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Saturday, November 15, 2003

Gyre



It looks as if the US will hand over authority to a transitional Iraqi authority in mid-2004, although US forces will remain there until it is "free and peaceful".

There is nothing particular wrong with this, but there are so many questions unanswered; two which strike me as particularly difficult:

i) What if the transitional authority (or its successor) wants to restrain US forces from, for example, demolishing warehouses? That is, does it matter that formal sovereignty has been transferred if the most powerful active military force inside a state is not a domestic force? (I want to call this the Weber question.)

ii) How can anyone rely on this timetable as against all the others that have come along, been proclaimed enthusiastically, and then rapidly abandoned in the face of opposition attacks, less-pliant-than-expected local leaders, et c? (I want to call this the rational expectations question.)

Of course all of these questions have plausible answers (the Weber question is unproblematic if you think West Germany was a sovereign state between 1949 and 1956; the rational expectations question becomes unproblematic the more the US is capable of sticking to its timetable) but each will cause the US grief, because neither answer is really credible ex ante. I'm not sure I would trust the coalition to allow the transition authority to exercise authentic sovereign power; I'm certainly not sure the timetable will be stuck to, being either delayed or accelerated, or followed with a substantial withdrawal of forces even while fighting continues. The transition fundamentally needs credibility: people need to be able to sign contracts with entities who they can be certain will be around in a year or two's time. Certainty and security are crucial to successful polities and the timetable does little to address that. I could make a crack about the Straussians-in-charge having failed to read Hobbes, but the sad thing is that they probably think they have.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Gibber



This post at Pandagon and the following comments are both brilliant (Jesse) and disturbing. Mandatory, mandatory reading, the whole thing, and then go off and read "The Paranoid Strain in American Politics".

Thursday, November 13, 2003

The real reason why Kim du is a Toit



Pretty much everyone has had a go at Kim the Toit's hilariously (albeit unintentionally) self-revealing rant about masculinity, and there have been scattered responses to his rather pathetic response to his critics. Fish in a barrel, poor lamb.

Anyhow, having now actually heard of KdT I have managed to read a fair few of his magna opus, linked to as "major essays"; and let me say here and now that I think blogland should realise that these two pieces on masculinity are much the best things he has done. Because the rest, oh god, the rest:

The desire to change the constitution, the belief that it needs interpretation by people more learned than KdT, the speaking of languages other than English or the encouragement of immigration by non-English speakers, and the description of oneselves as "progressives", "socialists", "communitarians", "populists", or "globalists", each constitutes a separate charge of treachery which will make it much easier for Germany to invade the United States, and should be punished by firing squad.

Given the vast empathy and understanding of the rest of Africa that has always been the birthright of white South Africans, KdT understands that no-one should worry in the slightest about the death of thousands or millions of black Africans.

Best of all: Chicago is really great despite being full of liberals. Somehow, he never manages to put together that there may be a cause and effect here. Maybe liberals have good taste? Maybe, conversely, liberal policies produce good places to live? Anyhow, it appears he feels unhappy at his political representation:

U.S. and state representatives are (big surprise) female and (no surprise) Jewish

(clearly, anti-semitism isn't anti-semitism if you're not a Euro-peacenik).

When the great man finally decides to leave - and he does mention his wife here, but, let's face it, if he were to allow her any say, he'd be breaking the sacred laws of anti-"pussification" - he faces a problem. Various wack-job views prevent him from settling in forty-six of the fifty United States to which he proclaims such enthusiastic loyalty. But then three of the remaining states are "boonies", and most of the remaining state is equally unacceptable. He can only find a single locality in the entire United States which is acceptable to him, and it's Fort Worth. Christ.

There was always a fundamental respect for Steven den Beste in D-squared's wonderful, shortlived, SSdB series. That is: they were cruel, but among SdB's prolixity and bizarre pieces of irrelevant knowledge and lack of political judgement, there is a real brain working quite hard and making itself quite well-informed, and you can actually learn stuff and even challenge yourself a bit by reading it. There is just nothing in KdT apart from repulsive, ill-argued prejudice against every group to which he does not belong, or does not admit he belongs.



Strategery


Intel Dump has the usual intelligent analysis of today's WaPo article arguing that the ongoing resistance to coalition forces in Iraq was designed as a conscious strategy by the prior regime. I don't think anyone really has the resources, though, to tell whether the WaPo people are being fed rubbish (again) about the nature of the resistance or not: it seems very plausible that there is a range of different kinds of things going on, possibly undertaken by very different groups, perhaps with some very basic core sense of mission guidelines as ID suggests. But when one thinks of prior suggestions that have turned out to be basically wrong - that this is all foreign fighters, that this is the mess of transition, that this is a handful of dead-enders personally loyal to Saddam - well, it doesn't look good. My overly credulous friend from Texas told me in August that the deaths of Uday and Qusay would surely reduce the amount of resistance the Americans were facing, and I took a too-early-to-tell stance; I think it's still too early to tell.

Next March, though, we should have some idea (surely) about how sustainable this level of resistance is, and how willing other countries are to continue the occupation. There is the story that Japan will not now send troops imminently; the Italian contribution must also be in doubt over the medium term. The Berlusconi government could fall at any time, quite easily, and the opposition have called for immediate withdrawal. Moreover I understand there will be a national holiday next week for the funerals of those killed, and it will be hard to minimise the impact of the dead and injured on the political process in Italy as easily as the US administration is able to ban access to the unloading of flag-covered coffins at Dover AFB.

One point which ID doesn't bring up: the US is clearly changing its strategy in Baghdad and other areas, and becoming much more aggressive: using Apache helicopters and aircraft to attack suspicious vehicles and buildings. Now, this may be fine as far as it goes. Clearly both the US and the resistance have changed tactics over time, partly in response to what works (hence many very cheerful news articles about how things have been going well since the coalition changed tactics; and many depressed ones about how much more successful the resistance has been since it changed tactics), partly in response to changed capabilities, and partly in response to what the other side is doing. However, the risk of using attacks by air in even moderately built-up areas on moving or non-military targets is just enormous. Firstly, it mirrors Israeli tactics in the occupied territories: very, very bad idea. Secondly, even aside from that, it creates a serious probability of a missile hitting the wrong car, a bomb going astray, and significant numbers of civilian casualties in a single incident. Thirdly, it's all too reminiscent of appalling British tactics of using aircraft to bomb, strafe and drop poison gas on recalcitrant villages in the 1920s. I'm trying and failing to think of a successful attempt, in modern times, to deal with guerillas/terrorism/resistance/etc using air power in urban areas. If the new strategy is to try to recreate combat rather than essentially policing situations then it is deeply misguided: it is the coalition forces trying to get the resistance to fight them on the coalition's preferred terms, and they are just not likely to take up such an unappealing option.



Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Things I turn out to be correct about



Part I in a regular series.

Royal media disastrous mishandling prediction: spot on! Well done me.
Tory leadership prediction: also spot on! ditto.

Huzzah!

(I seem to be too busy to blog much but I still need the approbation. Hopefully more time later in the week.)

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