Nov 24, 2005

King Abdullah of Jordan: "Dedicate reform as a concept"

OK, yeah, the Kuwaitis might be biased in favor of the US because we saved them from annexation by Iraq, then were polite enought to actually leave; but that was 14 years ago so they could've back-slid by now, everyone would understand that and accept it as normal. Besides, the Kuwaitis are Muslim which accounts for more than gratitude for a 4-day war. That's my reasoning for using the Kuwaiti news announcement of King Abdullah of Jordan's letter directing his new prime minister to fight Islama-terrorism. At least the Kuwaiti news agency is not a sure-thing for being pro-American, and being located right there in the region, have a better chance of getting the story right.

And yeah, OK, King Abdullah is half British (on his mother's side) which may account for some preference for the Anglo-American point of view. So I am aware of several sources of likely bias.

But why is Jordan, a small Muslim country surrounded by enemies whose population is totally infiltrated by Palestinians, leading the charge against Militant Islamism? Surely it's not only sympathy for the wedding party who was bombed by Zawaqawi, nor watching American soldiers fight Militant Islamists next door that motivated Abdullah to take such a risk. Could it be that he's drunken of the American Koolaid? Maybe he sincerely believes that democracy really is an effective form of government, that it will let the most people live their lives the way they want to?

Some liberals may say, "what arrogance to try to impose our world view on other populations! If the populance acquiesces to dictatorship whether from active choice (as in the cases of North Korea and Vietnam) or from passivity (as in Iraq), we should let them 'enjoy' their choice." I suppose it's a credible argument that the American strategy of military invasion and occupation is no different from the Militant Islamists' 'jihad' to save the world from Western heretic decadence. They're trying to save our souls, or at least our morals from ourselves.

So who is more righteous? Is it more morally justifiable to use force to create an enviroment where people can choose to be observant or not, or to enforce an environment where people have no choice?

Nov 21, 2005

Mis-Behavin' PC: Repair or Replace?

Over the years, people have replaced their PCs only because they became too buggy. I'm sure a lot of people do this because, not having an intrinsic interest in PCs and software, as I do, it's easier. But it's an expensive way both in terms of money and effort to rebuild your content. Here are my suggested alternative to total replacement:

  1. Buy a flash stick with enough capacity, like 128 MB or more. Put your content files on it so if the whole PC crashes and burns, you at least still have your files. Usually, this just means copying the huge file "My Documents" onto your flash stick. Even if you do decide to move to a new PC, you can load all your files onto the new one easily. This should cost about $40-50. You COULD use a CD to do this, but flash sticks are useful and easy on a continuing basis for file transfer.
  2. Copy to a blank CD those applets that you've added to your PC after its initial installation, for which you don't have CDs or are not on your installation CDs. This would include your browser customization, cookies, etc. Such things are a PAIN to reproduce and some favorite applets have been retired and are gone for good except on your hard drive. Unfortunately you'd also be copying some of the software problems. If you copy your entire Programs file onto the CD, you should have 'picked up' all these little applications. Blank CDs are cheap, like fifty cents or less. There are web-based storage that you can back-up to, then download again, but I'm paranoid about privacy.
  3. Now, take your PC to Fry's or another competent PC repair place and ask them to diagnose your hard drive (about $60-70 dollars). Sometimes, they can 'clean up' your hard drive, get rid of 'offending' software including possible bugs, viruses or erroneously executing programs, increase your RAM (this chip can cost up to $70) ... and make your old PC work better.
  4. If they cannot diagnose/fix the causes of your problems, they can reformat your drive, then reload your original software. Then you PC should be like the first day you got it. You reload your content from your flash stick (which may restore your bugs also.)
  5. If the source of your problems is a damaged hard drive, then a drastic step is to replace your hard drive. New drives, depending on the capacity, a new PC drive can cost $50-$100 and having a pro reload your software is probably another $100.
For between $100-$300, you can over-haul your PC. The end result won't be as good as a brand new PC, one with new software, better features... but it also doesn't cost $500 which is the price for the least expensive, minimal configuration DESKTOP. [Saw an ad for $300 desktop, with rebates.]

The decision is alot like for cars: repair or replace? I have seen bare-bones new laptops for less than $1,000. And I know people who've been very happy with their 'pre-loved' laptops, or eBay bargains.

Your old PC is probably fully depreciated by now, and your time, effort and emotional state are worth a lot too. A brand new PC for Christmas can feel just great!

Nov 20, 2005

US Occupations: Success or Failure

  • 1945 Germany
    Ordered by Roosevelt
    Status = Still there. Successful democracy, good economy, trusted ally
    Years total = 60
  • 1945 Japan
    Ordered by Roosevelt
    Status = Still there. Successful democracy, good economy, trusted ally
    Years total = 60
  • 1954 South Korea
    Ordered by Truman
    Status = Still there. Successful democracy, good economy, trusted ally
    Years total = 51
  • 1962 Vietnam
    Ordered by Kennedy
    Status = Lost. Socialist state, failing economy until US trade pact, 1996
    Years total = 12
  • 1983 Granada
    Ordered by Reagan
    Status = Won. Removed Marxist regime and Cuban troops.
    Years total = <1
  • 1989 Panama
    Ordered by Bush I
    Status = Won. Removed Noriega and his Communist supporters, and drug trafficking.
    Years total = <1
  • 1991 Iraq (Desert Storm)
    Ordered by Bush I
    Status = Won. Dictatorship, Oil for Food kleptocracy, WMD killed thousands, ethnic cleansing of Kurds
    Years total = less than 1
  • 1993 Somalia
    Ordered by Clinton
    Status = Lost. 19 US soldiers killed. UN took over again after failing to disarm combatants and deny civil rights.
    Years total = less than 1
  • 1995 Bosnia
    Ordered by Cinton
    Status = Still there. Pacified region, stopped ethnic cleansing, arrested and put on trial A FEW of the major offenders.
    Years total = 10 so far
  • 2001 Afghanistan
    Ordered by = Bush II
    Status = Still there, democratic election, freedom for women, ejected Al Qaeda, revival of heroin economy.
    Years total = 4, so far
  • 2003 Iraq (Iraqi Freedom)
    Ordered by = Bush II
    Status = Still There, interim democratically elected government, rebuild infrastructure.
    Years total = 3, so far

What's the correlation between how long US forces stayed and the result? Does 'correlation' mean the same as 'causative?'

It seems the long occupations that the US armed forces have done involve 4 phases:

  1. Set up logistics and supply lines in preparation for war. Back in WWII, this took years to get ready, but we were starting from no standing army. Even Desert Storm took 6 months to set-up, for both sides, for us and for the Republican Guards. Tommy Franks' autobiography, "American Soldier," talks about how he (and the rest of the armed services, White House, State Department, etc.) managed to shorten the set-up time to MONTHS, invading Afghanistan barely 3 months after the attack on the US of September 11, 2001.
  2. What Tommy Franks calls "kinetics" -- bombs, bullets, killing, maiming
  3. Pacification -- root out, capture and imprison enemy combatants who won't give up
  4. Reconstruction -- the purpose is to give the locals a relatively secure period in which to set up a government that we like.

The US forces' mission for the last phase, Reconstruction, is a police function. Legal scholars have good arguments for both sides of whether it was the original intent to use our armed forces as policmen. Posse Comitatas says we cannot use the armed services for police functions inside the US, but I don't know the legal issues for foreign lands. And is the National Guard governed differently?

Most countries that we've occupied don't have an effective police force, or the existing police is not 'right thinking' after "kinetics" so US forces stayed to police the conquered. Our continued engagement in Bosnia is a police function. Bush Pere tried to defer that function to Saddam in 1991! That's what we're doing in Afghanistan now, and when we get through Phase 3, we will have to police Iraq for years.

So, my opinion is except in the cases of unworthy adversaries such as Noriega (Panama) and Grenada where we executed all phases within weeks, the length of the Reconstruction phase depends on the local people.

Everyone would agree that by 1960, Germany and Japan were stable and self-sufficient. They didn't need US forces to keep the peace while they build the government and economy. So why did we stay? US forces stayed because Germany wanted continued US spending on bases and to defray their cost to hold the line against Soviet tanks. The Japanese spent 2% of the GDP on defense because the US is paying for it. Why should they want us to leave when our occupation is worth so much money? Ditto South Korea, although there are bad sentiments against US occupation. Now that Kim Jong-il has nuclear weapons, I wonder whether the S. Koreans have revised their opinion of US forces' continued tenure there?

Our occupation of Afghanistan and of Iraq might follow the same pattern. Conspiracy theorists and even some serious policy analysts believe that the our presence in Iraq is the spearhead for US military bases, to set-up (Phase I) in the heart of that Moslem dominated region. I believe that the occupation of Iraq is indeed the Phase 1 for eventual 'kinetics' against Iran, and to send a wake-up call to the militant Islamists of Indonesia.

Nov 18, 2005

Exit Strategy for US Commitments in Iraq?

This post is a commentary on an article , "What Good is NATO?" by Clifford D. May, the president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. His article is about a report by former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar about the future of NATO, so I recognize the information loss and distortions that my post, a second derivative, implies.

Several assumptions:

  • Militant Islamism is responsible for at least some of global terrorism
  • Militant Islamism's goal is to wipe out democracy
  • NATO has fulfilled its original mission (defend Europe against the Soviet Bloc)
  • NATO needs a new mission

The provocative recommendations of Aznar's report are:

  • approval of democracy-building as an objective of peace operations over and above the goal of nation-building.
  • creation of an operational command for post-conflict democracy-building operations, establishment of a joint fund to finance these missions and creation of a 'Partnership for Freedom
  • NATO must become a veritable Alliance for Freedom, one whose primary objective is to defeat terror[ism]

My Opinion:

I absolutely agree that Militant Islamism, or militant anything-ism, must be defeated. I doubt that even Foaming At The Mouth Lefties or Foaming At The Mouth Right Wing Crazies have any apologists for militancy. (Well OK, we've experienced Socialism and Facism, opposing ends of the militant political spectrum. I withdraw my previous statement.)

A global effort that is supported by many countries would work better than a unilateral American effort. Such an effort would be less contentious in the hyper-partisan American domestic political arena. That's probably why Aznar's report is enjoying support from US Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman as well as from Republican Senator Jon Kyl. And such a proposal might dampen objections from those who insist that only world organizations, instead of national initiatives, have any legitimacy to deal with just about any issue. (Why don't such people appreciate nations that step up, that expend their own wealth and lives to solve problems, instead of waiting for world groups to get their collective acts together while the victims of terrorism continue to die?)

On the one hand, 're-targeting' an existing organization such as NATO may conceivably save at least part of the learning curve to establsh a new organization. But we all can chant in proper choral form the litany of problems with large bureaucracies such as NATO:

  • Stuck in the past
  • Self serving, maybe even corrupt
  • Slow moving, paralyzed by bureaucracy
  • Mired in a culture of internal politics
  • Myopically focused on internal lines drawn for old battles; unable to re-organize
  • etc., etc., etc.

On the other hand, using NATO to achieve goals has these advantages:

  • NATO already has the mandate to defend, if not promote democracy as a form of government
  • Revising its mission would say out loud that "Yeah, we're nation-building and furthermore, building democratic nations"
  • It has a huge force that's already existant and on-site
  • Funding processes are already in place
  • Funds are already allocated
  • Participants already know each other's agendas and constraints
  • Participants already know how to horse-trade with each other
  • The organization already has the veneer of international participation


NATO is already remote controlled by the US

So, if the US gets other NATO members to accept this idea of re-targeting NATO, and gets more of our allies to join it, we can still run the global war against terrorism, hand over to the new NATO our responsibilites in Iraq and move on to the next candidates for democratization: Syria and Indonesia. We can shut up the crassly irresponsible self-serving partisan rhetoric that doesn't even address the issue of defeating terrorism and building enduring democract governments.


Nov 11, 2005

Pacifying Fallujah, examples of failures

I have the impression that Liberals might think I like to have people killed. I don't. My thinking is that the chaos in Fallujah was killing everybody -- American soldiers, American contractors, coalition folks, Iraqi soldiers, Iraqi policemen, fighters and civilians, foreign terrorists, everybody. The situation was so chaotic that non-partisans cannot conduct their lives. That's why I wanted that place pacified.

The locals apparently can't do it. 25 years of victimization by Saddam made sure they had no weapons, no leadership, no organization and maybe not even the idea that they are responsible for themselves, nor the confidence that they can do something to control their lives. So who's left to stop the chaos other than our troops?

The Left often says that the UN should mediate conflicts, not the US. I think our armed forces would LOVE for the UN to spend its gold and its lives instead of ours, but the UN has been ineffective.

Look at Somalia for an alternative policy and outcome. The civil war has completely destroyed the infrastructure so that it is extremely hard to maintain even a subsistence economy. The UN tried to disarm the entire population and failed. So we tried in a half hearted way. We were thrown out. We lost lives and didn't help the people. Now, 10 years after we withdrew, the Somali people are still suffering and no one is helping them. Was that a better outcome?

Bosnia is another example. We intervened after a YEAR of blatent ethnic cleansing while the Europeans did nothing and the UN wrung its hands. Clinton said our troops would be there for a year. That was 1992.

And the Nazis during WWII. Who defeated them? How long are we in Germany and Japan? The strongest must help the weak; it's our duty.

Whether or not US intervention in all these cases was just or legal, the fact is we must try to affect a good outcome. War creates an environment that causes people to be crazy, fearful, depressed... and prevents people from running their lives. My parents, an example of young people just starting a family in the 1940s, had bright futures until the Japanese invaded and the Chinese Communist Revolution exacerbated an already bad situation. My parents lost everything, twice.

If the US decided to withdraw our troops worldwide tomorrow, will the lives of the Japanese, Taiwanese, South Koreans, Bosnians, Iraqis, Afghanis... be better? Our lives would be better because we'd get another post-war bonus. All that money we're spending on helping those foreign countries can now be spent at home.

I would like to experience world peace. I believe that all people, whatever their political allegiences, all want the best outcome. The disagreement among the ideologies is on how to achieve the best outcome, not whether or not to achieve a good outcome. I don't think people who disagree with me are evil. They might be mis-informed or think differently, but they don't want people to have worse lives. I hope people with whom I disagree also give me credit for not being evil.

Paris' Banlieues are Burning: Schadenfreud for the French

(Written 2 weeks earlier than the date of this blog post)

I should be ashamed to take delight in the French's misfortunes, but I'm not.

The French told us that we should appease Muslim extremists, that 'taking them on' is the wrong policy. The French went on to say that they have so much more culture, knowledge, finesse, experience, etc., etc. in managing national issues than we idiotic children so we should follow their advice. They might have partaken a bit of Schadenfreud when our guys were getting killed in Iraq.

So now, their liberal immigration policies, combined with their Chauvinistic culture and Socialist economic practices have blossomed to riots all over their country. I hope the Muslim underclasses of Germany and Great Britain decide to emulate.

You might say what's happening to them and how they deal with it has nothing to do with us. But it DOES affect us because their policies HURT us by:

- radicalizing the Muslim youth, who might graduate to being suicide bombers. Exerpted from The Economist:

The role of Islam in the rioting is more complicated. Some
commentators see signs of a jihad on the streets of Paris. Ivan Rioufol, a columnist for Le Figaro, called it “the beginnings of an intifada”. Yet intelligence sources suggest that this is not organised violence but anarchic rioting, helped by internet and mobile-phone contact. Roughly half of those arrested have been teenagers, most of them in their own suburbs, since they lack the transport to go anywhere else. Even in Evry, where the petrol-bomb store was uncovered, officials say that the teenagers involved were petty criminals, not radicalised fanatics. This was the angry rebellion of a beardless, Nike-wearing teenage underclass.
- consolidating the 'brotherhood of Muslims" worldwide (exerpted from The

Officials are particularly concerned by French Muslims now in Iraq, and by recent converts, especially those who found their faith in prison; ...

- weakening their economies
- destablizing their governments

Even assuming that the rioting works itself out, no mainstream politician is likely to emerge unscathed. The far right will surely gain support. But the Socialist Party has been too split to offer any sensible suggestions. And the centre-right government has been left looking impotent, confused and more engrossed by the undeclared contest between Mr de Villepin and Mr Sarkozy ahead of the 2007 presidential election than by the need to formulate social policy.

America might have to expend our lives and treasure to save their asses again.

Off-Shoring is an inexorable economic trend

Tom Friedman, a columnist for the New York Times, not at all a conservative fringe writer, said it much better than I in his book "The World is Flat."

Here are my points:

  • Some companies have learned from years of experience that the hidden cost of management, responsiveness, and the opportunity cost of innovation make off-shoring not worth it, so they're bringing some jobs back. This topic isn't only a labor issues, it's a technology innovation and IP management issue.

  • America isn't graduating enough baccalaureate level scientists and engineers. 40 years of 'alternative education' exacerbated by 25 years of political correctness, multi-culturalism and other social costs designed to boost egos rather than train scientists and engineers are showing their impact. If we had lots of American-born engineers, our engineering wages would be more competitive with those overseas (supply and demand, remember?).

  • One of America's highly demanded products is graduate level education. Our graduate level education, especially in science and engineering (including medicine) is un-rivaled in the world. But more and more graduate students are not American-born because American youth would rather be entertainers or lawyers than engineers and doctors. Nothing wrong with that, just that Indians, Koreans, Chinese, Israelis, Egyptians, Russians, Turks... would rather be engineers and doctors.

  • If we are indeed capitalists and believe in the fairness of the Invisible Hand -- the free market -- then we will see that off-shoring is following a natural economic trend. Just like the argument that illegal Mexican immigrants take the jobs that Americans don't want, at a pay level that Amercians won't accept, off-shoring is a symptom of the exact same thing but in high tech.
    Off shoring is not new. The US used to have a steel industry, a textile industry, a ship building industry, a semiconductor fabrication industry, a computer assembly industry... all moved to countries with lower labor costs. Do we miss them? Sure. Has our economy suffered? No. We grew from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-based one -- a knowledge-based economy.

  • Our best national strategy is not protectionism, unionism, railing at natural economic evolution and the fundamental tenents of capitalism. Our best strategy is to run faster than everyone else on the technology and innovation treadmill -- invent more, commercialize faster, be more ingenius, invest more venture funds, spend more on R&D, sponsor more applied research, help entrepreneurs more in our tax policy, rationalize our intellectual property policy, establish free trade zones, and yes, retrain workers into jobs that have high economic value. We know how to do it and have been doing it for generations. Responsible citizens have the duty to SUPPORT these programs.

  • We should be happy and grateful that talented people from all over the world want to HELP us by making personal sacrifices to come here and LEARN what we teach, then work here, then take their knowledge home to help their country be richer, to give their people more choices. We should be proud that so many people admire the way we reward talent, hard work and risk taking by trying to be like us, trying to attain our lifestyle.

Instead of complaining about how our former jobs have moved to lower paid people overseas, we should make ourselves suitable for new jobs, jobs that are worth $150,000 in US dollars. Jobs that increase knowledge, improve lives, that eventually will move to other economies. The American torrent of innovation and 'can do' attitude are America's greatest gifts to the world.