology development, it is
    suspected of playing a major role in Syria's weapons
    of mass destruction development program.

    The word "suspicious" does not even begin to describe this. As I noted on LGF, the presence of Syrian Technicians indicates that some kind of technology or arms transfer was taking place. North Korea is the biggest proliferator of missile technology in the world, and so it wouldn't be surprising if missile parts were being transported, perhaps to China first, and then to Syria. Or, perhaps even more sinister, Chemical weapons components or equipment might have been transferred, as indicated by the role that CERS plays in this little episode. Speculation at this point wouldn't accomplish much, so I will wait and see if anything else turns up about this.


    Friday, May 14, 2004

    What Machiavelli would say about Rumsfield Resigning

    Despite having been written centuries ago, there is still a great deal of good advice to be found in Niccolo Machiavelli's realist treatise "The Prince." The issue of Donald Rumsfield and whether he should resign or not finds a great deal of correlation in "The Prince," as Machiavelli realized just how important Secretaries and advisors are for a Prince.

    THE choice of servants is of no little importance to a prince, and they are good or not according to the discrimination of the prince. And the first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his understanding, is by observing the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful he may always be considered wise, because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful. But when they are otherwise one cannot form a good opinion of him, for the prime error which he made was in choosing them.

    People will judge someone by those whom he surrounds himself with. President Bush is no exception. Rumsfield, Rice, Powell, all of the President's close advisors and cabinet officers reveal a lot about George W. Bush.

    But if a prince who is not experienced should take counsel from more than one he will never get united counsels, nor will he know how to unite them. Each of the counsellors will think of his own interests, and the prince will not know how to control them or to see through them. And they are not to be found otherwise, because men will always prove untrue to you unless they are kept honest by constraint. Therefore it must be inferred that good counsels, whencesoever they come, are born of the wisdom of the prince, and not the wisdom of the prince from good counsels.

    Here we get to the crux of the matter. Rumsfield was chosen by Bush to be the Secretary of Defense. As the person in charge of the DoD, he was largely responsible for keeping our nation safe from military threats. If Rumsfield is forced to resign, because of the Abu Ghraib, then we must question all of his past judgments. That includes both Iraq and Afghanistan. And then of course we must look at the person who decided Rumsfield was fit for the job. Ultimately, that it what matters most. George W. Bush trusted Donald Rumsfield to do the right thing, and to do a good job. If Rumsfield turns out to be incompetent, what does that say about President Bush? To steal a line from George Lucas: "Who is the more foolish, the fool, or the fool who follows him?" It is the wisdom of the prince which is responsible for good counsel, and thus if Rumsfield was giving bad counsel, than it must be the fault of George W. Bush. Machiavelli would strongly urge the President to not fire Donald Rumsfield, not only because he is doing a good job at what is essentially an impossible task, on the order of the Augean Stables , but also because to fire Rumsfield would be to admit error, and leave yourself vulnerable to attack.


    More Coming

    I am currently working on several posts. The first is a long term one concering the future political landscape of Iraq. That will likely not be done for several days. I should have a new post about Machiavelli up later today, and my take on the firing of the Daily Mirror's editor for allowing fake pictures of British soldiers abusing prisoners to be published.


    I think that I will need to drop the post on the Daily Mirror situation. Many others have already covered it, and I am having trouble thinking of something worthwhile to say.


    Thursday, May 13, 2004

    The Web, The Video, and The World

    I am sure that you all have heard about the murder of Nick Berg by Al Qaeda. It is all over the 'Net at this point. Indeed, many web sites were experiencing heavy traffic by those searching for the video. I have not seen it, and I have no intention of watching it. I have seen enough evil in my life, and feel no need to add more to my memory. The major media sources have of course refused to air it, because it is too graphic. Needless to say, the prisoner abuse in Iraq isn't. I don't think that I can add any more to this debate, others have covered it pretty effectively.

    In other news, I should be able to pay a little more attention to the blogosphere, for a short while at least.


    Monday, May 10, 2004

    The New Iraqi Army

    Mohammed, brother of Omar, at the Iraqi blog Iraq the Model has a new post up, discussing the new Iraqi Army.

    An excerpt:

    A relative of mine was forced as the millions of Iraqis to serve in Saddam’s army. He was poor and peaceful and couldn’t stand the humiliation and the torture that service meant. He lived in Baghdad and served in Basrah. He was paid about 10 thousand Iraqi Dinars a month, which equaled about 5 US $ at that time, while the ride from his place to his unit cost about 2 or 3 thousand Dinars. Above all he had to bribe the sergeants and the officers only to avoid the hell they could make his life there, as they could’ve made it a lot worse. Others more fortunate paid money to the officer in charge to stay at home and the officer would arrange it to look like they are serving. This may amount to 250-300 thousand Iraqi Dinars a month, and it was a very common practice at that time. And as tens of thousands of Iraqis, he decided to run away. He remained a fugitive for years, hiding from the eyes of the military police. He couldn’t see his family more than 2 or 3 times in the year. We helped him find a job and a place to hide where they couldn’t find him.
    Few days ago I was visiting his family to pay our respect in the 1st annual anniversary of his father’s death.
    When I saw my relative, and despite the nature of the occasion, I felt happy. Here’s a free man. I smiled as I said, “you must be very happy to be free again, and not fear the MP”. He said, "you can’t imagine! It’s like being born again. I’ve never felt so free before”. “But what are you doing for a living now? I hope you’ve found a job”. I asked. He smiled as he said, "I volunteered in the new army". “Really! I thought you’d never wear a uniform after that terrible experience” he replied "Oh no, this is entirely different". I said, “ I'm sure it is, but who convinced you to do so!? And when did that happen?” "A friend of mine who volunteered before I did told me some nice stuff that encouraged me to do the same, so I volunteered about a couple of months ago". He replied. “So tell me about it, are you happy with this job?” I asked. "You can’t imagine! It’s nothing that we’ve learned or knew about the military life". He answered. “I expected it to be so, but can you tell me about it” I asked and I didn’t have to ask anymore, as my relative started talking excitedly without a stop.

    This is extremely good news, and while not mitigating the disaster arising from the prisoner abuse scandal, certainly demonstrates that all is not bad in Iraq. This new Iraqi Army could prove essential to a democratic Iraq, in a manner similar to that of the Turkish Army. Turkey has something rather unique in its social contract, the army is the "Guardian of the Constitution." Turkey is a secular Muslim majority nation, and it is an unsteady balance at times, with Islamists attempting to de-secularize the government. If the military feels that the Islamists have too much power, and/or are attempting to subvert the Constitution, they move in, and block the Islamization of Turkey. Iraq's army could have a similar role. It would have to be carefully done, of course, to prevent a military coup, and a number of tight restrictions on the role of military officers and civilian office would have to be addressed. Perhaps a provision that if the military moves in, new elections have to be held in a month would work, and a provision prohibiting serving army officers from running for office would also be good.

    The Iraqi Army could serve as an important integrating force for the nation, impressing upon Iraqis that they are Iraqis first, and Shia, Sunnis or Kurds second. Tribal ties would also need to be heavily suppressed. The military must be extremely professional, and would probably do better to ere on the side of troops quality, forsaking a large military in the process. As Israel has shown, however, a small military can do quite a lot, with decent leadership, training and motivation. The US can help supply equipment. The US can train the Iraqis well, and can even act as much of the higher level leadership for a time. But only the Iraqis can supply the motivation. Good pay, good conditions and lots of respect shown can help, but ultimately it is up to them. If this relative of Mohammed is any indication, the motivation shouldn't be a problem.


    Sunday, May 09, 2004

    Light Posting

    The real world intrudes once again, posting will be light for the foreseeable future.


    Saturday, May 08, 2004

    The Brain and You

    Dean Esmay links to a report which details the discovery of a region of the brain responsible for long term memory shortage. The human brain has long been a mystery, as much as the depths of the oceans and the depths of space. We know much about the rest of the human body, but the brain is still beyond our ken. However, that may very well change in the coming decades, and we should prepare ourselves for those discoveries. They will likely make us question our very nature, and perhaps bring into quesiton certain long held beliefs, among them free will. It will also likely bring up questions about the role of genetics in behavior, and the nature versus nurture argument. It has only just begun.


    A Strange Referral

    A search request from Google that looked like this . Perhaps someone who knows Arabic, which is what I believe the language to be, could explain the various arabic terms there. It appears that someone looked for budget, but spelled it budgect. I mispelled budget on one of my earlier posts, and was one of the top 10 hits from Google. I was even ahead of Indymedia. Although I am not sure if that is a good or bad thing...


    Friday, May 07, 2004

    The 25 Theses

    Joe Katzman at Winds of Change has linked to a fascinating post by Lucas Sayre, in his blog Daily Contentions. It can be found here . He states 25 Theses on the Modern State of Christian Fate. I will address some of the ones that interest me more. If I have time, I will address others.

    Theses 1 and 2 are interesting, in part because they appear contradictory at first.

    Catholicism and Protestantism are both necessary for a vibrant Christianity, just as checks and balances are necessary for a vibrant government. Protestantism acts as a check on the ability of errors and fallacies to be propagated within a unified hierarchical system. Catholicism acts as a check on the ability of new fallacies to be introduced and accepted by the whole Church.
    Continued splintering of Christianity into smaller and more narrow denominations threatens the purity and unity of all Christianity. Each denomination differentiates itself from the others through different theological doctrinalization. As the denominations grow more numerous, they naturally have to be smaller on average. With this being the case, each denomination's doctrine is tested in a smaller group and is thus subject to increased risk of error. As these fallacies gain followers, Christianity is increasingly divided by arguments between the different faithful over an ever-increasing number of points.

    As some have noted in the comments thread to the post, how can this be? If having differing Christians faiths, namely Protestant and Catholic, is a good thing, then how can splintering be bad? I believe that Lucas is making a good point here. He mentions the concept of Checks and Balances, and this applies to religion as well as government. For government, it is useful to break up the legislative powers into two separate bodies, in the case of the US, the House and Senate. Breaking them down creates some checks on the legislative power, as it is more difficult to take control of two bodies, than it is of one. However, it would be highly impractical to take that to an extreme, and have a dozen legislative bodies. In such an instance nothing would get done. The checks would be self-destructive. This can be applied to religion as well. Having several different main denominations ensures that no one form of the Christian faith can destroy the faith as a whole. If one of the denominations decides to do something that is theologically unsound, its members can always join another faith which is less destructive to Christianity in general. This has several effects. First, it tells the leaders of the denomination that they have ticked off the laity. That is going to cause them to ask why people are leaving. In such a circumstance Church leaders are likely to undo whatever wrong they have committed. If they do not, then the faith will lose adherents, and it will eventually stagnate, and whither away. Meanwhile, the other denominations, observing such an outcome, are far less likely to do something similar. Hence a form of enforced moderation on the various Christian sects.

    The unequal treatment of women in any Christian denomination is abhorrent, and without merit. Simply no reason exists that women cannot participate as fully in the expression and preaching of faith as men.

    Some verses in the Old Testament are often used to support discriminatory practices against women. Those who use them fail to realize that as a nomadic desert society, the ancient Hebrews were products of a strongly patriarchal society, one which didn't recognize women as equal to men. The Bible contains cultural history, as well as the Word of God, and thus must be viewed with caution, especially when the Old Testament is concerned. It should also be remembered that Jesus in no way ever stated that women are inferior to men, in fact the statement goes against the nature of God as all-loving. As God loves us all equally, women and man, we can't therefore create distinctions that he would not. People forget that Jesus was a radical, and sought to fix the problems that had seeped into Jewish culture over time.

    The prohibition of the use of prophylactics, even by married couples, in the Catholic Church is anachronistic, and inconsistent with that Church's general position on sexuality. The Catholic Church recognizes two values to sex: procreative and unitive (uniting a couple in their love and commitment to each other). This is why they permit infertile couples to engage in sex, despite the fact that procreation is impossible. It is inconsistent for the Catholic Church to proclaim the unitive value of sex in relation to an infertile couple but deny that value within a fertile married couple.

    This I agree with. If memory serves, the biblical reason for opposition to prophylactics comes from a scripture that admonishes man not to throw away good seed, as it is a sin against the Lord. Unfortunately, Church leaders not skilled in biology have failed to realize that this quote does not apply to preventing fertilization, as it can be liked to preventing pollination for plants. The scripture states that seeds are not to be thrown away, not that you can't prevent pollination. Instead, the scripture, which escapes me at the moment, could instead be argued to address the abortion issue, and be used as biblical evidence against abortion, as a fetus is biologically similar in development to a seed, as both are fertilized and have a complete genetic code.

    Secularism is the largest threat ever to Christianity. It is a result of the combination of modern pragmatic political thought and the rise of science. As science explains that which previously had only been explained with a call to the supernatural, God's role in the physical world appears more limited. Furthermore, pluralism has encouraged the development of humanistic values in governments, seemingly detached from any one Christian tradition or other religion.

    That is correct, although Lucas fails to mention the threat posed by Islamic supremacists, namely Saudi backed Wahhabis. In certain parts of the world, mostly Europe, "weak" Christianity is being replaced by Islam. Christian Churches in Europe have become so secularized that they have lost their inherent meaning, and serve little more than a weekly meeting, and some minor personal reassurement. Unlike the secularists, Islamists are willing and eager to forcibly convert, and have direct intentions of replacing Christianity, unlike Secularism, which merely hopes to minimize Christianity's role in the world. However, the Islamists are proponents of a backwards religion that has no place in the modern world, unlike Christianity. Wahhabi Salafist Islam is only compatible in the Dark Ages, and thus in order for it to survive, it will attempt to spread the Dark Age mentality throughout the world. This puts it up squarely against progress, something which almost certainly dooms it to failure. Barring some unforeseen circumstances at this point, the worst case scenario regarding Islamism is the destruction of the Arab/Muslim world, as predicted and outlined in Wretchard's Three Conjectures Scenario . This leaves Secularism as the biggest threat to Christianity. Part of the problem is that Christianity has trouble adapting itself to a progressive outlook, limiting its apparent "usefulness" to certain people, who consider it a relic of a superstitious past. Christianity needs to adapt and learn how to present itself to be shown as an instrument of progress, and a means of hope for a better future for humanity.


    Joint US/Israeli Laser successfully shoots down Long-Range Missile

    Link here


    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A laser beam under joint Israeli-U.S. development destroyed a long-range rocket for the first time in a test in the skies over the American Southwest, Israel's Defense Ministry said on Friday.

    Israel has sought an effective defense against ballistic missiles since 1991 when Iraq launched Scuds into the Jewish state during the first Gulf War. It has since developed the Arrow anti-ballistic missile with U.S. funding.

    Israel has been on the cutting edge of ABM technology ever since the First Gulf War, and for good reason. I suspect that in 10 years, any theater ABM system we deploy will have either been built, designed or tested in Israel.


    Thursday, May 06, 2004

    Oregon Man Arrested in Connection to Madrid Bombings

    From Fox:

    FBI agents arrested a Portland, Ore., man Thursday as part of the investigation into the deadly train bombings in Spain, federal officials said.Brandon Bieri Mayfield, a U.S. citizen, was taken into custody on a material witness warrant, said a senior law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity. The arrest is the first known in the United States with connections to the March 11 bombings in Madrid.

    Most worrisome, this is. Here we have an attack against a major ally, or what used to be a major ally, and it was partially planned on our own soil. This bodes ill for the future. If they can plan attacks in the US, which they can carry out agains another nation thousands of miles away, then surely they can plan attacks that will take place in the US. Which begs the question, why haven't they yet? Insufficient numbers inside the US to launch such an attack? Unlikely. Perhaps it is something else. I would speculate that Al Qaeda, under its latest leader, whose name escapes me at the moment, has a specific strategy in mind. Namely, deal with America's allies before attacking America itself. First Spain, then perhaps the UK or Italy. In which case you can organize and plan attacks using agents in the US, and sense the attacks aren't aimed at the US, counter-terrorism officials in the US might not notice. And the authorities in other nations will have little or no warning if the attack is planned in the US, or another nation.


    Wednesday, May 05, 2004

    What is Victory? Part II

    I have received a number of responses already, and will post them now. Others I hope will be forthcoming. Some may choose to blog on it, as it is a subject requiring an essay, and not a sentence or two.

    Here is what Wretchard of the Belmont Club says:

    We lost over a hundred thousand men fighting the Cold War, with Korea and Vietnam making up the bulk of the losses. We won it because we are still here and free. West Pointers, I think, are famously taught that history enumerates far more years of war than peace. Plato said, 'only the dead have seen the end of war'. The sad conclusion is that conflict, is to some extent, the normal condition.

    We will have won it when we no longer fear a nuclear terrorist attack on New York or when we can write about it in a somewhat humorous vein in five years' time.

    Here is what Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit wrote:

    An extended return to the levels of terrorism known
    before 1969 would be a good proxy in terms of outcomes (in which case
    this year looks like progress) but I think our war is really with
    fundamentalist Islamic terror, and for that I'd think we'd want to see
    an end to significant organized groups of that type.

    Steven DenBeste wrote a post on this a number of months ago, which I conveniently forgot. Fortunately he gave me the link to this piece on USS Clueless. I suggest that you read it.

    Michael Totten said he needed to put a lot more thought into it, and it probably deserved an essay, but here is his short bit:

    Off the top of my head, though, I'll say this. It's not necessary for Islamist ideology to be utterly annihilated. There are still neo-Nazis in Germany. The difference between Germany and, say, Saudi Arabia is that Nazism is despised by the average German and the evils of Hitler are taught in German schools. Too many institutions in Saudi Arabia still indoctrinate people into Islamism. Liberals there are besieged by extremism on all sides.

    If the Middle East were like Germany in this regard, I think we will have won as much as we can. But I don't know if we really need to go that far in order to pull it off. I'll have to think about it some more. I spent all of twenty seconds thinking about this answer, so take that into account.

    Hopefully a couple of the others who promised to get back will do so soon.

    Coming: My take on this. I would like to read what others have to say first, which seems appropriate as most historians let others do all the hard work, and simply write about it afterword.


    Machiavelli on the War on Terror

    Everyone will agree, I know, that it would be a most praiseworthy thing if all the qualities accounted as good in the above enumeration were found in a Prince. But since they cannot be so possessed nor observed because of human conditions which do not allow of it, what is necessary for the prince is to be prudent enough to escape the infamy of such vices as would result in the loss of his state; as for the others which would not have that effect, he must guard himself from them as far as possible but if he can not, he may overlook them as being of less importance. Further, he should have no concern about incurring the infamy of such vices without which the preservation of this state would be difficult. For, if the matter be well considered, it will be seen that some habits which appear virtuous, if adopted would signify ruin, and others that seem vices lead to security and the well being of the prince.

    Niccolo Machiavelli
    is well known among historian and political scientists because of his treatises on politics, which tend to be rather practical in nature. In this exerpt from his most famous work, The Prince, Machiavelli is advising his ruler, Lorenzo de' Medici. on how to deal with the issue of vice. Do what is needed to ensure the, but nothing more, is the age old advice. Why do I bring up the words of an Italian political scientist who wrote this centuries ago? It is still relevant today, in dealing with the issue of abuse of Iraqi POWs by US troops. I bring Machiavelli up because of this post on LGF, which states that we must always act as if we are morally superior. Machiavelli would disagree with this, and in fact say to follow that path would lead to ruin. In our case, the ruin of the West. In war, some actions are necessary to the preservation of the state. Although in the War on Terror, the state is not the only actor, for either side. The Islamists often operate without direct state support or control, and the West, as a concept, transcends the nature of the state. Rather, it is a culture, a way of life. As Steven DenBeste would say, it is a culture of empiricism.

    This war is a fight to the death, something that I don't think everyone understands. In fact, I am sure of it, especially where Europe is concerned. Machiavelli would have instantly realized the seriousness of the situation, in part because in his time the Turks(representing the most powerful Muslim state) were a force to be reckoned with. He would understand that this war is vital to the culture and society of the West, and that half measures accomplish nothing. He would also know that hindering your ability to fight againt the Islamists based on some perceived need to maintain the moral highground would be foolish, if not outright evil.

    For, if the matter be well considered, it will be seen that some habits which appear virtuous, if adopted would signify ruin, and others that seem vices lead to security and the well being of the prince

    The security of the West must come first, everything else must follow. If the West does not survive as a cohesive society and culture, then Islamism will prevail. The p-idealists are ideologically incapable of fighting effectively against the Islamists, if the empirists lose, Darkness will prevail. Of course, it will be highly unlikely that the West will fall. Much more likely is the ultimate verification of Wretchard's Three Conjectures Scenario. The Arab/Muslim world will be turned into a glass lake, and Europe can do nothing to stop it. Our goal, the whole purpose of the War on Terror, is to prevent that outcome. Anything that can prevent that final solution of the Islamist issus should be done. In relation to the POW abuse story, I am not saying it was right. It was not. Nor am I advocating torture. It doesn't work. Rather, I am saying that the "moral highground" is best achieved by doing the most good, in this case saving the Arab/Muslim world from itself. Anything is more morally acceptable than necessary genocide/theocide. As Machiavelli would tell us, were he alive in such dark times.


    Tuesday, May 04, 2004

    What is Victory?

    At This site, the author, who goes by the moniker LJ, states that he feels that

    [U]ltimately everything will work out in the end.

    I responded by stating that I feel it is necessary for us to remain optimistic until the end, for "defeat" will be sour indeed. I suppose that defeat may be the wrong word, in that we will survive and the Islamists won't, but it is not the best outcome. Turning the Islamic/Arab world into the surface of the moon is not an outcome that will rest easy on the West's soul. In fact, the damage done may well be permanent. It is my sincere hope that we can avoid seeing Wretchard's Second Conjecture demonstrated to be true. It would make me sleep much easier at night to know that I avoided being forced to kill millions in order to secure myself and others from harm, whether from the fury of the atom or the existential rage of the virus. I dare say that I would very much like to win. But this leads to a question, as yet answered in full: What is Victory?

    How will the West know that it has won? What metrics can we use to discern that we have at long last won the war against the Darkness? Will it be when protestors stop marching in the streets shouting "Death to America?" Or will it merely be when they stop trying to attack us? Or would that only include organized attacks, and not random violence, so much akin to shooting sprees in the United States? Should we aim for something concrete, such as the elimination of all possible organized armed groups that represent a threat to the West? Instead, should we aim for something more abstract, such as: "When they stop hating us." Of course, how do you measure something as abstract as hatred?

    There are many metrics, which do we use as an indicator? I am unsure right now. I think that I will ask around the blogosphere to see what others think. I have some ideas of my own that need to be fleshed out. More soon, hopefully.

    Update: Some responses are already in, and some others should be in by tomorrow. I hope to finish my thoughts by tomorrow.

    Update #2: I am still waiting for a few responses, in the interim I will be working on my own thoughts. I will post the responses, and my response, in a new thread later.


    Close Encounters of the Disturbed Kind

    Tony Woodlief at Sand in the Gears, has an interesting encounter with some neo-nazis. One of the biggest problems with the internet is the forum it gives to those with disturbed views, including the denizens of StormFront. However, like all tools, the internet is not evil, nor good. Rather, it is merely a tool. It is Man who decides whether or not a tool is put to evil use or not. Kudos to Tony for handling this well. The part I especially liked:

    I worship a Jewish carpenter. Hope that puts your leather panties in a nice, tight bind.

    That, as they say, takes Chutzpah.

    Hat Tip: Glenn Reynolds


    Monday, May 03, 2004

    Evil-Straight to Video

    Link here.

    Apparently, the Palestinian savages who killed pregnant mother and her four children not only do so without pity or remorse, but took video of the aftermath, and watched as some of the children bled to death. Words defy me, I must look back into past Nazi atrocities to find a similar vein of evil. Not even the Communists were this cruel and sadistic, and that is saying a lot.

    Hat Tip: LGF


    Sorry for the lack of Posting

    Workload was heavy, and posting suffered. My apologies. Alas, history doesn't wait for us to catch up with it.

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