< meta name="DC.Date.Valid.End" content="20050825"> Amendment Nine: July 2006

Monday, July 24, 2006

What Israel Isn't Doing

Ralph Peters is starting to write the obituary for the IDF in his latest column. While I think it is a tad premature to wave any white flags, the strategy Israel wanted to execute, compared to the strategy they did execute, has left the latter wanting.

Peters boldly charges Olmert with wanting to "wage war on the cheap." Ralph compares this to Bill Clinton which is fair, but I suppose a more contemporary example would have been equally sufficient, though of course, that is all beside the point.

The point here is to realize that democracies don't like casualties. You can't change that. They especially don't like them when the war is not romantic, when it is fought close to home, and when it involves the destruction of another democracy.

But there are ways around this. And for some reason, the West, Israel, and all "New Core" like nations who are trying desperately to get a handle on terrorism within their own borders are failing magnificently at coming up with solutions.

Before we can come up with solutions, we have to realize our mistakes of course. And as noted above, it is a big mistake to think that Western styled democracies will endure casualties in large number. So therefore, waging a battle which can only be won through the suffering of a large number of casualties is not a good strategy. It's like saying: "our fans came here to watch a baseball game, but we're so much better at cricket." Do that one too many times and you run out of fans, believe me!

So here are some suggestions: don't suffer any casualties. Pay for someone else to suffer them. Private military contractors can and probably should fill the void where democracies don't want to fight. They have the capability to run in quickly, hit camps efficiently, bring intense power to bear on a small locale, and at the end of the day, kill terrorists with bullets. They don't want to lose anyone, but they are also not going to fail the mission if they can help it.

Let's save our blood for the big battles, and pay for someone else's in the interim. I know that sounds crass, but the rate of casualty for Israel in a successful operation in Southern Lebanon is on the hundreds. The rate of professional forces on the other hand, would probably be a little less, and for the political capital saved by using them, you'd come away with a nice profit on the whole. Call it proprietary personnel arbitrage if you will.

Next, go back to the common law to police things within contact to your jurisdiction. Israeli common law exists, though it doesn't have nearly the same power as it does here in the US or in the UK for that matter. Raise a hue and cry, deputize a posse, and round up the bad guys on or near your border... as you have a legal right to do.

I'll post more on the hue and cry later in the week, but it is a legal strategy I'm surprised no one has ventured a hypothesis on as of yet. For a long time border raids were a near constant in American frontier life, and the common law gave these raiders the case specific privilege needed to effectuate localized change. That is the only way to get this done without a full scale occupation.

In short, use the tools at your disposal which will avoid the regular military casualties that your public will not allow you to suffer (and for good reason, in my humble opinion). We might be surprised at the results of such methods (then and now).

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Better Barnett

I took a little heat for a post of mine which criticised aspects of the Barnett hypothesis. All well and good, and from my view, enjoyable.

But let me laud Dr. Barnett as well from time to time. There is a "better" side of him in my opinion, one which sometimes gets lost in the seemingly frenetic shuffle he makes day to day.

This post of his is the better Barnett. Indeed, it is Barnett at his best. I'll quote the relevant portion:

Now, Gingrich, among others, are reviving the talk of WWIII that a lot of excited pundits were tossing about right after 9/11.

I consider this approach to be as wrongheaded as the End Times thinking: it's a form of escapism that turns the definition of war on its head.

All true, well formulated, and timely. Tom goes on to describe a list of dispostive factors weighing against the WW-III analogy. The most central issue is easily overlooked:

Fourth, the scale here is all wrong. Not just the tiny percentages of combatants, but the tiny amounts of death. This whole "world war" since 9/11 hasn't yielded a good week's worth of WWII dead.
Exactly. Easy to skip this point as some sort of bravado, but that's what makes it all the more true. We fought glorious wars, and this ain't one of them. A commander who misses the place the battle "shall be fought" is someone who will most likely end up captured. WW-III is not the battlefield here, long, grueling, tedious raids and counters are the battlefield. A nation that mobilizes itself for a massive D-Day styled invasion is a nation two steps away from being held hostage.

This is Barnett at his best. Plain, simple, and stimulating.

Now, I'd be remiss if I didn't point the subtle (though direct) similarities between my earlier criticism and what Barnett views as a suitable analogy. He argues the "Long War" where are in is akin to the settling of the West...
I'm pushing the far longer concept (I'm a big believer of Abizaid's Long War concept) of the settling of the Wild West.
Or if you want to be real precise, more like the settling of the East. I agree with Tom, and it appears, he agrees with me. The question remaining is whether or not America is ready for the Wild West again.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Anti-Lochner

With these words (and a few others of course!):
Some of these laws embody convictions or prejudices which judges are likely to share. Some may not. But a Constitution is not intended to embody a particular economic theory, whether of paternalism and the organic relation of the citizen to the state or of laissez faire. It is made for people of fundamentally differing views, and the accident of our finding certain opinions natural and familiar, or novel, and even shocking, ought not to conclude our judgment upon the questions whether statutes embodying them conflict with the Constitution of the United States. Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45 (1905).

Holmes provided the spark which would slowly ignite and cause the legal realist movement. It was a dissent of course. Let's not forget that.

But a lot about his dissent has been overlooked. Especially the apparent role played by functionalism in the jurisprudence of Holmes. Compare the above quote with the following...
The logical stickler for justice always seems pedantic and mechanical to the man who goes by tact and the particular instance, and who usually makes a poor show at argument. Sometimes the abstract conceiver’s way is better, sometimes that of the man of instinct. But just as in our study of reasoning we found it impossible to lay down any mark whereby to distinguish right conception of a concrete case from confusion, so here we can give no general rule for deciding when it is morally useful to treat a concrete case as sui generis, and when to lump with others in an abstract class… Suffice it that these judgments express inner harmonies and discords between objects of thought; and that whilst outer cohesions frequently repeated will often seem harmonious, all harmonies are not thus engendered… [emphasis in original.] [William James, The Principles of Psychology, (Hutchins, ed., reprinted 1952) (1890)]
Here, James analyzes moral judgment through the lens of then nascent functionalist psychology. Where Holmes saw such coincidence as accidental, James saw it as arbitrary, and vice versa throughout both texts. For Holmes the slogan is: "every opinion tends to become law." For James, the similar slogan: "A thing is important if anyone think it important."

What does this mean? Well, it might mean that much of the jurisprudence in the 20th century of America could well parallel the same movements experienced in contemporary psychology . It might also mean we can probably predict how the law will continue to unfold in the next century, as we look to psychological developments as bellweathers.

But at the end of the day, it probably definitely means that the impact of Williams James on the world was bigger than first thought. He seems to have been a little more than just a friend of Justice Holmes.

A Question for the A9 Audience

Attention all A9 readers, just curious how well a certain paper might be received here and looking for your feedback, appreciative in advance...

If I used the term "information cost theory" what would you think I meant?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Robb's Read

Robb points out a key to Hizbullah's strength:
They [Hizbullah] are as happy to fight under occupation as they are to rule temporary autonomous zones in Lebanon (same goes for Hamas). Their primary loyalties are actually strengthened under occupation, unlike a state that requires territorial control, a conventional military, and a functional economy for legitimacy. Defeating them conventionally won't matter. They will merely move to guerrilla warfare.
Which is why for myself, and many other watchers of the conflict I've conversed with over the last 48 hours, it seems like Hizbullah's (and by implication, Iran's) goal here is to bog down Israel into guerrilla warfare in Southern Lebanon (and if they can get Hamas to play likewise, all the better to tie them with strings in Gaza as well).

With the US already on overload in Iraq, sucking Israel into a reoccupation plays to the strength of "the resistance"... more importantly, it puts Iran firmly in control of the timetable for the next 6-8 months. That's why the recent Ghajar actions (though predictable) are at least worrisome. Israel's reaction was completely known, and the test run of this back in 12/2005 provided the color to Hizbullah and Iran.

I don't see the US and Israel doing anything other than flying on a rather disorganized auto-pilot at this point. They aren't setting the terms, and if the playbook isn't quickly changed, Iran will be holding yet another face card.

Made in China

Lots of stuff is made in China these days. My favorite computers, the laptops from Apple, are proudly made in China. The socks I'm wearing, both of them boast a made in China style. Indeed, it's hard to look around anywhere today and not see something that was made in China.

That goes for those of you in Haifa currently examining the holes in the roof of your train depot. As well as the those of you at Lake Tiberius wondering what caused that fire and smoke. And of course, sadly and seriously, it goes for all those survivors who have lost loved ones in Israel over the last few days, especially those of you who lost loved ones on the Israeli warship hit by missles off the coast of Lebanon.

Hizbullah's new toys, their SAM-7s, their 333mm rockets, their C 802 missles, all probably were sent from Iran on their way to Lebanon, which is itself an act of aggression by Iran... but don't forget, all these toys were also made in China.

Worst Post Ever

Of all the hairbrained, stupid, idiotic things ever said. Of all the selfishly silly, sycophantic, simpleton comments ever made. This has to be the worst...
It's clear that in the Middle East, no one is sick of the fighting.
Is it now? Seems to me that whats clear is that, at Daily Kos, there's some explaining to do.

Achilles Heel of Non-State Actors

This isn't my theory, but the person who argued it just now (quite effectively) won't blog on it. So, here goes...

The soft spot of non-state actors (i.e. outlaws) is that they are outlaws, therefore private citizens, therefore without any state sovereignty to run behind should they be sued in tort. Hmm....

Further, the argument goes, the soft spot of certain undesirable states is that they employ private citizens to do their dirty work (i.e. state sponsored terrorism) in order to avoid international opprobrium, and so can be said to have waived their immunity. Double hmm....

If trading partners would tailor their tort laws to respect certain common law rights of action against private citizens, then, complaints a plenty, many a judgment, some whopping liens, and quite a few levies would be certain to follow.

I believe this strategy is being tried (in some sense) in this case, and I call it the "that's it, send in the lawyers" tactic.

Obviously there are some huge problems with the technique, especially in the feasability department. But there are some intriguing aspects to this. If this is truly a "Long War" the surest way to end it is to dry up the other side's capital assets. One time tested way of doing this is by running up their debt (afterall, they are doing it to us). Has anyone thought about what would happen to countries who are essentially debt free if suddenly they had to, for example, start running a 0.5% GDP deficit?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Bombay Bombing and Antibodies

It will always be Bombay to me... so much for that. I've been slowly digesting the news about the train bombings in Bombay, as well as some rather insightful analysis here and here as well.

I must admit, those who can so quickly analyze these events in a dispassionate and objective frame of mind are people I truly admire. I'm typically on autopilot for the first few weeks after something like this happens. All instinctual, not very intelligent I freely concede.

But piecing together what I can from news accounts, analysis, and other sources of information, I'm struck by a couple of things.
(1) The bombers could not have gone after a more unprepared, overcrowded, inept target. The police in India are pathetic. Their resources scarce. Their capability to counter and foil plots like these is almost non-existent.

(2) The rate of change from utterly useless to somewhat meaningful presence in the police force in Bombay has been staggering. As if overnight, the police and other domestic security forces in India have started to cooperate, burning the midnight oil, getting things done.

(3) Stories of the "poor" in Bombay helping out (like this one for example), indeed in some instances acting as first responders in America, are not only widespread, but the stuff of legend. Inspiration will be found from these, and it will bring an otherwise deeply separated community more together than before.

(4) The people of Bombay appear to have given up completely on their domestic security forces and as a result, are taking many matters into their own hands. They are searching platforms now, looking in bins, under railtracks, etc.
I can't draw too many conclusions from these observations, like I said, my head still isn't really that cool. However, if I were a doctor, and able to give cold, dispassionate diagnosis, I would say these observations are evidence of some type of disease fighting mechanism, and if we allow it to catalyze, it just might kill this ailment off.

I'm equally struck by how many of these trends were present after 9/11 in America, and how few of them are present outside NYC in America today.

UPDATE: I stupidly forgot to link to Mark's post over at Zenpundit, which was equally insightful but having the benefit of piecing all others together. He's also recently posted a comment over here, which I commend to everyone's attention but that I also hope a certain A9 commenter will take a look at when he has the time... nudge, nudge, wink to Smith.

Also, in general, I've received some email from regular commenters here asking about Zenpundit, Robb's site, tdaxp, PurpleSlog and others. There is a certain cross-referential culture between all these blogs (and several more), and they are all excellent. I can't endorse one over the other, but can say without a doubt that each of these writers puts a good deal of thought into what they write about and it shows. Bookmark them!

What Brand of Christianity is That?

I usually don't interfere with the hows and whys of final tributes. Good rhetoric, regardless of it's veracity, can still be pleasing. But there are exceptions... From the funeral of Ken Lay, a man of the cloth had this to say:
"He reached out to touch many people from many backgrounds ... many economic levels ... that included minorities like me."

"Ken Lay was neither black nor poor, but I'm angry because Ken Lay was a victim of a lynching."

"The folks who don't like him have had their say. I'd like to have mine ... (Like Jesus Christ) he was crucified by a government that mistreated him."

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


If someone called you the "son of a terrorist whore", what should you do?

Would you feel bad if the response was this?

Or would you not really give a shit? More here.

UPDATE: It seems blogger didn't like my Greek. Let me try again...

menin aeide thea peleiadeo achileos

Monday, July 10, 2006

Westport, CT

It used to be that one side of Westport was all mostly new homes. Sometimes referred to as "Greens Farms", it's the side where Martha Stewart and other Johnny Come Lately types reside. Gigantic Nantucket or New England Farmhouse style homes with as little aesthetic appeal as modesty.

Now though, all the old sections, including my beloved Old Hill, have become carbon copies of the incessant drive to build bigger, more grandiose, more four car garaged homes.

Generally, I don't care about such things. People want to spend a million dollars just to rip down an old lakehouse so they can spend another million building a McMansion, that's fine, their business, their money.

But at a certain point, the scale becomes so overwhelming... Half acre lots weren't meant for 8,000 square foot homes. And if you put one on such a lot, you need to do it carefully.

Little towns like Westport, whose value is found in its beauty, not its size, will find that they quickly lose their appeal with just a few small errors. As for me, I'm already looking for the next border town between New England and New York, Westport has been consumed.