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Posted by on in Uncategorized

A just war, or a morally justifiable war, should look like a morally (and legally) justifiable killing. The reasoning behind a just war should be quick to explain, with an obvious motive like self defense. It should be nearly impossible to find fault with a just war.

By comparison, the longwinded articles that I'm reading on the Wall Street Journal reference Neville Chamberlain, Henry Kissinger, soft power, appeasement and isolationism while trying, and trying hard, to get people to sign the dotted line for another war.

It got me to wondering: because the pro-war articles are long, is that all anyone needs to know? If you can't explain why thousands of people's children need to die for a cause in 25 words or less, is it possible that the cause isn't especially worthy?
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To take the extreme example, if the Canadians were lining up thousands of American civilians in front of firing squads, storming down the Mississippi River, destroying all in their path, would there be need for a foreign policy debate, and careful crafting of arguments in favor of military intervention? I think I wouldn't be alone in supporting a war if there were Maple Leaf death squads patrolling Louisville, even without a thoughtful op-ed by a think-tanker.

Sending America's youth off to die is, although recent history might make you think otherwise, a really big deal. Therefore, it should be trivial to explain exactly why we are sending our children to get shot. If it requires considerable thought, and significant filtering of information to craft a decent argument, drawing on historical precedent, lawyerly rhetoric and a dash of jingoism to get people fired up for war, a war must not be all that valid to begin with.

If there were a situation so uncontroversial as repelling a genocidal foreign invasion, there would be no need for op-eds beating the war drums. So, does it stand to reason that a pro-war op-ed's very existence denies its validity? Widely circulating newspapers publish op-eds that spark debate; to wit, an article opining that parents ought to feed their children wouldn't get much attention. Controversy sells, and a just war is uncontroversial.

All in all, if a war doesn't receive enough unanimity to escape the op-ed section, then it isn't worth fighting. Likewise, the only just war is so simply explained that there can be no interesting debate over whether or not to fight it.

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

The official party line, offered by the World Health Organization, is that the Ebola virus spreading across Africa (and likely other parts of the world), is that it is spread by "direct contact" with infected body fluids.

"Infection occurs from direct contact through broken skin or mucous membranes with the blood, or other bodily fluids or secretions (stool, urine, saliva, semen) of infected people. Infection can also occur if broken skin or mucous membranes of a healthy person come into contact with environments that have become contaminated with an Ebola patient’s infectious fluids such as soiled clothing, bed linen, or used needles."

I don't believe this, and neither should you. Ebola is behaving like an airborne disease, apparently infecting those who have taken reasonable precautions based on the old information still offered by the WHO. 

The number of people being monitored, and the number people under suspicion of infection as a result of a single person traveling to Port Harcourt, Nigeria tells of an airborne disease. In a period of less than a month, over 200 people are suspected to have been exposed, with 60 of them considered to be high risk. It is unlikely that the "patient zero" to Port Harcourt and his contacts had quite so many other contacts with broken skin and blood involved. The disease is wildly contagious.

The number of physicians who have known they were treating an Ebola patient, but have become infected nonetheless, tells us that the WHO is off the mark. It is relatively trivial for a properly trained physician to avoid getting infected body fluids in his or her open wounds and mucous membranes, as surgeons routinely perform surgery on AIDS patients without getting infected themselves. That basic care has resulted in hundreds of dead health workers suggests that Ebola is spreading by as-yet unidentified routes, most likely by airborne droplets.

The sheer number of people becoming infected at a time when most are well aware of the epidemic tells a different story than the WHO. In previous epidemics, quarantine of infected people and standard protective equipment were enough to contain fatalities to a few hundred. These measures appear to be ineffective, and the disease is behaving more like the flu than other Ebola epidemics.

The WHO, and other organizations, will continue to claim that Ebola is caused by direct contact until it becomes obvious that other routes of infection are also in action. Until this time comes, the epidemic will continue to worsen as people act with a false sense of security amidst serious risk of infection. 

Because the WHO doesn't know what is going on, or won't admit that its information may be wrong, people living in the affected zones should take proactive measures, like wearing face masks to avoid inhaling infectious aerosols being coughed or sneezed out by infected persons. Depending on a central authority for information is risky, because the WHO has a reputation to consider before raising the level of alarm. People in affected zones, however, have their own lives to consider before accepting the WHO party line as fact. 

Ebola, in the ongoing epidemic, appears to be acting airborne. How little it would cost everyone to behave as if this were the case.

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

Just when you thought the Cold War was dead and buried, the war contractors and their lobbyists decided to dust off a tried and true model to line their pockets.

The same foolish old men that brought us a war with Afghanistan and Iraq are eager once again to stuff other people and their money into a Ukrainian meat grinder. War is the word. War with Russia, of all nations, as if the US hadn't tried it before. Other pseudo-tangles with the Russians brought us North Korea, the Vietnam War, the Taliban, the Bay of Pigs and other bright spots in world history. In spite of poor historical outcomes, the wise men of Washington see no downside in blasting Russians in their backyard.

To be clear, US Marines probably won't face off against Spetnasz operatives. Perhaps there will be some "advisors" dotting the Ukraine, as they were called before Vietnam heated up. Maybe there will be UN peacekeepers, the euphemism used during the Korean War. One thing is certain; a war with Russia means that the US taxpayer will be robbed again to arm and advise a people they couldn't care about to fight a political situation they don't know about.

For about 70 years, the Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. In 1992 or so, it split off. Neither one of these developments was used as a casus belli. However, the US war machine is getting hungry, and Russia taking over the Ukraine, as it has done several times before, seems to be an adequate excuse to spend American lives and money. It is understandable, though. Without a war to fight, the war contractor/campaign finance machine was getting dry. When you're starving, lots of stuff starts looking like food.

Russia may even seem like a foolish choice of enemy given their forest of nuclear missiles, but in reality "fighting" a nuclear enemy is the perfect war for cowardly politicians. Nukes aren't aimed at Cowpens, South Carolina. They're aimed at the White House. They're aimed at the Kremlin. Both sides know it, and won't rock the boat, lest they place their physical selves in any danger. They've never had a problem sending endless waves of fellow countrymen to die in whatever pointless adventure they've picked for the election cycle, they consider their own physical safety truly inviolate. When two nuclear-capable nations pretend to go to war, its more of a chess match than a street fight.

Appearing to face off against a great Russian enemy provides politicians a stage to jaw about morality, courage and sacrifice with prior knowledge that it will personally cost them nothing. The dying part is for the little people, the politicians have lobbyists to satisfy and campaigns to think about.

It is hard to imagine just exactly how replacing a Ukrainian-brand crony government with an almost indistinguishable Russian-brand crony government would have strategic impact on a town in Utah, but that isn't stopping the war machine from trying to convince people to send their children to die for their cause.

 

 

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The Pentagon's hand-me-down program, which places old military hardware into the eager hands of police departments across the country, runs the gamut from frightening to bizarre. The so-called 1033 program's complete list (available for download below) reads like a Steven Seagal version of the 12 days of Christmas, and so without so much as two turtle doves... SoTP brings you the 12 days of police militarization.

 

1 Practice Antipersonnel Mine

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Stark County, Ohio caught my eye with a practice antipersonnel mine. I was glad to see that it wasn't a real anti-personnel mine. Though, if they ever did get real ones, we could rest assured that they had plenty of practice.

 

205 Grenade Launchers

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For special occasions.

 

344 MRAPs

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Scattered across the country in nearly every state (Delaware notably absent), these soldier-taxis-gone-bad have become emblematic of the 1033 program. Remarkably, St. Lucie county is home to no fewer than five of these Tonka-Tanks, more than legitimately scary places like Miami-Dade, or East Baton Rouge.

 

403 Helicopters

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This whole list inadvertently became scenes from Arnold Schwarzenegger movies.

 

50 Nuclear Ordnance Boxes

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Lee County, Georgia needed something to put their nukes in.

 

6 Drum sets

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Including a Ludwig...John Bonham would be proud. One might ask why the military needed them, and then ask again, why do the police need them?

 

79000 5.56mm Rifles

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Your neighborhood operator might call this a "black rifle", or if he were feeling especially randy, "the black rifle", as the M-16 is occasionally referred to (usually by forum ninjas). Not much to say, except that it is an awful lot of rifles.

 

8 Mechanical Fingers

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Don't know what they are, but Saint Clair, Michigan's got 'em.

 

91000 feet of Electrical Wire.

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Ventura County, California must have some big plans, because they've got 16 miles of electrical wire, courtesy of the US taxpayer.

 

1000 pounds of nails

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Providence, Rhode Island is the proud owner of one thousand pounds of military surplus nails. Unfortunately, they did not get a nail gun to go with it, like Terrell County, Georgia (who didn't get any nails).

 

11900 Bayonets

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Of which, for some reason, El Paso County, Texas needed 1987.

 

12 Cargo Parachutes

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You forgot about that movie? Walton County, Georgia didn't.

 

And, should you wish to peruse the staggering list for gems like these, it is available for download here.

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The US Military has been blowing up Iraq since I was 5 years old. In spite of all the politicians promises that this blowing up of Iraqi stuff would lead to a new tomorrow, where peace and prosperity flood into the region, this brave new world has failed to arrive.

 

The previous 24 years of blowing up Iraq haven't achieved their stated aims, so we listen again to blather from elected officials that certainly, this time, the bombs will bring peace. Perhaps the previous explosions weren't powerful enough, or were too powerful. Certainly, they tell us, finding the right target, or blowing up the right mud brick building will change the hearts of ISIS, and turn the region around. The issue isn't one of approach, it is one of gathering intelligence, they say.

 

Terrorists, the popular press will tell you, are finite in number and if only they could all be apprehended, peace would ensue. Terrorists, by these same accounts, are "radicalized", as if anti-Westernism were an infectious disease over which its victim has no control. Never does it enter popular discussion that these people could be externally motivated by the events going on around them, or that otherwise peaceful individuals could be driven to violence by a combination of beliefs and events.

 

Worse still, is the logical fallacy that organizations like Al Qaeda and ISIS are hierarchical structures similar to ordinary governments or militaries, and that if the heads of the organization can be clipped, that the rest of the organization would wander off into retail jobs and farming. The reality, made apparent by the hydra-like behavior of these organizations, is that the members are self-motivated, and that Al Qaeda is more like a jihad fan club than a jihad corporation. For example, if the head of the Star Wars fan club were killed, it is unlikely that everyone in the club would cease to enjoy Star Wars. Likewise, if the head of ISIS is killed, or if the main players of a particular cell of Al Qaeda are killed, it is unlikely the rest of the group would pack up their stuff and go home.

 

Furthermore, decentralized organizations are the only organizations that can survive under the vigilance of US anti-terrorist operations. People don't seem to ask what it takes to set up a chapter of Al Qaeda. An ambitious fellow doesn't have to apply for a franchise and pay a fee to Al Qaeda LLC; all you need is a bunch of guys who decide to call themselves Al Qaeda.

 

To fight these loosely organized guys as if they were the Wehrmacht is an inappropriate tactic. If one part of the organization, even the most visible members, recant their positions and surrender, the rest of the organization will renounce them and carry on. Surrender is an impermanent, ephemeral goal, as no one man controls the motivations and opinions of the entire organization.

 

Further still, no one ever asks why these guys are fighting, or who these guys even are. In 2003, US bombs began to fall in Baghdad, during what was called "Shock and Awe" at the time. This decimated the paid Iraqi army, and began the unpaid insurgent resistance to the US Army that goes on to this day. 2003 was 11 years ago, and tens of thousands of Iraqis were orphaned during this period. What do you suppose the views of a 19 year old Iraqi fellow, orphaned in 2003, might be in regards to the US? What of a 30 year old, who has known hardly anything but American bombs, soldiers, no-fly-zones and tanks? Is it any surprise that there is no shortage of willing, murderous young men joining the Islamic State?

 

Foreign attack creates a sense of conservatism and nationalism. The 1979-1989 attacks on Afghanistan by the Soviet Union ended all traces of progressive thought in Afghanistan, as the psychotically traditional Taliban took over the country. Previously, Afghanistan had been looking to modernize the country. Afterwards, those thought to be too modern could be flogged or killed. The US occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has apparently done little to endear the Western world to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, as is made abundantly clear by a burgeoning Taliban presence in Afghanistan, and the appearance of the especially brutish and backward Islamic State taking over Iraq.

 

And so, more bombs fall, and the insistence by the would-be Caliphs that the West it out to get the Iraqi people sound more plausible to Iraqi ears. By fighting, by blowing up trucks and artillery, the US creates more enemies that will either destroy or be destroyed. Each ISIS fighter killed leaves dozens of surviving relatives, who will be more motivated to take up the sword. The war can absolutely be fought, as it has for nearly 25 years. But fighting will only lead to more fighting. Bombing will lead to more bombing. History has shown that new targets appear as old targets are destroyed.

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