The Third Rail

Friday, August 02, 2002


"The latter apparently refused, reportedly saying that he was afraid of the reaction of his parents and that the family's home might be demolished in retaliation."

"A week before the planned attack, however, she surrendered, saying that one of the reasons was concern that her family's home might be demolished."

That's what works. If you want to discourage someone from doing something, you must make the price of that action affect what it is they care about - directly undermine the goal they are trying to achieve. You must hurt them worse than their act will hurt you.


We got another one. I repeat myself a lot on this, but I feel this slow erosion of Al Qaeda operatives helps us more than anything. It denies Al Qaeda any place to plan in peace, and the continuing arrests must be a blow to their morale. They've failed to pull off anything big since September 11, yet our successes have been substantial. This will be a long war. Early victories like this deprive Al Qaeda of enthusiastic supporters who can train others.

In World War II, our victory at Midway was important for several reasons, but one continuing legacy of the battle was that we killed so many veteran pilots that the Japanese lacked a core that could pass on lessons to the next generation. By 1944 naval air supremacy was so vast and the Japanese zero pilots so ineffective that one of the last major carrier battles was called the Marianas Turkey Shoot. This could be the same story here.


Damn straight. Don't be a FINK, read this article on the monstrosity that is TIPS: a program that won't work. TIPS will unlikely add to any real intelligence needed to stop these terrorists. All it will do is create an informer culture in America, and we don't need that type of servile fear in this country. Let me give you an example of what I know will be the type of "tips" this service will collect:

For 2 years I lived with a Sudanese Muslim as a roommate. He's a good man with no support of terrorism. Unlike most people who live here, he knows what living under a corrupt dictatorship is like and how politically connected Imams abuse Islam to support their corruption and oppression. Shortly before 9-11, he was visited by a friend of his from Boston. His girlfriend from Boston would call our house to talk with him during that week. Well after the attacks, the girlfriend's mother saw this strange phone bill to Phoenix, Arizona (where she knew no one) with a Muslim name attached to it. Guess what she did.

She reported to the FBI that she thought her Vietnamese housekeepers (in Boston) were conspiring with this unknown Mulsim in Arizona to plot terrorist acts.

This is the type of idiotic shit people will come up with.


Thursday, August 01, 2002


I've cleared out a lot of old stuff. There's a few good posts I'm terribly proud of, but they're already showing their age. I'm out of here for now. As a parting gift, Warren Ellis is finally updating his website again. Go see it, you bastards.


GET THE HELL OUT OF SAUDI ARABIA! Who in their right mind would even be there now? Not too long ago a friend showed me the movie "Tea with Mussolini" about the fates of several British women in Florence, Italy who refused to move to Britain after WWII began. They were, of course, fools, not withstanding any blather about them "overcoming great odds" or other nonsense associated with people surviving their own idiotic mistakes. I couldn't really enjoy the movie as I was constantly thinking, "They shouldn't even be there!" I'm doing it again now.


I usually like Suman Palit's posts (hey, he's from Chicago!), but this is hogwash. First, let's take his original "I3" countries - India, Iran, and Israel. Other than alliteration, nothing holds all 3 of these countries together, and grammar is a poor basis to conduct foreign policy. While, Israel and India do have certain common interests together they are too far apart to render any truly meaningful advantage to one another. The inclusion of Iran is simply a fantasy even assuming the best spin in any post-Mullah Persia, which alone is not certain.

Why would Iran seek any sort of mass engagement with Israel that would be necessary for any sort of "political axis?" In a democratic Iran, we can expect an end to terrorist support, but Iran isn't like to have any sort of truly positive relations with Israel until the Palestinian conflict is resolved at least. As you can see in the second (excuse me, first) post on this no evidence was given to even suggest how this could occur. It just appeared out of thin air. Perhaps we could rely on a democratic Iran to accept a balanced and just peace agreement for both sides on the Palestinian issue (unlike most Arab states), but not much more.

The second issue is just wishing wishing that this "meme" of a Hanseatic-like trading alliance along a non-existent Southern Silk Road is a valid overarching vision in the region. I don't think this will happen. Why would any of the Central Asian states - thuggish dictatorships all - want to embrace any sort of arrangement that spreads "democracy, self-governance and individual freedoms?" In fact, even if such a southern route trade develops, why would it lead to any sort of political alignment at all? The flow of gas and oil does not mean other trade will develop, nor that the countries involved share a sense of common identity to facilitate more than just economic relations?

This reminds of a talk I had a long time ago when Mobuto Sese Soko was overthrown in Zaire (now Congo). This smart, articulate African started talking about how all the wonderful things that will now happen - development of the Congo's rich interior, prosperity brought about by such development, and the beginnings of a bouregosie, democratic society as a result. As I listened to his impassioned vision, which like Suman he presented in strong terms as a truly possible scenario, I could't help but thinking how could anyone so smart be so stupid? Getting rid of one man does not change the constraints the Congo was in. I predicted civil war and further kleptocracy (although not on the scale under Mobuto). As it turns, my pessimistic scenario was wrong because an even worse fate developed when Congo's civil war was invaded by thuggish armies from neighboring countries hoping to share some of the spoils. I don't think "I3" will share a similar fate. War is not on the horizon, but there's not much in holding the vision together.

Read his other stuff, it's much better.


This is not surprising as it was first brought to my attention by Samuel Huntington's excellent Clash of Civilizations. Poor people - the working class and peasantry - are among the last people to be radicalized. Their interests are fairly basic - survival. They know the brutal truths of human life too well to listen to a bunch of lousy rhetoric. That's why both in the French and Russian revolutions the pesants were usually reactionaries. The leaders of both revolutions tended to be the educated. They were the only ones with the free time needed to "vanguards of the revolution." And as they are given to more theoretical than practical knowledge of the world, their views on the world tend towards one stressing ideological purity than practical benefit. As I have commented to many friends, such people lack true mastery of such subjects, but know enough to be dangerous (by having opinions that seem well informed but suffer from a lack of comprehensive knowledge).

I think the worse thing for a poor country is to have a signifcant portion of their citizens with advanced educations. What they need is better primary education that will generate a citizenship based on work and trade. That's the type of knowledge such countries need to advance their economy, and the leaders of such people have plenty of practical experience so they are more likely to consolidate the revolution's benefits (like America's Founding Fathers) than go on a spree of ideological terror like almost all others.


Was Elian one of them? I can't believe some people still think Castro is a great man when things like this happen all the time. Ever notice how citizens who hate this country never actually leave it?


Remember this article when you hear statistics on casaulties of Israelis and Palestinians. Those palestinian casaulty numbers probably include Palestinians killed by other Palestinians or the suicide bombers themselves. Hardly the Israelis' fault. Second, 62% of all Palestinian casulaties are combatant casulties only 20% of Israelis were. 70% of Israeli casaulties are full fledged civilians. Thirdly, the numbers for Palestinian casaulties aren't independently verified and come from mainly Palestinian individuals or organizations - the same people responsible for the fraudulent lies about the (non-existent) Jenin massacre, so their credibility isn't strong. In addition a full quarter of all Palestinian casaulties are classified as unknown, so the true number of combatants among Palestinians could be as high as 87%. So remember this young padawan, the Palestinians are targetting civilians, women, and children. The Israelis are going after the people firing guns and bombs.


So who won the bet?


This is one of those Swiftian articles, right? Like that eating babies cures famine? Please?


This is old news by now, but I'm in the midst of posting several weeks worth of backlogs. Every bit helps, the noose is tightening on Al Qaeda.


We were lucky. We need to do better. At times Al Qaeda seems like the Keystone Kops of terrorists. They are just so mediocore they should not be a threat. However, the boneheads at the FBI and CIA are doing their best to even the playing field. I am despondent that almost a year after September 11 not one federal bureaucrat has been made responsible for the massive failure that killed so many Americans.


I hadn't thought about it. But now I'm scared. I have money at Citibank.


Recently, in a show of mass protest, Palestinians in Nablus defied the IDF imposed curfew to buy needed items and contact their neighbors and friends. This was bound to happen which is why the IDF must impose slected curfews with specific reasons. Otherwise, it's bit like a parent grounding their kid "for life." It sounds tough so you know it won't hold. In the end it undermines credibility. However, I don't mind reading about things like this because if the Palestinians actually resist non-violently the war will end and they'll probably get the state they want (assuming the majority will accept any peace that does not actually mean kill all Jews). However, this bit is curious:

For many Nablus residents, this week's defiance against the Israeli military served as a release for weeks of boredom.

"We were at home eating, drinking and sleeping," said Mansour, a 50-year-old shopkeeper who asked to be identified by only his first name. "We got angry, we beat our wives. We've left our houses today to see a change of faces."


Did you beat those new faces too?


Chicago says, "Don't pee on me."


One man who gets it.

"One could argue that the Reagan bombing of Tripoli did not deter the Libyans from their later bombing of Pan Am 103. And one could argue that the American attack on the Taliban after September 11 did not deter the Islamist terrorists from yesterday’s attack. But the fault in both cases lies not with the principle of retaliation but with its execution: with America’s failure to finish off its foes." (emphasis mine)


From Slate's account of a British newspaper:

The op-ed said one of the objections to a U.S.-led war on Iraq is that the "American military has a dreadful record in trying to topple declared enemies. In Cuba, Libya, Somalia, Serbia and now Afghanistan, a named individual was targeted and survived."

This is exactly the problem. For a long time now, our leaders have embarked on ill-conceived strategies that fail to achieve what our goal ostensibly is. Some may argue that the "principle" is important enough to try, but if in reality, it is not important to achieve it creates a worse situation. It emboldens your enemies because of your incompetence, undermines potential supporters because there is no payoff, and in general makes you look like an ass because you didn't succeed. Deterrance only works when its results are immediate and directly hurts the goal of what the perpetrator whiches to achieve. Putting sanctions on Iraq is stupid because sanctions don't hurt or deter Saddam Hussein. A bullet in the head does, and establishes a clear message to anyone else who threatens Americans. Our previous strategy has done us nothing more than annoy our allies while not achieving our aim.

When America went to war with Iraq in 1991, everyone I knew wanted to kill the guy. But no, the idiots in charge then (someone named Bush, Cheney, and Powell) thought they knew better and left him off the hook. All of us who supported the war felt betrayed, but outrage died down because we had "won." We know better now. I wonder if the idiots in charge now (someone named Bush, Cheney, and Powell) had learned from the mistakes of their predecessors.


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