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Getting The Memo
Thursday, October 23, 2003

You've all heard about the Rumsfeld memo. The press has described it as an admission of failure in Iraq, and as an example of administration backpedaling. Fortunately, this is the 21st century and you can see the memo for yourself, and make up your own mind about what it means.

Here it is:

  TO: Gen. Dick Myers
      Paul Wolfowitz
      Gen. Pete Pace
      Doug Feith

  FROM: Donald Rumsfeld

  SUBJECT: Global War on Terrorism


The questions I posed to combatant commanders this week were: Are we winning or losing the Global War on Terror? Is DoD changing fast enough to deal with the new 21st century security environment? Can a big institution change fast enough? Is the USG changing fast enough?

DoD has been organized, trained and equipped to fight big armies, navies and air forces. It is not possible to change DoD fast enough to successfully fight the global war on terror; an alternative might be to try to fashion a new institution, either within DoD or elsewhere - one that seamlessly focuses the capabilities of several departments and agencies on this key problem.

With respect to global terrorism, the record since Septermber 11th seems to be:

We are having mixed results with Al Qaida, although we have put considerable pressure on them - nonetheless, a great many remain at large.

USG has made reasonable progress in capturing or killing the top 55 Iraqis.

USG has made somewhat slower progress tracking down the Taliban - Omar, Hekmatyar, etc.

With respect to the Ansar Al-Islam, we are just getting started.

Have we fashioned the right mix of rewards, amnesty, protection and confidence in the US?

Does DoD need to think through new ways to organize, train, equip and focus to deal with the global war on terror?

Are the changes we have and are making too modest and incremental? My impression is that we have not yet made truly bold moves, although we have have made many sensible, logical moves in the right direction, but are they enough?

Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?

Does the US need to fashion a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists? The US is putting relatively little effort into a long-range plan, but we are putting a great deal of effort into trying to stop terrorists. The cost-benefit ratio is against us! Our cost is billions against the terrorists' costs of millions.

Do we need a new organization?

How do we stop those who are financing the radical madrassa schools?

Is our current situation such that "the harder we work, the behinder we get"?

It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog.

Does CIA need a new finding?

Should we create a private foundation to entice radical madradssas to a more moderate course?

What else should we be considering?

Please be prepared to discuss this at our meeting on Saturday or Monday.


When I read this, I'm pretty happy. The SecDef is asking if we should be more aggressive, and how. He's asking for an objective way to measure progress, a basic of good management. He's anticipating long-term problems and asking how best to get out in front of them. He's reminding everyone that we have a long, hard job ahead, just like he said when all this got started.

In short, it looks to me like he is doing his job, and doing it well. Of course, others disagree:

[...] Wesley Clark blamed Bush for not having a clear plan to fight the war on terrorism. "Secretary Rumsfeld is only now acknowledging what we've known for some time -- that this administration has no plan for Iraq and no long-term strategy for fighting terrorism," he told the Associated Press. [...] Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) said the memo proves that the Bush administration's handling of the war on terrorism has been a failure. "I think Secretary Rumsfeld's comments are an illustration of the concern that they have about the failures of their policy in Iraq so far," he told the Associated Press. "They acknowledge they have not succeeded to date."

"There can be no other description of those words than that."

When people like me say things like "I can't trust the Democrats on terrorism" this is exactly what we mean. Constructive criticism is one thing, partisan sniping is another. Sniping is fine when you are fighting over spending bills and crap like that, but it is not appropriate when you are in the middle of a fucking war.

Daschle and Clark would prefer, and they clearly go out of their way to encourage, a perception that we have failed. If we were to pull all of our troops out of Iraq tomorrow, abandoning our efforts in frustration and leaving Saddam to reclaim his throne, it would be a godsend for these guys. The point that it would hurt the nation as a whole does not seem particularly important to them. What's important is that they benefit, personally and politically, by the failure of others. By our failure.

You want constructive criticism? How about this:

Yes, Mr Secretary, we do need a metric, and badly. We should never be in the position of having to ask if we are winning, or worse, not knowing if we need to change our methods, and which methods we need to change. This is an important assessment - we shouldn't guess.

I agree that this is a time where boldness would pay off. We ought to make committing decisions, and follow them through to the end. Complacency represents a significant risk to our overall success.

When you say "the cost-benefit ratio is against us" I am reminded of another comment - we are not going to win by playing defense. Innovative measures to weaken the enemy's recruitment and support ought to be a higher priority than defensive action. Success and prosperity in Iraq is a key element in undermining the enemy's position, and we ought to make every effort to bring this about as quickly and surely as possible.

"What else should we be considering"? I'd like to see a long-term plan for both Syria and Saudi Arabia, and I'd like to see a short-term plan for Iran. The war is not over until all three of these nations has undergone significant change.

And speaking of constructive criticism... I think it's about time the democrats got the memo, too: keep this shit up and you'll spend another four years bitching about this nation instead of leading it.


I'm sorry, but I can't resist. I know that by tomorrow at this time you'll have seen this in fifty other places, but it's just too sweet to pass up.

Seriously, read the whole thing:

The troops returning home are worried. "We've lost the peace," men tell you. [...] A tour of the beaten-up cities of Iraq six months after victory is a mighty sobering experience for anyone. Arabs, Europeans. Friend and foe alike, look you accusingly in the face and tell you how bitterly they are disappointed in you as an American.


Never has American prestige in Europe been lower. People never tire of telling you of the ignorance and rowdy-ism of American troops, of out misunderstanding of European conditions. ... They blame us for the corruption and disorganization of UNRRA. They blame us for the fumbling timidity of our negotiations with the United Nations. They tell us that our mechanical de-Bathification policy in Baghdad is producing results opposite to those we planned. "Have you no statesmen in America?" they ask.


The ruin this war has left in Iraq can hardly be exaggerated. I can remember the years after the last war. Then, as soon as you got away from the military, all the little strands and pulleys that form the fabric of a society were still knitted together. Farmers took their crops to market. Money was a valid medium of exchange. Now the entire fabric of a million little routines has broken down. No on can think beyond food for today. Money is worthless.

"Well, the Iraqis are to blame. Let them pay for it. It's their fault," you say. The trouble is that starving the Iraqis and throwing them out of their homes is only producing more areas of famine and collapse.


The British show signs of recovering their good sense and their innate human decency. All we have brought to the Middle East so far is confusion backed up by a drumhead regime of military courts. We have swept away Bathism, but a great many Iraqis feel that the cure has been worse than the disease.

OK, OK, I kid. Go here for the punchline.

(Via USSC)


Bias And Blame
Thursday, October 16, 2003
[Note: I've edited this post a bit. It's better now.]

Nope, I'm not dead yet. I did have a nasty flu which knocked me on my ass for a while, but I'm better now, thanks.

It would've been cooler if it was monkeypox.

I've been pondering a discussion which had been cooking in one of my comment threads over this time. An astute reader caused me to defend my views, reconsider my positions, clarify my statements - you know, basically making me think, and holding me accountable for what I've said. Hopefully, when a discussion like that is over we may still disagree, but we better understand each other and ourselves.

After a few days reflection, I've decided that what we were really talking about, all along, was blame.

Blame is a loaded word, loaded not only by the judgement it carries but by the enormous bulk of moral universe which necessarily encapsulates it. If there is blame, then there must be blamelessness, and there must be willful wrongs; most importantly, there must also be some sort of justice which could be done to make it all come out right in the end.

Personally, I have a flatly amoral view of things and I often get caught off-guard by stuff like this. (I wrote about this once before, in a post called Port And Ditchwater). I forget that people often have very deep beliefs that differ sharply from my own, and as a result we can miscommunicate without realizing it.

Here's an example of just how amoral I really am:

On my way to a coffee shop, I see a young woman walking the other way down the street. She is attractive, dressed nicely in business clothes, and she stumbles as she walks, catching my eye as I drive past. I take a moment to find her in my mirror and I see that she is in obvious pain. I instantly decide to turn my car around and offer to help, despite the fact that I am already late for my appointment. Even if it takes all day to help make this right, I'm already committed to seeing this through.

As I swing the car around, I notice a homeless person apparently sleeping in an alley. Is he passed out from booze? A beating? Insulin shock? Is he even alive? Fuck if I care. I evaluate him only as a potential threat, and finding none, I instantly forget about him.

Turns out that the woman is fine, and I wheel the car around again to continue on my way. I feel pretty good about myself now, wondering why nobody else stopped to help her. I park, walk in to the coffee shop, and see a newspaper headline about two missing college kids. Hey, they were from a small town just a few hundred miles from here. Hope they are OK. Below that, another headline - an absurdly overloaded ferry in India overturns, killing dozens. "Idiots", I think, and I get in line for my coffee.

I get my drink and a cookie (which I really don't need, thank you very much) and am left holding twenty cents in change. There are two small cans on the counter. One is collecting money to help starving children in Africa, the second is for the local animal shelter. A moment later I've helped buy another eighth of a can of dog food, and I'm on my way.

Go ahead, laugh. You've done it, too.

Those of you who inhabit a moral universe may feel a little guilty about this. I don't. I'm comfortable with the idea that this is not a moral issue but simply one of empathy, and that empathy is driven by sameness and desirability. If you are similar to me, if you are in proximity to me, if I find you attractive or valuable, I will go way out of my way to help you. If you are different from me, really far from me, or, in my view, somehow gross or disgusting, you'll pretty much fall right off the fucking radar.

This is a shockingly selfish, subjective, and cold-hearted world view, yet it's shared, guiltily or not, by almost every thoughtful and caring person you know. I'd say it's quite natural, even desirable, but it is certainly not moral. It's not even rational, yet this sort of thinking guides every important decision in our lives.

We all have bias. Just as you cannot stand on a single point on the earth and not have a point of view, you cannot exist without preference of some things over others. Our bias is not something to be overcome, it is something to be accepted, even embraced. It is what we are.

Should you apologize for, or even feel guilty for the biases you hold? Of course not. Should you fight for your biases? If they are really important to you, than yes, you should.

Should you pass on your biases to your children? Certainly you should. And one thing's for sure, the one thing you don't want to do is to abandon your biases. That's a terrible mistake.

Surprised? Just replace the word "biases" with "values" and it all becomes pretty obvious, doesn't it? Sure, it's nicer to call them values because that's a much prettier word, but they are really just biases, after all.

There is no morality here, no objective right or wrong. There is no blame. There are only our biases, and the choices that we make.

Israel and the Arab world have been going at it for decades, and as anyone with an internet connection knows, there are passionate people advocating for both sides of the conflict. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that both have done bad things. Assume that both have missed chances for peace, that both are blinded by their own world view, and that both enjoy a moral equivalence that allows everyone a valid grievance. Let's suppose there is plenty of blame to go around.

So let's evaluate them, then, not on the basis of their conflict, but on their own merits. Let's look at everything other than the history of the conflict, and judge them that way.

Despite their mistreatment of the Arabs, Israelis are a people who have emancipated their women, who hold fair elections, and welcome free speech. The Arab world is a hodgepodge of failed dictatorships where free speech is akin to collaboration with the enemy. In Israel, when the political opposition might advocate the enemy's point of view, they'd do it in their own newspapers and with their own representatives in government. In the Arab world, such people would probably be beaten or executed. Israel has a thriving, free economy which has lifted its people from the dirt. The Arab would is a klepocracy where leaders goldplate their toilets while sewage runs in the streets. Israel educates its people and is a world leader in innovation and technology. In the Arab would, education is seen as a threat.

Once we put aside the issue of the conflict, these two worlds stand in rather stark contrast to one another, don't they? It'd be nice if everybody got along, but if one side has to come out on top, who would you rather it was? When push comes to shove, what values are really most important to you?

Personally, I can say that the details of the Arab/Israeli conflict have become irrelevant to me. Any wrongs that anyone may have committed over this time are far, far outweighed by the basic natures of the countries involved.

Here's a quote from the comment thread which sums the whole thing up very nicely:

>> Israel's existence, as currently constructed, is a source of instability in the region

> Or, to put it another way, the region, as currently constructed, is a source of instability to the Western world, including Israel.

The conflict in a nutshell.

I know I've chosen my side.


Plame: Serious Business After All
Wednesday, October 8, 2003

I just read this article in the Washington Post and I am not happy. According to the Post:

  • Plame was, in fact, a serious undercover agent.
  • Whoever cold-called those six journalists to blow Plame's cover did it before Novak's story was published.

This is seriously fucked up.

I'm going to give this a couple of days and see what else comes out, but as of right now, I'm ready to see somebody go to jail for this one.

(Via FR)


According to this NYT article, Plame's undercover days ended more than a decade ago.


The US murder rate has fallen, yet again, to another 40 year low. This is wonderful news. I spent a little time poking around the BJS crime data looking for something interesting to report that the regular media might have overlooked.

One thing I did find was this deceptive little graph:

Modified to fit - click for original image

See those little numbers there on the vertical axis of each graph? They're important. Notice how they don't line up?

Thanks to the magic of Photoshop, here's a close approximation of what this data really looks like if it's represented honestly:

This is a rough approximation

This is a big part of the story. Let's all just cut the crap and be honest about what we are dealing with here.


The Power Of Strategic Thinking
Sunday, October 5, 2003

Israel struck back against Islamic Jihad today - in Syria! This is big news. It is really good news, too.

Syria is a primary supporter of the bad guys in the region. They control the northern part of Lebanon and provide money, weapons, intelligence, and training to the various terrorist groups operating in and around Israel. They have done this for many years with little fear of reprisal.

That was before the US 3rd ID was stationed right on their border, backed up by the Marine 1st division plus more air and heavy armor assets than you could shake a stick at. Our dear friends in Syria must be feeling very lonely right now, and they have just discovered, in the clearest possible terms, that the IDF will no longer hesitate to retaliate against them directly. Now, they find, there is a price to be paid for deploying their little proxy army against Israel. It is no longer safe for them to kill civilians by remote control.

What are they going to do, fire up their rusty tanks and go to war, hoping the Saudis and Iranians would race to their aid as the IDF crushes them against US forces sweeping in from the rear? They wouldn't last a week, and they know it.

Their impunity is gone. This is an incredible achievement with enormous long-term consequence.

The moment we invaded Iraq we took the fight to the enemy, forcing them to react to us for a change. Initially, we had compelled them to commit their resources to fighting the 3ID in the streets of Baghdad rather then the citizens of Los Angeles in the lobbies of their airports. In the longer term, we also projected real power against the terrorist's allies - power that may, or may not, culminate in the actually use of military force - that will weaken the bad guys now and will continue to weaken them further as time goes on. In a single stroke, we have changed the rules of the game to the point where the Israelis can now consistently hold the Syrians directly accountable for their actions.

I'd expect, and hope, that every new bomb blast in Israel is answered by another strike deep within Syria. The Syrians will have no alternative but to stand down.

Think about that for a minute: The Syrians will have no alternative but to stand down. We've just achieved more real progress towards Middle East peace in the last six month than the whole world has managed to achieve in thirty fucking years.


My Call On Wilson/Plame
Wednesday, October 1, 2003

I haven't said much yet about the CIA-leak story because the facts seem to be changing every few minutes. Like the rest of you, I don't really know what's going on.

However, I would like to say this: we all agree that somebody from the government did call cold-call six reporters to disclose this information. If Plame was actually put at risk by this disclosure, and if this disclosure was made before Novak's column was published, and if, as now reported in the British press, Karl Rove personally made these calls, than I will be among the first to call for Rove to be fired and hauled up in front of a judge.

If this story holds together, it's serious stuff and it demands a serious response. I have zero patience for any government that threatens to harm its critics.

Of course, we still don't know what's going on here and the story can still go either way. Maybe these calls were made after Novak's story was published; in that case, these calls would represent nothing more criminal or unethical than anyone else's comments on what they'd read in the paper that day. Maybe Plame's job is such that she was not credibly put at risk by this disclosure; if that's the case then this was just a leak, and not a threat to harm anyone.

My call? I can't imagine that Plame, the wife of a former Ambassador, could have had the sort of job where her life would really be threatened if her identity were exposed. I also doubt very much that the CIA would have confirmed to Novak that she was in their employ if she really held such a position. I think she's just an analyst, and that her job title is classified because the CIA prefers to routinely classify every operational detail that they can. I think that the intent of this leak was to harm Wilson, not Plame, by suggesting that he is incompetent and that he was hired only as a favor to his wife.

I think this is going to be nothing, once all the smoke clears. But if it's something, I'm going to be calling for Rove's head on a stick.


Feces Flinging Monkey

Cool Site Of The Week

Here's a cool-ass flash skeleton thingie. Be sure to get him to flop down the stairs.

Know The Odds

The always amusing What Are The Odds Of Dying? report from the National Safety Council is available. Among the highlights:

We had 31 deaths in the year 2000 - 31 poor souls! - who were bitten or crushed by reptiles. Compare that to only 26 deaths caused by being bitten or struck by dog.

I don't even want to think how a foreign body entering through skin or natural orifice killed 36 others.

Although "external causes of mortality" are fairly uncommon - resulting in only one death in 24 - they are certainly more interesting to think about than things like heart attacks or cancer. For what it's worth, you were just slightly more likely to die in a plane crash that year as in a gun accident, but about twice as likely to die from falling down the stairs. So, you got that going for you.

Now The Red Cross Gets Hit

Such a surprise. Who could have possibly seen this one coming?

Back in the old days, outfits like the UN and the IRC they didn't have these sorts of problems. They'd just do whatever it took to get along with the thugs who were running the place, and they'd content themselves with doing what little good they could manage. If some of their money got diverted into the torture chambers, well, that's just the reality of the situation. It was all very complex, you know...

Of course, now we can expect that they will turn tail and run - just don't let the door hit you on the way out, fellas. Besides, I think this was a strategic mistake for the bad guys. They are putting ordinary Iraqis into a position where they must choose between people who blow up hospitals and police stations, and those who promise democracy and prosperity. Once the regular people make up their minds it's going to be all over.

My call? Let's blow up something expensive in Syria. Let's make it a policy to meet force with force, not talk. If we are going to take the fight to the bad guys, then let's take it to them. We are not going to win by playing defense.

Bold Prediction

Only an idiot would make a serious prediction about the democrat primaries this far out. Here's mine:

Dick Gephardt is going to be the nominee.

Think I'm kidding? Just wait...

Probable Medal of Honor Winner in Iraq

It's a good story, with a sad ending. Go read it.

Half The Good Blogs Are Down

You may have noticed that many of your favorite sites are down. This is probably because al-Queda supporters have temporarily taken them down. Seriously. This may have started as a DOS attack against a single pro-Israel site and has, intentionally or not, impacted much of the pro-war side of the blogosphere.

Lileks expresses some concern that this might be the start of something a little more ambitious. He may be right. The internet is vulnerable to concerted attack, and foreign governments can bring significant resources to bear if they wish. It's not rocket science.

(Personally, my site is unaffected... I haven't been posting much simply because I haven't had a hell of a lot to say).

Site Of The Week

If you are interested in digital freedom issues like the DMCA, DRM, and the new Broadcast Flag, Freedom To Tinker is the place for you.

Technically accurate, insightful, and not the least bit overheated. Good stuff.

Too-Much-Time-On-Your-Hands Theater

This is a "case mod", meaning that somebody has built a working computer into an unusual shape. Be sure to wait for all the pictures to load...

(Via MA)


It could be worse. It could have looked like this.

Blast From The Past

Check this out - CNN's stock market wrap-up from Sept 10, 2001.

The market was soft that month, and trading volumes were low. At the end of the day, the Dow closed at 9,605.

Right now it's at 9,761.

Link Of The Day

"Democracies don't go to war against each other."

You've probably heard that before, and, if you are like me, you've probably believed it, too.

Well, as it turns out, you'd be right. Here's the proof.

Bold Prediction

I think Arafat is going to die (of natural causes) quite soon, certainly by Christmas. I think his latest Prime Minister just quit his job because he did not want a bullseye painted on his back when the inevitable power struggle begins after Arafat's death.

I also think an awful lot of bad guys are going to die in the months that follow, and the end result will be a divided population, bickering and fighting amongst themselves. Syria will stay out of it, too.

Needless to say, I'm looking forward to this in a big way.

Well, That Settles That, I Guess

Was the recall undemocratic? You decide:

Arnold 2003: 3,601,797
Davis 2003: 3,507,933
Davis 2002: 3,533,490

Anybody know what happens to Bustamonte? Does he stay on as Lt. Gov, or what?


Post Of The Day

Lead And Gold offers some essential background for understanding the media.

Sadly, people like me are no different; I depend upon the same sorts of sources, or, more often then not, upon the media itself to provide me with basic information. I also work for a biased editor - me - and I am, sadly, not an expert in every field I choose to discuss.

But, I do offer tittie pictures sometimes, so that's something...


Check out the Extreme Pumpkins. Instructions included.

Most years I "carve" my pumpkin with a .357 and a 12 gauge. It's harder than you think - getting all of the slugs to exit via the same hole is essential. It usually takes two or three tries before the proper "smiley face" effect is achieved.

Oddly, we never have trick-or-treaters up here.

Must-Read Link Of The Day

Here's the transcript of the Fox News interview with WMD Investigator David Kay. I had no idea that we had discovered so much, so soon.

I kept trying to excerpt the relevant sections but you really need to read the whole thing. One thing that struck me was Kay's confidence that chemical munitions were soon to be found. He's had Iraqi generals admit to him that these weapons were issued for use against US troops, but as of now, only a tiny fraction of the known Iraqi weapons stockpiles have been examined - only 10 out of 130, with 26 still on the "critical list". He's confident it's just a matter of time.

So am I.

Cool Photo

If this looks really hard and really dangerous, well, that's because it is.

Support Your Friends

Anheuser-Busch - the makers of Budweiser, Michelob, and other fine products - have gone out of their way to support gun rights in their home town. Happily, their actions are likely to make a real difference, too.

I actually used to drink a ton of this stuff. I like it.

They didn't have to do this, but they decided that this was something that was important to them. Well, it's important to me, too, and I'm happy to count these folks among my friends.

Sure, other brands might be more to your taste, but I figure freedom tastes pretty fucking good, too.

(Via RW, via PP)

Things Like This Make Me Feel Old, Part II

From Gizmodo:

This is Barnes & Noble's worst nightmare: a company called NeoMedia has new application for Nokia cameraphones called PaperClick that let's you walk into any bookstore, take a picture of any book's ISBN, and automatically get its pricing information from Amazon.

There's something incredibly powerful about combining data input (voice, text, and photos), data output (sounds, text and images) and data access (the entire internet) into a device that everyone carries in their pocket. You quickly reach a point where these things aren't just phones with cameras on them anymore.

There, That's Better

The news is depressing today. I've re-written some of the current headlines to better suit my mood:

Rush Limbaugh Eaten By Tiger

Siegfried And Roy Grope Arnold, Maintain Lead In Polls

Arafat Explodes

Maybe I'm Just An Ignorant Suburban Farm Boy...

... but if we are going to consider this whole CIA-leak thing to be such a big goddamn deal, why not subpoena the six fucking reporters who talked to this guy? They all know who he is.

Y'know, Clancy, this could be just the evidence we need to bust this case wide open!

It's not like reporters enjoy special constitutional powers that exempt them from this sort of thing. I mean, seriously, why are we even discussing this? Why aren't these people talking to the Justice Department right now?



Excellent Post Of The Day

USSC offers some remarkably good insight into the changes happening in Iraq.

Things like this have the power to change the whole world. Hey, it's happened before...

Fun Site Of The Day

Try the Reaction Time Trainer.

Because everyone knows, it's better to be quick, than dead.

None Shall Provoke Me With Impunity


Day By Day, by Chris Muir. Used with permission.

Day By Day, by Chris Muir

Cox And Forkum, Used with permission.

Achewood, by Chris Onstad. Used with permission.

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