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Stardate 20011201.2057 (Crew, this is the Captain): It looks like I can do what I need to but I am going to have to stay with the primary interface connected to the universe, because Apache is wired to only talk on that interface. So right now my server thinks you are all on my LAN (on the primary interface), and my laptop is the Internet (on the secondary interface). That's because this was really designed to be a server for a small company, and its web capability was intended for internal use. So DHCP and Apache are on the same interface and I don't want to have to dive into Linux itself to see if I can change that.

However, I have Spica connected to the secondary interface and I've hardwired a 192.168 IP on it, and it can get out to the world. Regulus also supports NAT and it's turned on right now, and oddly enough that's working the way I've got it wired. Just to prove it, I connected the other (old) laptop up and had them both working at the same time.

Hard wiring the IPs is actually more attractive than DHCP, because it means I can give the machines their names and set up hard routing entries for them for interconnection. So the only thing remaining to work out is if the wireless hub will have any trouble with this -- mostly because of the question of whether it's possible to nest NATting. After all, the wireless hub itself will try to be a NAT to the computers talking to it over the air. So I'm going to hit the manual for it. (I presume it will work.) In the mean time, I appreciate the help and advice people have been giving me. (discuss)

Stardate 20011201.1617 (On Screen): I think that the biggest reason I hate reading news reports filled with body-counts is not just because it suggests that the way you keep score in a war is by how many bodies you pile up, but also because it papers over the fact that every one of the dead -- on both sides -- was a real person, with hopes and dreams and a mother somewhere. The deaths in war, even of our enemies, are not to be celebrated. They are necessary, but they are a tragedy. Part of why an efficient war is the best kind to fight is not just because it saves lives of our own soldiers, but also because it saves those of our enemies in the long run. A rapid war decreases the toll.

The death of every soldier in a war is a tragedy -- but how much worse of a tragedy must it be when he dies for nothing, with no way whatever of affecting the outcome? I honestly think that the biggest criminals in this war, the most evil men of all, are not the Taliban or even the leaders of al Qaeda. I reserve a place in the lowest pits of hell for the teachers in Pakistan who convinced the boys studying with them to run away and fight holy war against the Great Satan. (That's us, in case you hadn't recognized yourself.)

"Our teachers have categorically stated that jihad can only be launched against an infidel army occupying an Islamic state, and Afghanistan never fit that criteria," said Qari Salim Jan, 21, a member of a radical religious group called Lashkar-i-Taiba. "Afghanistan is essentially an intra-Afghan Muslim battle with an infidel army perched up in the skies."

And against the weapons and tactics that we've been using in Afghanistan, the young men of Pakistan who ran away to fight Jihad had about as much chance as mounted knights against tanks. Their sacrifice was for nothing. Sending 10,000 Pakistani teenagers to Afghanistan only increased the body count. The greatest crime you can commit against a soldier is to send him to a completely useless, meaningless death; a man who dies should die for a reason.

To the south, on the edge of Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province, in the dusty village of Hattar, another mother recounted a similar tale. "I feel happy that he was martyred," Iqbal said as she cried big wet tears that spotted her brown head scarf.

I don't believe it. I don't think she was happy at all. Islam be damned, I don't think any mother is happy when her son dies. But I think she had to say that or be persecuted by those around her. It's what she was supposed to say, and she knows it. So she mouths the words, but her tears tell the truth: she wishes he was still alive, and home with her.

The Pakistani Jihadi were volunteers. I cry for them. (I have tears in my eyes as I write this.) Intrepid and eager to fight, they ran away, got themselves smuggled into Afghanistan -- and then discovered that they'd been lied to. They found out that there was no glory in this war. They discovered that they were fighting other Muslims, and that they had no chance at all, none whatever, of bagging an American. The only Americans they saw were ten miles above them, dropping bombs. They discovered that the Taliban were not holy men, but corrupt thugs who had sold their souls to al Qaeda. And they found out, moments before their deaths, that no amount of courage could protect them from cluster bombs dropped from 50,000 feet, and that God wasn't going to show up on the battlefield and fight along side them.

The United States was, and is, right to fight this war. I feel regret that they died, but no guilt for the US having killed them. But the "holy" men in Pakistan who sent sent those young men across the border deserve no mercy. If Musharraf persecutes them, it will be no more than they deserve. (discuss)

Update 20011203: Brian sends in this link, which suggests that many of those in Pakistan who lost relatives, or who went and have now returned, are growing resentful of the mullahs who led untrained men across to border to be slaughtered in combat. I would never want to weaken their faith in Islam, but if it weakens their confidence in these radical muslims then that is at least something positive out of the tragedy.

Stardate 20011201.1345 (On Screen): I could use some advice from a Linux networking guru, please. (Respond either via the discussion system or via email.) (discuss)

Stardate 20011201.1023 (Crew, this is the Captain): Spica is coming along nicely. Having done all the experimentation and gotten all my birds in a row, yesterday I did another clean format of the drive and started doing the real install from scratch. It's WinXP Pro, and now everything is in it and works. It was necessary to buy a couple more things (i.e. a DVD player) to make it all come together but now I have full functionality of the system and all the important big packages I need installed. At this point I'm down to fine-tuning settings and getting the omnibus recovery backup done.

I wanted to use the new Firewire drive for that, but somehow or other that is less than reliable. While I was working last night, every hour or so I'd do a complete backup onto it, which typically took 3-10 minutes. But as the backup set got bigger (it ended at 4.6G) I started having problems. By the time I got to the end and wanted to do the last omnibus backup, it took me five tries to succeed. What happens is that it gets part way (a different amount each time) through the backup and then the drive gets wedged with its activity light frozen on, and a "failure" thought balloon on some icon or other in the tray. At that point, the firewire drive disappears from "My Computer" and the only way to get it back is to power cycle it, after which it works fine.

So after spending about three hours this morning setting up the user account, and changing all the settings for the UI (no, I do NOT want you to make sounds for every goddamned event that ever happens) I wanted to do another backup, and after three tries which failed, I gave up. So I hooked one of my old USB 1 drives up to it and I'm doing a backup on that now. The good news is that it's reliable. The bad news is that it is painfully slow. A backup which would take ten minutes on the firewire drive is good for two and a half hours on the USB 1 drive. On the other hand, it will actually finish the job.

At the same time as I bought the firewire drive, I also bought a USB 2 drive and a USB 2 interface for Antares. That's working now, and it is beautiful. Another 80G for me, and tonight I'm going to do a backup of Antares onto it. Folks, throw away your tape drives; a big USB 2 HD is the only way to do backups. (Assuming, that is, that it's more reliable than the firewire drive. They're both from the same company.) I'm also going to experiment with "sharing" the USB 2 drive with Spica and see if I can do a fast backup across the net onto it, after the USB 1 backup finishes in about another 20 minutes.

Back to Spica, there are still a couple of small nagging issues. I have a niggling networking issue yet to be resolved: Spica can see Antares but Antares can't see Spica. That's acceptable; that's how it was with Canopus, too, and I can do what I need to with only one-way mounts since traffic still goes both ways. But I want to get it fixed. More serious is what XP seems to be doing with the scroll wheel on my mouse. While Spica does have a touch pad, when I'm using it here on the bridge I prefer to plug a mouse into the USB port and use that. It's got a scroll wheel on it (which is essential; I can no longer use a computer mouse without one) and every time I log in, the #lines scrolled is set to "1", which makes it useless. I can alter it to my preferred "5" and it will stay that way until the next time I log out, then when I log in again it's set back to "1". I've tried changing it with the mouse applet, with TweakUI. I change it as administrator and as a normal user. Nothing seems to help: somebody out there wants me to scroll by 1's. I really wish I knew what to do about this; I can tell that this is going to grate on me worse than OS/2's lousy font rendering did.

XP is enormously flexible, and even permits the hardcore like me to shut lots of stuff off. A lot of people are thrilled about the new "ClearType" antialiasing. I dunno. I turned it on and I don't like how it looks, at least with the fonts I use and on this display. All it seems to do is make all the characters look fuzzy. So I'm using the older antialiasing, which I'm used to.

Still to be done is to start messing with redesigning the network here. I'm going to try stacking everything behind Regulus (the Linux server which hosts this site) on its second ethernet interface. So if access to USS Clueless is a bit intermittent over the next couple of days, you'll know why. I wanted to hold off on that until the weekend because my traffic levels are lower anyway and there will be less disruption of my loyal crew.

Then I'm going to go spend some time reading this web site and see what other nifty stuff I can do to (er, "with") XP. (discuss)

Stardate 20011201.1000 (Crew, this is the Captain): Aaron writes:

I remember a while ago you posted that you had bought a copy of ZoneAlarm
Pro, and said that you might write a review. If it's not too much trouble,
would you mind writing that review? I may need such a product soon, and I'm
interested in your opinion.

Sorry about that; been kind of busy lately. (There's a war on, hadn't you noticed? ) Anyhoo, having gotten fed up with Norton Internet Security blue-screening Win2K on me about once every two weeks, I did switch over to ZoneAlarm Pro a couple of months ago. This won't be an in-depth review, but rather just a collection of impressions. Overall I like it a lot and intend to keep using it, and have no qualms about recommending it.

The good? It is very reliable. Not a single crash; not even a hiccup. Not only does it not blue-screen Win2K, but it never even hangs up. It is relatively unobtrusive, and by all accounts its security is very good. It's low-maintenance; after a few days of using it, it hardly nags me at all.

The bad? It's a bit spartan. It doesn't have the kind of logging I took for granted with NIS (which kept track of everything that happened in or out in a rotating 2M file), so it's a bit hard to go back and find out what's been going on recently. Its configurability is a bit less powerful. It's possible to block individual web sites, but you have to hunt to find it. (Security->Advanced->Restricted Zone) And by itself it isn't anything like as powerful as NIS.

But working with AdSubtract Pro, which I also have, the two compliment each other nicely, and in most ways the combination of the two is actually better than NIS. AdSubtrace Pro does have logging (though not as good), but on the other hand it is actually better at some things. In particular, NIS claims to be able to block popups but in fact many creep through. AdSubtract Pro really gets them all. Its user configurable ad blocking is a bit less flexible, but its built-in blocking is already so good that I don't feel as much need to mess with it as I did. The one really big drawback of AdSubtract Pro is that you don't have access to the built-in rules or the ability to override them.

There are sometimes when you need to access a web site without the protection, for any of several reasons. One of the nice aspects of AdSubtract Pro is that you can disable it temporarily by clicking its icon in the tray. With NIS you had to call its window to disable it, and for reasons which were never clear it took several seconds to turn off.

I really like NIS on Win 98 and its kin. That's a modified version of the old AtGuard program, which was a prize. The difficulty with NIS came when they moved it to Win2K, because Symantec's engineers didn't do a very good job of it. ZoneAlarm Pro and AdSubtract Pro, on the other hand, work beautifully in the Win2K environment -- and on WinXP. These programs get the USS Clueless seal of approval. (discuss)

Stardate 20011201.0935 (On Screen): France's nuclear carrier, Charles de Gaulle, has left for the Arabian sea.

France's nuclear-powered aircraft carrier left for the Indian Ocean on Saturday to support the U.S.-led offensive in Afghanistan and its bid to capture Osama bin Laden and leaders of his al Qaeda network.

The Charles de Gaulle, which has recently undergone lengthy repairs, left the southern French port of Toulon carrying 20 combat and reconnaissance aircraft.

I wonder if it will actually arrive? That's not a facetious question. Note those "lengthy repairs" mentioned there? This ship has been a problem ever since it was commissioned, and it's picked up a really bad reputation even in the French navy itself, let alone outside. Once when it left for sea, part of one of its propellers fell off and it had to be towed back to port. At least as of last March, it had not actually made a successful mission. It's ended up costing France more than twice as much as the US spends on a Nimitz-class carrier, which supports four times as many aircraft (and better ones, at that). This article says that it's going to take some time to do maneuvers in the Mediterranean before moving on; I suspect they're just trying to make sure the damned thing won't die on them again. It would be a huge embarrassment if it became non-operational because of mechanical breakdown (i.e. poor workmanship) and actually had to be aided by American ships. (discuss)

Stardate 20011130.1852 (On Screen): Sometimes negotiations work better when no-one is watching very closely. Of course, it was inevitable that a spotlight would be shown on the meeting in Bonn, but I do think that this is a case where press coverage is more harmful than helpful. Cracks are beginning to develop (though I'm not certain they're as important as the press would like us all to believe). One of the problems is the insistence by some parties that there be some sort of international peace-keeping force. I'm not sure that any of the Afghans are insisting on that; maybe that's something that the UN itself is trying to impose on the solution? In any case, President Rabbani now says that if there is to be such a force, it should be limited to 200 men -- which is, of course, completely inadequate. That wouldn't even be enough for one minor city, let alone an entire nation. On the other hand, I'm by no means certain that international peacekeepers are either helpful or desirable in this, considering the allergy that Afghans have now to foreign troops on their soil.

The United States really does have the ability to massively influence these negotiations in a relatively underhanded way: bribery. Oh, not overtly in the form of envelopes shoved across the table, but in the form of offers of assistance. I hope some of our nameless unsung people are in Bonn making promises. And if it actually the Europeans the UN which is insisting on foreign peace-keepers, perhaps they'll get the message and pull back from it? (discuss)

Stardate 20011130.1823 (On Screen): There are a lot of people out there who don't seem to understand the concept.

The president of Yemen told French President Jacques Chirac on Friday that he was committed to helping fight the war against terrorism but hoped it wouldn't involve countries other than Afghanistan.

"We hope that there will not be an expansion of this war, it is not in the interest of world peace," President Ali Abdullah Saleh told reporters after meeting with Chirac in the French president's office.

Attacks on US cities are also not "in the interests of world peace." Get this straight: the war on terrorism is going to go whereever the terrorists are, and continue as long as the terrorists are operating.

You think we're fighting this war just for the hell of it? We're not attacking Afghanistan for purposes of retaliation; we're doing it to preempt future attacks. If members of al Qaeda continue to operate other places with tacit approval of local governments, then the war on terrorism will visit those nations, too. If other terrorist groups threaten us, we'll also go after them. But we're not going to give this up and let the terrorists continue to operate just because the world thinks "Peace is good." I think peace is good, too -- but "peace" includes "no more risk of attacks on US cities", and unless that's part of "peace" then the war on terrorism is going to continue. (discuss)

Will someone please mail President Saleh a videotape of CNN's coverage from the morning of September 11?

Stardate 20011130.1436 (On Screen): I permit myself to thwack Apple here no more than once a month, and it's been six weeks since the last one. I've been a good boy, but it's time to give in once again to the dark side. (MWAAhaahaaa...)

Apple recently released OS X 10.1.1, available as a full-install version for $130 and an upgrade for $20. But it seems that Apple's engineers were rather inept, because the difference between them is one file which is present on the upgrade but not on the full version. Use your favorite CD burning program (helpfully included in the previous version of OS X) and copy all the files but that one from an upgrade disk, and the result is a full install disk. Boila! Prudence would have suggested having at least one of the files on there (like, say, the program that actually does the install) come in two mutually incompatible versions, and to include one on each -- but that's apparently not "thinking different."

OK, that can happen to anyone. It was stupid, and Apple learned from its mistake and I have no doubt that next time they're going to be a hell of a lot more careful about what goes onto the disks. But the next step in the tale is where it really gets weird: a web site publicized this fact and Apple deployed its legendary lawyers. As word spread and it got posted onto various web sites, Apple's lawyers started carpet-bombing with "cease and desist" letters. Of course, it was also posted to netnews, and within minutes had been propagated to hundreds of thousands of servers all over the world.

Apple shouldn't have bothered; the horse was out of the barn and once the information was publicized it was never going to be suppressed. Wouldn't you think that the company which claims to make the most advanced networking operating system in the world would understand just how fast and far information can spread on the Internet? (discuss)

Stardate 20011130.1345 (On Screen): @Home has been given approval by the bankrupcy court to shut down its operations, probably tonight. I just wanted everyone to know that this won't affect USS Clueless. My cable modem is from Road Runner, now part of AOL Time Warner. (discuss)

Stardate 20011130.1319 (Crew, this is the Captain): Well, after several days of mortal combat with sundry installers, I have finally gotten everything important to work under XP Pro. At the moment my system has both XP Pro and XP Home installed on it, with the ability to boot either, because I thought I was going to need XP Home to play CDs. I had thought that XP came with a DVD Codec, but it doesn't (a couple of people wrote in to straighten me out on that). So I purchased one which was XP compatible. It's true that I could have paid about $15 and gotten a codec alone and used Media Player, but it has fewer features than I'd like (i.e. slomo, single step, fast forward), so WinDVD was a better choice. Likewise, I found a cable which can connect the laptop to the external FireWire drive (what a hassle), and there are no more unanswered questions.

Which means that the experimentation is now done and I can actually build the system. (Heh). So now actually do an install of XP Pro from scratch and to start installing stuff. Every few hours I'll do a full backup onto the Firewire drive, and in a couple days it will be up to snuff. I haven't had so much fun since the last time I went to the dentist. (discuss)

Stardate 20011130.0948 (On Screen via long range sensors): Charles Krauthammer makes a telling point that the predicted uprisings of the "Arab Street" which were expected because the US attacked a Muslim nation, and then because the US continued to attack during Ramadan, haven't materialized. He points out that the reason why is that Arab anger at the US is a constant and that what varies is contempt and respect, and that our apparent victory over the Taliban (in such a dramatic fashion) gives us an unprecedented opportunity to use the new-found Arab respect (and, leave us be frank: fear) of the US to accomplish our goals elsewhere.

I'm rather surprised that Krauthammer misses something so important: this isn't a side effect of the war in Afghanistan, a lucky happenstance. It was the goal. One of the two primary purposes of the war in Afghanistan was to demonstrate both US resolve and US military capability in as graphic and impressive a fashion as possible, precisely to create both fear and respect in the minds of those elsewhere who would consider opposing us. And there's every reason to believe that it's already working, too. (discuss)

Stardate 20011130.0915 (On Screen via long range sensors): Remember that disagreement that the US and UK didn't have a couple of weeks ago? More details about it are finally leaking out, and it seems that what happened is that the UK wanted to deploy several thousand troops in Kabul and the US wouldn't let 'em. USCENTCOM (General Franks) doesn't want peace keepers mucking up his war and making things complex. He says that you need to have a peace before you need peacekeepers and he has a point. (It also means I was wrong; it really was the US and not the NA who kept them out.) But that he's trying to keep his problem as simple as possible by avoiding international command-and-control difficulties as much as possible. (Which has been discussed here before.) With a brigade of Royal Marines in Kabul, it would have gotten really messy. By the same token, the French soldiers who were going to be deploying to Mazar-e Sharif are cooling their heels in Uzbekistan waiting for permission to deploy, even as elements of the 10th Mountain Division have begun operating in Mazar-e Sharif.

Evidently the Europeans are becoming increasingly strident about being included in the war. There are a number of reasons why, and I'm not sure how much or little of each of these may apply in the case of each country:

  • National pride (proving that we really are still important in the world)
  • Local voter pressure
  • A desire to be a party to the planning and decision making process
  • Conscience and obligation ("You're our allies; we promised we'd be there for you")
  • Principle (i.e. "We agree that this war needs to be fought")
  • Concerns about the consequences of not participating (i.e. the potential end of NATO)

It's going to be a lot different from nation to nation, though there's some element of them all everywhere (even in the US). I think that the UK is pretty strongly driven by conscience, obligation, and principle. I suspect that national pride may be the main driver behind French attempts at involvement. From what I'm hearing and seeing, voter pressure doesn't appear to be much of a factor at all anywhere except maybe in the UK. And this is by no means a complete list.

But that would mean that if General Franks were controlling a multilateral multinational force, he'd have an extremely difficult time coming up with operational plans which satisfied the political goals of all the participants. I can see why he doesn't want to. With his force pretty much purely US now, he only has to satisfy his commander in chief. Clarity of command and clarity of goals are essential aspects of victory. (discuss)

Stardate 20011130.0637 (On Screen): As we all know, one of the longstanding claims by those opposing the war was that it should be settled by negotiations. After all, if we just talk to the Taliban they'll give up bin Laden and stop harboring al Qaeda. Others pointed out that the US had been attempting that for years and it had been a failure, which is why the US government abandoned that after the 9/11 bombings. But the plea for negotiations continued, and we still hear it for other places (e.g. Iraq).

There are many, many things which can be solved with negotiations, but it's a mistake to assume that everything can be. Sometimes one side will not negotiate in good faith because they're deluded, or corrupt, or insane. It now is emerging that the Taliban leadership may have been all three. This is a report from a now-defected senior member of the Taliban who describes how bin Laden quite literally bought and paid for the Taliban. In a very real sense he owned them, and it was he who was the power behind the throne. The idea of him giving himself up is obviously ludicrous, and by September the Taliban were simply a front for al Qaeda.

I don't take everything this guy says as being the absolute truth (he's got a vested interest in making himself look good so that he doesn't get put on trial and shot, for obvious reasons) but this aspect of it rings true and corroborates other reports which have filtered out, and what they all suggest was that negotiating with the Taliban would have been a waste of time. Why is this important? Because we may again, in the immediate future, face other places where negotiations are equally futile. Iraq may be one but that's not clear yet. Negotiations have to be tried, but we've been trying that for ten years with little effect. On the other hand, for that ten years our negotiating hand was weak, and now it isn't. So it's too soon to give up on negotiations there.

Another place where negotiations may not work is Somalia, only in this case the reason is that there may not be anyone to negotiate with. There is no central authority there; Somalia is anarchy. There is a government but it's not in control, and to an even greater extent than Afghanistan the place is run by a lot of local strong-men. So sitting down and talking it over with the government of Somalia may do no good. It's possible some of the warlords would deal, but it's likely some would not. It's complicated.

Negotiations are a tool, and a very good tool at that. But no single tool solves all problems. (discuss)

Stardate 20011130.0609 (On Screen): Despite the fact that the war continues, and despite the many problems that remain, things are looking brighter in Afghanistan than they have for years. There has already been much improvement and the signs of more to come. It's not certain (nothing is certain) but the people of Afghanistan have an opportunity now for a better life. For one thing, part of what kept Afghanistan in turmoil and its people in misery for so long was that it was a chessboard where its neighbors fought. Now there is a growing consensus that this has to stop, and Pakistan and Iran are making noises about a new cooperation. This is very good, since the Taliban were a Pakistani creation, while Iran supported Taliban foes.

Meanwhile, the talks in Bonn to form a new government are going better than anyone had a right to expect. Rather than a series of warlords trying to defend turf, it appears that the negotiators are truly interested in trying to make something that works for everyone.

And finally, a little (but really very big) thing, completely unnoteworthy anywhere else in the world: girls are attending school. (discuss)

Stardate 20011130.0556 (On Screen): Earlier reports that Kandahar had fallen may have been overly optimistic, but I think there's no question that the the Taliban's position there is continuing to grow more and more bleak. I'm not sure we'll see the kind of wholesale collapse which typified the captures of Mazar-e Sharif or Kabul, but the Taliban are doomed in the long run.

As this report indicates, the Taliban once again are facing the dilemma of facing an opponent with air supremacy: if you spread out your forces, then you don't have sufficient mass to stop a ground attack. But if you concentrate then your forces become a good target for air attack -- and you'll still lose on the ground, only with higher casualties. Is there a solution to this? Actually, there is: keep your forces concentrated but keep them in areas heavily packed with civilians, so that your principled opponent can't bomb them there. I sincerely hope that the Taliban don't do that, because it means that one way or another there will be a huge casualty toll both in combatants and in civilians. (House fighting is always very bad for the civilians in the area.) (discuss)

Stardate 20011129.2215 (On Screen): Thomas comments on my article of a couple of days ago where I talked about our (lack of) need for European approval and assistance in case we decide to go after Iraq.

Quite frankly, I'll confess that I do not have a well justified reason yet for doing so, and my article was not intended to be an argument for attacking Iraq. What I was writing, rather, was a reaction to European paternalism. There's a certain feeling I get from them to the effect that the US is their problem child, big and strong and rambunctious but still young and a bit undisciplined, and although nearly an adult still requiring a bit of supervision. So the parents back in the old country still feel an obligation to keep an eye on the teenager across the ocean to make sure he doesn't get into trouble by going off half-cocked.

I've been getting those kinds of vibes from what I've been reading coming out of Europe ever since this crisis began. Yesterday I encountered four different articles all of which seemed to mesh, and I was inspired to write that log entry. It's true that I spent a lot of time concentrating on our military capability, but that was mostly because I was reacting to a statement from one of the authors that the US wasn't capable of fighting the war alone -- with the implication that since we "needed" their help, then we better ask their advice and follow it. We don't need their help, as I showed, and while their advice is readily available (actually, since their advice is getting shoved down our throats) we are not under any obligation to follow it. So I did spend quite a lot of time analyzing American capabilities. But capabilities and intentions are not the same, and military capabilities and political capabilities are also not the same. I know full well that our military capability doesn't translate into political capability.

I'm not convinced that we should attack Iraq, at least yet. I am convinced that ten years of evasion by Iraq about weapons of mass destruction and Iraq's continuing attempts to acquire them has got to come to an end, and it's clear that the only way that's going to happen is via much stronger measures than we have been using until now. Economic sanctions and no-fly zones have not succeeded, but the status quo cannot be permitted to continue.

So if hostilities do move to Iraq, it will mostly be because this is a good opportunity to catch the wave and clean that problem up. In that sense, it is indeed opportunistic. But that doesn't mean it's wrong, and the fact that doing so would lose us the "moral high-ground" doesn't actually impress me much, if for no other reason than because winning tends to give you the moral high ground, but also because I'm not convinced that we really need the moral high ground -- or at least that it has to be as high as some others do. See, I don' think it's as much that we have to be on top of a moral mountain, as that we just have to be somewhat higher than whoever we're fighting. Against Saddam, that won't be too difficult and even with a preemptive and unprovoked attack by us I think we'll still have it.

That said, the course I believe we should be taking, and the course that I think the US government actually is taking, is to put steel into our diplomacy. Saddam is going to be handed much stronger demands and the rhetoric will be notched up considerably. But if that does fail, I do think we'll need to attack. I am not, however, looking forward to that prospect because unlike Afghanistan, it's going to require us to commit a lot of our own ground forces and they are going to be taking a considerable risk. There's no way that this one will turn out to be a push-button war.

That's more or less what I think about Iraq right now, but it's not as forceful or rigorous as I'd like, and sending men to war because "now's a good chance to take care of it" isn't sufficient to make me really comfortable with the idea. I'm still trying to work out more about it and see if I can come up with a better case. It's also obvious that the value statement would change a lot if a smoking gun of some kind were unearthed, but of course I can't rely on that.

Still, Thomas lays out two possibilities: Iraq does not have WMD's in which case we have no reason to fight, or they do in which case it's too dangerous to attack them. He misses the third possibility: they don't have them now but will have them in ten years unless we do something about it now.

This war will need to be a masterful exhibition of defeating our enemy in detail, and we'll have to be very careful about the order in which we pick our fights. It's actually in one sense going to be World War III, but where the last two world wars happened simultaneously everywhere, this one is going to be serial (more like the Cold War was, which also could lay claim to the name "World War III"). I'm not sure even if we do decide to attack Iraq that it would be the next target; there are other places to clean up first. It's true that if we got involved with Iraq that certain other diplomatic assets would go away -- so the idea is to plan the campaign so that by that point we don't need them anymore. It's exceedingly complicated, and quite frankly I'm out of my depth.

And by the way, I haven't changed my mind about my identification of Islamic Theocracy as being our primary danger in this. But the fact that it's what we have to defeat doesn't mean it's all we'll need to fight. For example, one argument in favor of taking on Iraq is the possibility that somewhere along the way here we'll need to destabilize Saudi Arabia. It is, after all, the source of Wahhabism, the fountainspring from which most of the Islamic Theocracy we're fighting arises. But if we do that while Saddam remains in charge and relatively powerful in Iraq, then he might decide to take advantage of the situation and attempt to annex part of Saudi Arabia in the chaos -- and we'd have to fight him anyway, only at the same time as we're involved in some other mess. So if we think we might end up having to effect a change in Saudi Arabia (and many warbloggers seem to think this) then we'd probably be well advised to take care of Saddam first.

So exactly what does happen with regards to Iraq will depend enormously on what else we intend to accomplish. Iraq is sort of like the Taliban. We are taking out the Taliban not because they are a direct objective of the war, but because it was necessary to do so in order to eliminate al Qaeda. Likewise it may turn out to be necessary to fight and defeat Iraq not so much because Iraq is a primary objective, but because if we don't do so then accomplishing some other primary goal (like changing the government of Saudi Arabia) would be impossible.

That's all speculation; it's not an attempt to lay out the course of this war so much as to show how all the pieces intertwine and how Iraq may end up in the mix. I don't honestly know what is going to happen, but I think there's a pretty good chance that somewhere in the course of this Iraq will rise to the top of the list. (discuss)

Stardate 20011129.1435 (On Screen via long range sensors): I suspect that the Europeans will probably try to use the same means to keep the US in line (i.e. diplomatic pressure, "calls for" cooperation, public expressions of disapproval) as they've been trying to use for the last twenty years about every other trouble spot in the world.

And it's going to have about the same amount of effectiveness. The Washington Times and ABC have released the results of a poll taken of American voters regarding the war and future American foreign policy, and it does not indicate that Americans care too much about coalition building or European disapproval.

Do you support or oppose the U.S. military action in Afghanistan? 91% support the war.
Would you support or oppose U.S. military action against other countries that assist or shelter terrorists? 81% support such action.
Would you favor or oppose having U.S. forces take military action against Iraq to force Saddam Hussein from power? 78% are in favor.

There are a couple of things about the question phrasing which are noteworthy. First, notice that the question about Iraq does not specify anything about proof of complicity by Iraq in the WTC bombing, nor in anthrax, nor does it require proof of his owning or developing weapons of mass destruction. The American voters are fed up with Saddam Hussein and want him out -- and don't appear to need any other justification.

Second, notice that all the questions are phrased as US action, not "coalition action" or "NATO action" or "UN action" or "action by the US and its allies". Despite the fact that all of them specify unilateral US action, they are overwhelmingly supported by American voters. Which suggests that European expressions of disapproval, and angry speeches in London or Berlin or Paris or Rome will have little or no effect on American foreign policy with regards to the rest of the world. American voters are clearly willing to go it alone if need be. But it might well have substantial effect on American foreign policy with respect to Europe.

If, as I expect, the United States ends up going into military action again, somewhere besides Afghanistan (e.g. Somalia), and if the Europeans refuse to provide any support and publicly and actively condemn the US while it does so, then I think the result will be to destroy NATO as an effective organization. It may continue to exist, but US commitment and contribution to it would wane and it will become meaningless, outliving its time and serving no purpose. I don't think that the US would formally pull out, just that the US would ignore it and stop supporting it. (discuss)

Ben Franklin said, "A friend in need is a friend indeed." The US has proved beyond all doubt what kind of friend it is to Europe. Now we'll learn what kind of friends the European nations are to the US, and that will decide the future of NATO.

Stardate 20011129.1314 (On Screen): Good old Castro; everyone needs a court jester, and he's ours. Cuba wants normalization of relations. It will even pay for all the American property which was impounded in the revolution. All the US has to do is to life the embargo -- and pay $181 billion in damages Cuba claims was caused by the embargo. Then they'll take a few billion of it and give it back to pay for that property. When you're negotiating, it helps if you have something to offer that the other side actually wants; what Castro is offering is to give us some of our own money back while he-and-his pocket the rest. Now is that fair, or what? (discuss)

Update: The US decided that Cuba's offer was one it could refuse. Imagine that!

Stardate 20011129.1307 (On Screen): After the tragedy of the prisoners at Mazar-e Sharif, some human rights groups are demanding an investigation. I'm becoming more than a bit cynical about their motivation, quite frankly, and I suspect that they're hoping (rather than fearing) that they'll find evidence of a war crime. But it's a bit difficult to believe that excessive force was used when the last few survivors are still resisting -- which we know, because they shot two workers clearly wearing the Red Cross who were trying to clear dead bodies from the area. As long as they're fighting, they're not prisoners. If they're fighting, they're enemy soldiers and even under the most restrictive rules of war you're entitled to try to kill them. (discuss)

Stardate 20011129.1259 (On Screen): Well, the Marines are getting serious. SeaBees (CB == Construction Battalion) have moved into that airstrip near Kandahar and have heavy equipment in there. This reporter is uncertain about what they're going to be working on, but there's no question at all: first they're going to improve the airstrip (which is reportedly packed sand now) and then they'll build taxiways and revetments and buildings for maintenance and supply and to house the men who will be assigned there. All of which means that the Marines are planning on staying for a while. (discuss)

Stardate 20011129.1243 (On Screen): It's bad that a bunch of journalists in Afghanistan were kidnapped and murdered. I think that was a terrible crime. I'm very sorry it happened. But there is something about this first person report which strikes me as decidedly strange, for it dwells on the fact that reporters "no longer have immunity."

Where did this reporter get the idea that reporters ever had immunity in the first place? Bombs respect no-one's profession, nor do land mines. In a firefight, people do not ask others about what they do for a living before shooting at them. (Hey, are you a reporter? No. OK; blam!) And Taliban bandits on the road in Afghanistan were looking for westerners on which to take revenge and didn't care who they were. I commented a while back that somehow it seemed strange to me that the press was more horrified by the deaths of reporters than of any other people -- and this again confirms that observation. Reporters seem to be thinking that they can go anywhere, do anything, and yet still be outside of it all, close observers who cannot be affected by what is within arm's reach.

We raced back to Jalalabad. Confused, scared, no one spoke. We tried to attach some sort of logic, some reason why such a terrible thing could have happened. We came up with nothing. My fear had turned to anger. I was angry that I had been shocked into fear. I was angry that I hadn't been more attuned to the treachery of my travel. I was angry that they, whoever they were, had killed journalists.

That is a dangerous fantasy, and it seems to have cost some of them their lives. Even there, on the front line, surrounded by the carnage, this guy seems to not have gotten the message: in a war, people die. If you go on a joy-ride in a combat zone, what the hell did you expect to happen?

Dick Cheney made a speech in which he said that this may be the first war in which the US loses more civilians than soldiers. It's also beginning to look like the first one in which we lose more reporters than soldiers. Maybe that's because soldiers know that they're not invulnerable and don't take stupid risks. (discuss)

Stardate 20011129.0906 (On Screen): Mullah Omar's command yesterday to all Taliban forces to stand and fight to the death is now revealed for what it actually is. To loosely translate into collocquial English: "Quit surrendering and changing sides, fer chrissakes!" It's getting a bit late for that; the friendlies claim that their forces have actually entered Kandahar. (discuss)

Stardate 20011129.0555 (On Screen): Prime Minister Sharon continues to insist that before there can be any negotiations with the Palestinians, that there must be one week with no violence. That guarantees that it won't happen. The Palestinians do not speak with a unified voice. They are not unified in any important regard. Among them are some who do not want negotiations -- and Sharon has now given them veto power. All they have to do is to keep inciting violent confrontations with Israel, and negotiations will never happen. (discuss)

Stardate 20011129.0552 (On Screen): There are Afghan women in Bonn; not many, but some, and they are trying to make sure that women are not oppressed under the new Afghan regime. They seem to have a realistic understanding that if they demand too much too soon, it could all fall apart. There is a lot to deal with, and a lot of cultural damage to undo, and it takes time. They're in a pretty good bargaining position. Before the Taliban, a large proportion of the professionals in Afghanistan were women, including doctors, teachers and government workers. They have a lot to offer, and in a nation whose public institutions are a shambles, they'll be needed. It's just a matter of making sure that there's no backlash from Afghan men. There's a great deal to do, and it's going to take time. So the Afghan women will make haste slowly. And I think they'll win by doing so. (discuss)

Stardate 20011129.0451 (On Screen): It's time for Ashcroft to prove his commitment to the fight against terrorism. A terrorist has issued a threat to murder 42 Americans unless they give in to his demands. He's on the loose in the US; he's armed and dangerous. He has a known contact who is providing him publicity.

He's white. He's "Christian", he says. He claims he's going to kill abortion clinic workers unless they quit their jobs. And he's working with the owner of the notorious web site The Nuremberg Files.

You know, it seems to me that a lot of companies around the world have had their assets seized because of suspicion that they're cooperating with al Qaeda. Don't you think that Neal Horsley's bank accounts should be frozen because he, too, is directly working with a known and admitted terrorist? After all, Horsley is providing a web page to permit the potential victims to announce that they've given in to the threat. I bet our Attorney General doesn't do these things, though. (discuss)

And that page should be deleted immediately.

Stardate 20011129.0442 (On Screen): Professor Felten's suit against the RIAA has been tossed out of court on the grounds that it was moot. Despite what I think about the DMCA, I think this decision by the court was correct. It's going to take someone actually being prosecuted under DMCA before we can get a good court test of it.

Unfortunately, we have one, and a decision on it also went in favor of DMCA yesterday, and it's really scary. But the reports about it are unclear. This concerns the 2600 Magazine suit, where RIAA was suing to prevent publishing the source for DeCSS. But I don't think that this was actually a court decision. I think what happened is that the judge issued a court order preventing 2600 from lilnking to the source for DeCSS and yesterday the appeals court upheld that order. But I think that order was pre-trial and not permanent. Still, the legal consideration that says that linking something can be legally actionable is very, very bad. One problem with it is that it could be a trap. Suppose that I link Violetta's site over there, and then a few months later she decides to post DeCSS on her site without my knowledge. Am I then in violation of the law? Am I legally required to repeatedly monitor all the sites I've ever linked to to make sure none of them have then posted something illegal? In any case, I'm going to keep track of other sites which might have more savvy coverage who may make it more clear just what yesterday's decision really meant. (discuss)

Stardate 20011129.0425 (On Screen): Again the situation in Afghanistan has changed far more rapidly than I expected, and surely more rapidly than the nay-sayers would have believed. The Afghan leaders in Bonn have a general agreement on the form of an interim government which will run the nation until March, when a larger meeting will be held in Afghanistan itself to lay out something more permanent. For political reasons we may never find out just how much foreigners (like the US State Department) were involved in this solution, but I have a suspicion that the answer is "a lot". (discuss)

Stardate 20011128.2231 (Crew, this is the Captain): Well, the struggle with Spica has gotten rather odd. I spent about three days setting up Win2K, and then I did a full backup of it onto a USB HD. (Actually, I had to do it twice. The first time the HD was FAT32 and I topped out the 4.2G file size limit. So I reformatted it as NTFS and then did it a second time.) So I can recover that setup when I want to. Having done that I ended up buying a copy of Win XP Pro, and installed that and started messing with it. I was never able to get DVD playback to work under Win2K, and I wanted to see if it worked in XP Pro. It doesn't. For reason which are not obvious, Media Player doesn't provide me with a "DVD Play" choice; it thinks that a DVD is a CD and only lets me see CD choices.

Which got me curious, so I restored the original XP Home onto the system. (Note that each of these involved repartitioning and reformatting the drive.) And indeed XP Home can play a DVD. It's most mysterious. So XP Pro is back on it, and maybe tomorrow I'm going to call HP's tech support and see if they can tell me why this doesn't work. Likely there's something I need to load, but I'm darned if I know what it might be. Whatever it is, it's not related to that mysterious device for which I couldn't find a Win2K driver, because there are no unsupported devices under XP Pro.

Having been impressed with how well that backup went to the 10G USB HD I own, I realized that this is really a very convenient way of doing backups. It's far more convenient than using CDs, and faster than using tapes. (And tapes and tape drives are not cheap.) So I went over to Fry's today and bought two new drives: one 80G USB2 drive for my desktop computer and a Firewire drive for the laptop. The desktop computer only has USB1 right now but USB2 is backward compatible, and it works fine, and when a reasonable USB2 card comes out I can upgrade. But the Firewire cable that came with the 60G doesn't fit the plug on my laptop; evidently Apple designed Firewire with two different cable connectors, for no obvious reason. (Likely they're electrically compatible, but they're physically incompatible.) So tomorrow I'll have to venture out again to some computer store and see if I can find an adaptor or a small-to-large cable instead of the large-to-large cable I have now. (The drive has the larger connector on it.)

It seems that no matter what I do, I have to make tradeoffs. But maybe not. For example, XP Home as provided with the system didn't have NetBEUI. But NetBEUI is available on the XP Pro disk, though the way it's installed is a bit unorthodox, and it may well also work on XP Home. I'm hoping I can get XP Pro to work, but if the only way I can get DVD playback and full features of the system is by going back to XP Home, that's what I will do. Sigh. (discuss)

Stardate 20011128.2105 (On Screen): Is this how women really talk to each other? No wonder I don't understand them. (discuss)

I thought creatures of different species couldn't interbreed. (Maybe that's why I don't have any kids.)

Stardate 20011128.1748 (On Screen): Mullah Omar is sounding increasingly like Hitler stuck in his bunker in 1945. He has radioed to his troops telling them to fight to the death. (Likely the real purpose of this was to prove that he wasn't killed yesterday in the bombing.) It seems his plea to his forces is working real good. (discuss)

Stardate 20011128.1743 (On Screen): The 10th Mountain Division has finally deployed some of its forces inside of Afghanistan. I though it would happen sooner and in larger numbers. The force is a small one, but of course if it needs the help others will come in. (discuss)

Stardate 20011128.1727 (On Screen): This report is headlined "Middle East Violence Highlights U.S. Peace Problems." The first paragraph is:

The killing of a Palestinian in the Gaza Strip and a gun battle near Jerusalem Wednesday underscored the challenges the United States faces in trying to get Israel and the Palestinians to end 14 months of fighting.

Why, exactly, is this a US problem? We're working on it, but it is not ours; it's the Palestinians and the Israelis who have a problem. (discuss)

Stardate 20011128.1700 (On Screen): One of the most striking aspects of the war we are currently fighting is the lack of contribution from the European Allies of the United States. Article 5 of NATO was invoked, and yet when actual hostilities began it was the US which did it, with minor help from the UK and essentially no help at all from anyone else. This is something I've discussed here before, and I've also discussed why: it's because the US ultimately doesn't trust the Europeans. Once they contributed significant military power to the war, they'd try to grab the steering wheel, and would keep the US from prosecuting the war the way the US really needs to in order to accomplish American political goals (because the point of all war is to accomplish political goals).

NATO invoked Article 5 (which says that an attack on any member is considered an attack on all, and says that all will commit their military forces to the full). The United States thanked them for that courtesy, and then pretty much ignored it. There was handwringing in Europe -- and bombing by the US Navy and US Air Force. The French committed one warship to join our fleet (which happened to already be in the area); so now it's floating in the water of the Arabian Sea, helping to protect our carriers in case the Taliban Navy makes an attack. The Chancellor of Germany spent two months working his way up to actually providing non-combat support for the war, and just a week ago finally rammed it through the parliament by making it a vote of confidence. So now he has permission to commit a few hundred German troops, which I don't think have even deployed yet. The French just recently announced that they'd send a whole ten combat jets into the area to help bomb the Taliban, and I don't think they've deployed yet, either.

The reason the US didn't want them there was precisely because as soon as European troops got involved, the European governments would insist that nothing be done unless everyone involved agreed to it. The US was burned by that in Yugoslavia and the potential tactical benefits of European support were far outweighed by the strategic straitjacket this would have imposed on the progression of the war (if for no other reason then simply because this would have slowed the decision making process too much). So part of why European contributions have been tentative, slow and essentially meaningless has been due to European gingerness about actually getting involved, but part of it has been that the US doesn't want them there.

And now we get to see why: even with the little contribution they've made, they are already trying to grab the steering wheel. The cries are going up in Europe: we have to cooperate in this; you Americans shouldn't do anything without our permission. This has to be an allied effort, not a unilateral American one. No, you cannot go after Iraq unless we say so. Apparently if we don't, the French will take their ten jets and their frigate and go home -- and the war will collapse without that essential contribution. I find the following to be pompous and ludicrous:

But in a speech to the German parliament today, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said "all European nations would view a broadening [of the conflict] to include Iraq highly skeptically — and that is putting it diplomatically."

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder reiterated his support for the U.S.-led coalition but said Germany was not "simply waiting to intervene militarily elsewhere in the world, such as Iraq or Somalia."

"We should be particularly careful about a discussion about new targets in the Middle East — more could blow up in our faces there than any of us realize," Schroeder said.

"We should try and solve the region's problems politically," Fischer added.

Who's this "we", white man? Who says we're going to discuss anything? Germany isn't intervening anywhere. It's constitutionally prevented from doing so, and even if that weren't true, Schroeder's government would fall if he tried it. But that misses the point: what has this got to do with American action? We've managed to do quite fine so far in Afghanistan without any German military assistance, so what possible difference would withdrawal of it make for future American actions? (And how can you withdraw something which hasn't even been committed yet?)

So what, exactly, is Schroeder threatening here? Economic sanctions against the US? Dissolution of NATO? Sending the US Ambassador home? Refusal to provide military support? A declaration of war? In fact, there is exactly nothing Germany can do here except bluster. This speech was made for local consumption; it's purpose was entirely to mollify the anti-war elements of the Green Party which are part of Schroeder's ruling coalition. It has nothing to do with the United States.

A spokesman and a minister of state for Jordan, Saleh Qallab, said in a statement to the official Petra news agency: "Any military action will only lead to deterioration, depression, frustration and negative consequences that are extremely dangerous and would surpass the borders of the region."

They said that about Afghanistan, too, before we started bombing, and while we bombed, and again and again while we bombed -- right up until the Taliban collapsed on the 9th of November, and then they fell strangely silent. And the one thing which is most obvious now is that it didn't happen. There was little unrest on the street in the Arab world, which declined notably after the Taliban collapse. There has not been the kind of "negative consequences" they predicted. And even if there was, who gives a shit? Well, the fragile governments of various Muslim nations do -- but it's becoming increasingly clear that this is relatively unimportant to the United States. Most of those governments have varied between duplicitous and actively hostile towards us, and in the long run we'd probably be better off with a wholesale replacement of the governments of about 10 of the most prominent Muslim nations. But it gets even better:

In Cairo, the secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, said that any attack on an Arab country would have "dangerous repercussions" and would affect the political climate in the region.

"Arab public opinion is completely outraged because of what is happening in the occupied territories, " Moussa said, referring to the 14 months of Israeli-Palestinian fighting.

"If a country like the United States were to conduct any decisive and final diplomatic effort, it should be directed at [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon," Moussa said.

That's priceless. I like that term "dangerous repercussions", because that's the point: what they are viewing with alarm is the dangerous repercussions of permitting Muslim Terrorists to attack the United States and kill thousands of people here. Most of those nations whose governments are now at risk are at least partially complicit in this because of their tolerance of violent extremist groups within their borders, and because of what has been in some cases truly immense financial contributions directly to al Qaeda or to other allied groups.

Of course, our friend Secretary General Moussa provides to us a prescription for what we really should be doing to end this: bomb Israel. (After all, Israel was responsible for the bombing in NYC. They've been saying so for weeks in the Arab press.)

Every one of these pronouncements was self serving. All of them are telling the US what we should do which would be best for them, without paying any attention to what would be best for us. Schroeder wants us to not carry the war to Iraq because if we do the Greens will bolt and his government will fall. Qallab also wants us to not go after Iraq because he's afraid of street riots in Jordan bringing his government down. The Arab League is still fixated on Israel and not paying any attention to the cancer of Islamic Fundamentalist Extremism which not only threatens us but also threatens most of the Arab governments. None of them seem to understand that we're not fighting this war for them.

So what do the Europeans seem to think we should be doing? Ah -- act multilaterally and concentrate on diplomacy. Isn't it obvious? We're supposed to continue like we did in the 1990's. Boy, was that successful, wasn't it? September 11 proved that a complete waste of time; it was worse than useless. The time to try to deal with this with diplomatic and economic pressure is over. But apparently the US just can't win this alone; Afghanistan proves it:

Anyone thinking that the US can go it alone against Iraq should only consider this: could the successes had against the terrorists in Afghanistan today have been achieved without the support of Russia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and other nations? The answer appears to be a resounding "no".

Notice that there's no mention of any requirement of aid from Europe, which I assume is subsumed into the "other nations" in that list. And he's also wrong. It is true that the contributions of Pakistan and Russia were particularly useful, but neither was essential. It is not correct that we could not have won there without help; it's just that it would have taken longer and cost more. So let's take it to its logical conclusion: suppose that the United States was completely determined to take out Afghanistan, and didn't care what it took to do it, and was willing to go to any lengths, and assume that no-one else at all wanted to cooperate. How long would it have taken us to win the war?

About three days. That's how long it would have taken for a Trident sub to reprogram enough of its missiles to destroy all important Afghan targets. From start to finish, the "air campaign" would have taken less than six hours -- the flight time of a Trident D-4 from the Indian Ocean to Kandahar. Yes, I'm well aware of the political fallout (sic) this would have caused; this is a demonstration of falsity, not a recommendation for policy. The point is that Mr. Ritter was incorrect. So the question is not whether the US could win, but what it take to win and what the US would have needed to do to win if it had not had any support from any other nation, and how high a price in time and money and blood the US would have had to pay. So let's consider those "essential" contributions.

The only nations who have actually made important contributions to this have been the UK, Oman, Qatar, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Russia. The primary contribution of the UK was permission to use Diego Garcia, where we have B-52's and B1's based. The UK fired a salvo of Tomahawks in the first couple of days. The UK has also provided aerial tankers, and some unknown (but probably small) number of SAS men have been on the ground in Afghanistan doing something mysterious. All of that was helpful but none was essential. The hardest of those things to replace would have been the use of Diego Garcia, but the fact is that this war didn't actually have to be fought using heavy bombers at all. The only important effect of not being permitted to use Diego Garcia would have been that the US would have deployed five or six carriers instead of three. Everything that's been done in the air over Afghanistan could have been done by the US Navy.

Oman's primary contribution has been to permit us to use airbases there from which we've been flying Air Force F-15's and AC-130 gunships. Again, without that the Navy would have picked up the slack. Qatar's contribution has been that we have a fleet based there, but it's not really essential either. Uzbekistan has given us the privilege of deploying about 2000 men of the 10th Mountain Division to their soil to protect them against the Taliban, and has permitted us to base some helicopters there. Once the war was going well, some of our AC-130 gunships were moved there, but that was only after Uzbekistan was no longer fearful of the Taliban (i.e. only after the war was essentially won, given that we're now in the mopping up stage). In actuality, it's been of little help offensively; it merely presented us with a defensive problem. Russian help was primarily in the form of supplies being provided to the Northern Alliance. But let's be clear that they weren't doing that for us; they were doing that for their own reasons. Even so, had they stopped doing so, we could have air-dropped supplies ourselves.

In fact, of the lot of them, the only one whose help was essential was Pakistan and the only thing we absolutely needed from Pakistan was permission to fly through their airspace. And in fact, if they hadn't given that permission voluntarily, we would have done so anyway. Pakistan doesn't have the ability to prevent it.

So if all those nations had stayed neutral instead of cooperating, the result is that we would have had to fight the war next spring instead of largely winning it now. And that is all that woudl have resulted. Which is why the following is total nonsense:

The fact is, any unilateral US military action against Iraq would most probably cause the fragile coalition assembled to confront terror to rapidly collapse.

Given that the forces of Osama Bin Laden and the al-Qaeda terror network are on their last legs in Afghanistan, such a collapse would represent a regrettable snatching of defeat from the jaws of victory by the United States, something which given the gravity of the ongoing War on Terror, should be avoided at all cost.

What, exactly, is the point of this war? Apparently he thinks the goal of the war is to assemble a coalition, because from his point of view the collapse of that coalition means defeat. I think he's confusing means with ends. I thought that the point of this phase of the war was the destruction of al Qaeda, and that's going to be a fact whether the coalition collapses or not. And anyway, the "fragile coalition" was useful but not really necessary. The only thing that was really necessary was American military forces and the will to use them.

What we're really seeing here from Europe is that it is gradually dawning on them that they are militarily second rate. The United States is capable of fighting the war in Afghanistan -- and the next war in Iraq should that become necessary -- entirely without help from anyone else. Europe collectively (let alone any single European nation) does not have that ability. And it irks them; it's an ego-bust. Virtually none of what we've done is within their capability. They don't have sufficient seaborne air capability; they don't have smart weapons in kind and quantity which would be required; they don't have the ability to project power at all. Their military capability is designed to protect Europe. But their grumbling is not necessary correct:

The superior aerial power and " division of work" shown by the United States in the bombing of Afghanistan while other coalition members are waiting on the fringes to do the eventual task of peace keeping once the war is over illustrates how far Euopean defence is lagging behind, experts said.

"Once again we end up doing the dirty work and the Americans do the high tech," Christopher Coker, a defence expert from the London School of Economics (LSE), told AFP Wednesday.

First, it's not clear that the US won't be involved in "peace keeping." Second, it's by no means obvious that the Europeans will be. The Afghans have made plain in their meetings currently happening in Bonn (which could just as easily have been held in Singapore or Perth) that they don't want European peacekeeping troops. Nor, considering the dismal record of such efforts, do I blame them for that. Finally, nation building in Afghanistan is only a secondary goal of this war. (Elimination of al Qaeda was goal number 1.)

There appears to be rising frustration among the politicians and punditry in Europe about the fact that they're on the sidelines. Partly it's a recognition that they don't really have a great deal to contribute, partly it's frustration that the US is ignoring them, and partly it's a feeling of helplessness at watching events unfold without being able to influence them. After hundreds of years of dominating the politics and economy of the World, it's finally becoming evident that with the end of the Cold War that Europe is no longer the center of the universe.

Bummer. (discuss)

I'd like to thank Rafe and MommaBear for sending in a couple of these links.

Stardate 20011128.1521 (On Screen): In one of the least profound diplomatic statements of modern times, US envoy Anthony Zinni announces that it would be better if there were peace in Israel. Of course, it might have been a bit more impressive if he were to announce just how that might be accomplished. This seems to be yet another example of how every diplomatic activity is always a success. (discuss)

I'm afraid I'm in a foul mood today, and I have no use for fools even under the best of circumstances. I don't blame Zinni for this, I blame the reporter.

Stardate 20011128.0708 (On Screen via long range sensors): Thank goodness for The Guardian. When I can't find anything else to write about, The Guardian is always there for me. This article expresses concern over the fact that the US is now eyeing Iraq and making threatening noises. Naturally, the Europeans should be the ones to reign in the impulses of their problem child, only this time American doesn't seem to be willing to listen to mommy and daddy. Oh, dear.

It's not so much that the facts in this article are wrong (actually they're pretty much correct) as that their take on the issues are so different than mine.

In Newsweek, [President Bush] amplified this with reference to one man. "Saddam is evil," he declared for the first time. It could take years to catch Osama bin Laden, he allowed. But many other targets are now on notice of merciless aggression.

You do not hear a single word of similar intensity from any European leader. Even Tony Blair, while regularly reinvoking the global campaign against terror, seldom talks about the enemy with Bush's slavering passion for specific eliminations. The president is mobilising an American national will such as we have not recently seen

Their take on this? We've lost control of the cowboy nation. My take? Why the hell aren't they helping us?

One proof of [the new American will] is what encroachments on their liberties Americans are willing to put up with. Protests against the repressive gospel according to the attorney general, John Ashcroft, are few and far between. A country that guards its constitutional freedoms with meticulous passion is prepared to surrender them with pious indifference. So easy is such submission to raison d'état that the quiet torture of recalcitrant suspects surely cannot be far behind.

Of course, not everything they say is right; it wouldn't be a Guardian article without at least one ridiculous exaggeration. We are hardly sacrificing our rights. We passed a new law that gives a few new capabilities to law enforcement agencies, but I don't see any attempts to repeal the First Amendment.

The rest of the article is a pretty correct observation that there is going to be an increasing divergence between the US and the European nations on willingness to keep fighting, which is pretty much true. Despite invocation of NATO Article 5, the Europeans (except the British) have never shown much will to participate in this war, and none of them (even the British) seem to have any interest in following it to its logical conclusion. The US, on the other hand, isn't going to rest on this.

When aspiring partners, from Italy to Japan, thirsted to get in on the action and prove their manly commitment, they were nominally accepted, their troops probably never to be used. When even the German Greens, at the weekend, voted to take part, a Rubicon of lasting importance to Germany and Europe was crossed.

But Washington remains in unimpeded charge. Behind coalitionist talk, that's how they want it. They speak, moreover, for a different aftermath. Again the verbiage tries to soften this. But when Mr Blair talks about rebuilding Afghanistan and not forgetting it in the peace, it's plain he is sincere whereas Bush's people mouth the words and do not really mean them.

It's absolutely correct that the US wants to run this war, and the reason is that the last couple of times it tried to run a coalition war the result was a fiasco. We learned our lesson: we can't trust the Europeans to fight. On the other hand, this is absolutely wrong: the US definitely wants to win the peace. But, and this is important, we're not going to let "winning the peace" prevent us from winning the war, first. Setting up a stable government in Afghanistan is important, but annihilating the Taliban and al Qaeda are more important. And we're not going to let "winning the peace" prevent us from winning the whole war, which means not just in Afghanistan but everywhere else that needs to be straightened out.

Third, and most delicately, comes Bush's promise that Afghanistan is not the end but the beginning. Again, many countries are signed up to that. Organised commitment to strangle the finances of terrorism should make a difference. But a choice presents itself, in which it's clear where every EU country, not to mention Russia and most of the Middle East, stands: on the slow road of economic and diplomatic action, rather than the fast track of bulldog threats followed by instant bombing.

Quite right, too; we've spent the last ten years trying that slow road of economic and diplomatic action and it doesn't work. It gave our enemies free reign to attack us. So we're not going to do that anymore.

This whole article oozes with European chauvinism. But at least it does recognize the one fundamental truth: the American people are not interested in cooperating with the Europeans any more if the price of that cooperation is failure. This war will be fought and will be won. The Europeans are welcome to help as long as their help doesn't lead to failure, or they are welcome to sit back and wring their hands and complain (which we'll ignore and which also won't lead to failure). But there is absolutely nothing the Europeans can do to stop this. We didn't start this war but we're damned well going to finish it, European sensibilities notwithstanding. (discuss)

Stardate 20011127.1358 (On Screen): Baleen whales (like the Blue Whale) often eat krill, a miniature crustacean which is a bit like a tiny shrimp. Krill tend to swim in large groups, and the whale gets below them, opens its mouth, swims up and engulfs as many as it can along with the water they're swimming in. It then closes its mouth and uses its baleen to filter the water out, leaving just the yummy krill behind to swallow. Of course, the krill are rather spread out, and the whale wants to get as many of them as it can because doing this will scatter the school. So the whales do something crafty: after finding a school of krill, they swim around and below them and blow air out, which forms a sort of net of bubbles. This causes the krill to concentrate in the middle, which means that when the whale finally does its thing, there are a lot more krill in there. I wonder if our military planners are doing something like that to bin Laden and the top leadership of al Qaeda.

Local militia leaders in eastern Afghanistan suspect bin Laden may be holed up in a mountain base called Tora Bora that veteran Afghan guerrillas describe as an impregnable fortress.

Built with U.S. aid during the Soviet occupation, Tora Bora sits about 35 miles south of Jalalabad, atop a 13,000-foot mountain, three hours by foot from the nearest road. Carved 1,150 feet into the mountain are a series of rooms and tunnels that reportedly can house some 1,000 people.

Ali, who used the base to launch attacks against the Soviet army in the 1980s, said Tora Bora was almost impossible to take by force. The Soviets bombed and attacked it repeatedly for a decade with little effect, he said.

So the idea would be to bomb all sorts of other places, and to let Special Forces snipers take out guards outside other cave complexes, but to leave this one alone. And with its reputation from the war with the USSR, they might decide that it is indeed invulnerable. So over time, more and more of their important assets (especially top people) would concentrate there -- and once they're all set (or set up), the entire area would be hit with weapons which the USSR didn't have, which would bring the place down. This complex cannot be a mystery to our military planners; I'm sure they know all about it. There's got to be a reason it hasn't been bombed yet, whether it's actually being used or not, and I think that's the reason. (discuss)

Update: Of course, if you really want to be tricky, then you bomb ineffectually a couple of times to convince them that you tried to destroy it and failed.

Stardate 20011127.1334 (On Screen): The diplomatic pressure on Iraq has begun. Bush has issued what amounted to a blunt demand that Iraq start complying again (really complying this time) with the UN weapons inspectors, and iraq responded by saying "Lift the sanctions first." That won't happen, of course. But this time the US statement wasn't a "called for"; it was a threat.

Asked what would happen if the Iraqi leader did not comply, Bush said: "He'll find out."

Secretary of State Colin Powell told CNN in an exclusive interview on Monday's Larry King Live that Hussein should take President Bush's demand as a "very sober, chilling message."

This is the result of one of the goals in Afghanistan having been met. Even though the war has not yet been finished there, a clear example has already been made of the Taliban. That was precisely required so that we could say to other bad guys (like Saddam) "Cooperate, or you're next." And that, in essence, is what Bush just said.

Iraq is playing the "Poor little oppressed Muslim Arab nation being oppressed by the big bad Western Christian nation" card as hard as it can, such as its denunciation of the way that the prisoner escape attempt in Mazar-e Sharif was handled. Of course, once they had captured arms and were resisting forcibly, they were no longer prisoners. It's a bit unfortunate that it was necessary to kill them all, but it was their choice, and in a sense that further serves the long term political goal by demonstrating that the US will no longer back away from doing what needs to be done.

Saddam is trying to play to the Arab street, both inside Iraq and in other Arab nations. The evidence is that the events in Afghanistan have really changed how the "street" is reacting to things; they seem to be a bit shocked by how rapidly and completely the Taliban collapsed. (Hell, we all were shocked by that.) So I'm not sure I believe that this card will do Iraq much good, especially with the US simultaneously helping "the street" in Afghanistan itself. With the people there actually doing better than before, it's a bit hard to characterize us as big bullies on the hunt to kill every Muslim who draws breath. (Which was also one of the goals of this.)

In a statement carried by the official Iraqi News Agency, an Iraqi government spokesman said: "Anyone who thinks Iraq can accept an arrogant and unilateral will of this party or that, is mistaken.

"Iraq is able to defend its self and rights and will not bow to threats but only to justice, and right."

The diplomatic goal for the US is to make it so that Iraq runs out of cards and does indeed begin to really cooperate. The fear is that Iraq will have painted itself into a corner before then so that its prior utterances make it so that it cannot give in. I'm not too worried about that yet; based on the current rhetoric, if Iraq gives in they'll do so by playing the Arab Victim card again, portraying themselves as not having any choice. (Which, ironically, may well be the case.) But if their rantings become much more bellicose, then we may be forced to actually wage war there. (discuss)

Stardate 20011127.1255 (Crew, this is the Captain): I've had several different people write in about the problems I'm having with TCP/IP routing on my LAN. So I thought I'd go into a bit more depth on it and explain why some of the solutions proposed wouldn't really help anything.

Regulus, the server, has a fixed IP. It has to have so that my name server knows where to find it. In addition to that, I also pay RR for two dynamic IPs, which are used by Antares (the desktop) and Spica (the new laptop). Those generally don't change but they can; Canopus (the old laptop) used to have a 204. IP, but somehow Spica has come up with a 24. one, which is the same bank as Antares has had for a long time. One suggestion people have had is that I get an ethernet hub with DHCP built in, so that everything used a local address (i.e. 192.168). That would work for communications between Antares and Spica, but I already get fast communication between them using NetBEUI. I don't really need anything except disk cross-mounting and printer-sharing, and NetBEUI supports those both. Such a hub wouldn't solve the problem of access to Regulus, because Regulus has to stay with its fixed IP because that's what my name-server is telling all of you when you access "". Which means that any attempt to access Regulus would still route out and back because of how RR's cable modems are designed.

There's actually a different solution available to me, but I'm a little afraid of it. Regulus (a Cobalt Qube 3) actually has two ethernet interfaces. Among its many diverse capabilities, it can act as a gateway. It can implement DHCP and serve as a firewall for the LAN behind it. What I could do is to plug Regulus directly into the cable modem, and plug my hub into the other port on Regulus and let it be my DHCP host. In that case, all communications here on the LAN would be behind Regulus, and traffic to Regulus would not have to pass through the cable modem. But I'm a little afraid of that because it might bring the web site down if I screw up. Also, it would mean that all my other traffic would route through Regulus, and I'm not so sure what that would do to the poor baby 300 MHz K6-2 powering the thing. (Maybe I'm borrowing trouble; it is, actually, not that bad a CPU. It just seems underpowered compared to my other computers.) Earlier, I was also worried about its reliability, though now that I've had it for several months I'm not any longer. (Cobalt's statistics gathering software gets wedged every once in a while and I have to reboot Regulus to straighten it out. But Apache just runs and runs and runs.) And for the moment the transfer time for my weekly backup isn't too bad; I can set it up to go and do other things. I usually do it on Sunday nights, and will set it up to transfer just before going to bed. (All my computers stay on 24/7.)

I may well be led to trying using Regulus as a gateway, though, because the wireless hub is going to want its own IP, and I don't have anymore without paying RR another $5 per month. Unfortunately, it's all or nothing. I tried one time enabling DHCP on Regulus, and when I did I was no longer able to access RR's DHCP even though I wasn't using Regulus's second ethernet port. So whenever I rebooted either of my other computers, I had to go and unplug Regulus from the hub briefly. Then the other computer would access RR's DHCP and get its assignment. So anyway, if you find that access to Regulus is slow or intermittent in the next couple of days, it's probably going to be because I'm experimenting with trying to make it my gateway. Of course, there's yet another possibility: I can use Regulus's second ethernet port but not enable DHCP. After all, I can enter 192.168 numbers myself; they don't need to be dynamic.

So I'm not out of possibilities here. (discuss)

MommaBear writes in to say that there is no NetBEUI for Linux. I'm hardly surprised at that; I didn't really expect there would be one.

Stardate 20011127.0901 (Crew, this is the Captain): The process of setting up Spica continues to go well. Win2K works fine. The only capability I don't seem to be able to use is to play DVDs on it, which is unfortunate but livable. Unlike XP, Win2K doesn't have a built-in DVD player. But I own a copy of PowerDVD and did install that. It installs fine, but any time I try to run it it just dies immediately and does a core dump. That same program works fine on my desktop computer which is also running Win2K, so this is probably an issue of hardware capability in the system's display hardware. That's how it goes; it's not exactly fatal.

But Win2K works fine, and Office is on it, and ThumbsPlus and about six utilities without which I cannot live (i.e. Batchname, Shoveit, RTVReco) and I got the two computers to network properly.

I pretty much have to use NetBEUI for that. Because of how Road Runner is set up, any TCP/IP communications between my computers routes out through the cable modem and bounces at RR's first stage router back down through the modem to my other computer. So when I do my weekly backup of Regulus (the web server), I transfer the 10M .gz file at about 140 kilobits on my 100 megabit LAN, and a backup which ought to take about five seconds actually takes more than ten minutes. But when my two Windows computers talk using NetBEUI, they talk directly at 100 megabits. (Anyone know of a NetBEUI driver for RedHat Linux?) This business with RR's modem doesn't appear to be solvable; it's been a problem for everyone here as long as I've been using it (4.5 years) and people a lot more savvy than I am about TCP/IP and networking have not found a fix for it. It's a pain.

Anyway, now both Spica and Antares (the desktop computer) can see each other. That's better than Canopus (the other laptop, which ran Win 98SE) ever did; Canopus could see Antares but not the other way around.

Anyway, remaing to be done is to get NERO installed and make sure I can burn CDs, getting the wireless LAN to work, and calling Microsoft and getting them to let me register Frontpage. It is installed on Antares and was installed on Canopus but won't be used there anymore; with registrations on three different computers (in six months) Microsoft's anti-piracy filter has kicked in and they refuse to register it. And Frontpage will only let you use the program 50 times without registering. Online registration doesn't have any mechanism for appeals, so I'm going to have to talk to a nice Microsoft operator. Oh, joy.

Once that's all complete (and a few other things, like making the Buslink USB HD's work), the plan is to install Backup Now! and then make a full snapshot of the system disk so that I can recover in future without having to go through all this again, if something happens. I figure it's going to take another couple of days to get the primary setup done. (discuss)

Stardate 20011127.0640 (On Screen): America leads the world in sex! (Yet another reason "why they hate us," I guess.) A condom maker released the results of its annual survey about sexual practices of people in 28 nations, and Americans had sex more often (124 times per year) and with more partners(14) than anyone else. (That don't sound like my life...)

I'm afraid not. What they found is that this is what people said when asked by a nosey interviewer -- or perhaps "bragged" would be a better description of it. And it's almost certain that this is a biased sample, because people who aren't getting any (sob!) are likely to tell the interviewer to take a flying leap. So it's hard to credit this survey with proving anything at all, actually. (discuss)

Stardate 20011127.0626 (On Screen): (Warning: spoilers) The latest season of Junkyard Wars has now finished broadcasting here in the states, and I must say that I think that the winners absolutely deserved it. Neither team's devices in the finals worked as designed but they improvised on the spot and came up wth a new way to win; the Gearheads actually had their machine break down twice during the contest and they did emergency repairs on the spot and still won. But their other two entries were much better. Their bridging machine was a superb design; it was simple and straightforward and easy to operate. This is the third time that challenge has been used in this series and the Gearhead's design was easily the best of the six and would easily have beaten any of the other five. Of course it didn't help that their expert cut his hand badly and had to go to the hospital for stitches. He came back before they were finished but wasn't a lot of help with one of his hands bandaged up. So they finished construction short handed (ahem).

But it's for their second challenge that I think they earned that win. The challenge was to make gliders, which would be rolled down a grassy slope; the score was how long it stayed in the air before it landed. When I saw their plan their own biplane by constructing two wings out of wood and plastic and wire, I muttered "They're never going to finish that in time." I thought it was much too ambitious. But they did, which was amazing enough.

Most of what gets produced in this show looks like what it is: something cobbled together out of junk, intended to last just long enough to win. Not this bird; it was beautiful and I mean that literally. It had fabulous lines; at least on TV it looked like something that someone had spent a month building. It even had a slight wing dihedral to lend stability to the design. And it really flew nicely; that thing really wanted to be in the air. It was easily the best single design ever built by anyone on any of the episodes of the show I've seen. After they built that glider, it just wouldn't have been right for them to lose. (discuss)

And the best part of all? They're all immigrants. America has always done well by its immigrants.

Stardate 20011127.0556 (On Screen): Remember the guy in Atlanta who was in a hurry and didn't want to wait in line for the security check? He ran past the guards and said "Hey, I'm not carrying anything." (That's good enough for me!) As a result, Atlanta's airport was shut down for most of a day, and air traffic all over the eastern part of the US was disrupted. At one point they were considering filing some pretty serious charges against the guy, but finally he was charged only with disorderly conduct, a hand slap. But now it may well be that he's going to regret his thoughtlessness, because one of the airlines operating from there is suing him.

I think they have a case. Because of his thoughtless actions, the airline lost a bundle of money. So far as I know that is sufficient. Inevitably his lawyer claims the airline has no case, but I think this is going to turn out to be the most expensive airline ticket he's ever purchased. (Maybe next time he should take the train.) (discuss)

Stardate 20011126.1617 (On Screen):

The Oppression from England upon America prior to the American Revolutionary War. You remember how we won that? By playing dirty. By breaking the rules. We hid behind stuff while the redcoats came marching down the lane in military fashion. Same thing that Bin Laden's doing now against us. Now WE are the Redcoats.

I missed this earlier, and it deserves its own section, because it's going to take a long time to talk about it. It is, sad to say, a myth. It's true that in the early stages of the war that some parts of the fighting was done this way (most notably at the Battle of Lexington and Concord) but the primary battles which were won by the Revolutionaries were not won that way. In fact, in the early stages of the war, most attempts to fight that kind of war were failures. For example, the legendary Battle of Bunker Hill was actually won by the British. Its fame and importance is not due to the fact that the Americans won it, but rather because they managed to put up as good a fight as they did. (The British suffered a thousand casualties, about a third of their number.)

One of the least well known and most important events of the Revolutionary War when when Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben arrived at Valley Forge. He'd met Benjamin Franklin in Europe, who convinced him to come to the US and teach the Patriot army how to fight. (One of many things we have to thank Franklin for.) And over the course of the next few months, he did so -- and taught the Americans how to fight European style. And some of the most successful battles of the war on the Patriot side were fought by men who had gone through von Steuben's training, and fought European style. (My favorite is the Battle of the Cowpens.

The most important battle ever fought by the United States was the Battle of Yorktown. Franklin (again!) had convinced the Emperor of France to commit the French fleet. There was a substantial British force there, at the end of a long peninsula, but it was being supplied by the British Fleet. The French moved their fleet in and prevented (without combat) the RN from helping the Army units, and Washington stole a march and moved his army from New York down to Virginia and laid siege to the city. It was a classic siege, with trenches and artillery being advanced stepwise, and at the end of that the British surrendered and their forces there were taken prisoner. It was the last battle of the revolutionary war, and it wasn't fought by shooting from behind trees and rocks. It was classic application of European tactics, and it wouldn't have been possible without von Steuben's training. (He eventually became an American citizen and was given a pension.)

"Shooting from behind trees" is a popular image of how the war was fought; it seems to suggest stuffy British wedded to old fashion tactics being shown a new way of war by the upstart but brilliant and innovative Americans. It's sad to say that it isn't true. The Revolution was only won after Washington's army adopted European tactics and started to stand up and fight in lines. (discuss)

Stardate 20011126.1527 (On Screen): Remember Dmitry Sklyarov? Well, he's out on bail but he can't go home. Now they've scheduled his trial -- for next July. (Never let it be said that the US legal system is in a hurry to settle anything.)

We need to keep holding Adobe responsible for this; they got off much too easily. They bitched to the FBI about Sklyarov because he cracked their inept crypto, and then after an uproar they issued a joint statement with the EFF saying that he should be freed, knowing full well that it wouldn't happen. And by so doing they were able to duck the PR issues raised by the fact that they are responsible for him being arrested. (EFF got conned; they owe all of us an apology.)

I don't think Adobe should be let off that easily. What with all the other colored-ribbon projects, and thus and so -- maybe a "Boycott Adobe!" button project? Which points to one of the web pages which discusses the case and makes clear Adobe's involvement in it? The only way that American corporations are going to get the message is if one of their own is badly harmed commercially because it used DMCA like this. Adobe must suffer lost sales as long as Sklyarov is being held in the US; the boycott should end the day he gets on a jet bound for Moscow. (discuss)

But not to these wusses.

Stardate 20011126.1447 (On Screen): Last week there was a flurry of news where the government in the UK denied that there was any rift between the US and Northern Alliance and the UK about the role of British troops there. The UK has had a substantial force of Royal Marines in the region, left over from a training maneuver. They were ordered to stay there after the war broke out, with the expectation that they might need to be used on Afghanistan. Now, within a day or so, two things have happened:

First, the US Marines have hit the ground in battalion strength near Kandahar (with every expectation that even more will be moving in very soon, and second, the UK government has ordered those Royal Marines to stand down. So far they don't seem to be leaving the region, but this contrast is rather striking. If large scale ground commitment of western forces has now begun, what's the deal here?

What it makes me wonder is whether the rumors that the UK government was so quick to deny last week were actually true, and that there really was some sort of difference of opinion about the role of British ground force there.

I think maybe there was. But I think it's a problem with the Afghans, not with the US. Another reason I think that is because of that flap about British troops when a hundred of them deployed at the Bagram airbase north of Kabul. 160 men moved in, also including 60 Americans. No-one seemed to mind the Americans, but there was vocal objection to the Brits. Eventually it was straightened out and they stayed, but I don't think there will be any more. Now 13 Russian (!) planes have landed there and unloaded supplies and equipment and people (!), and I don't think those will be the last. And no-one seems to mind. So why the complaints only about the British?

We're going to fire up the subspace crystal ball and see what we can see. I think that what's going on is that the Americans and the Russian have been earning good-guy points with the Northern Alliance, and the Americans also with the southern Pashtun who are now opposing the Taliban, but that the Brits have not been. Grudges are held a long time there and I think the Brits are living down their colonial heritage. Certainly the Russians have a lot of atoning to do wrt Afghanistan, but they've been the main foreign source of supply for arms and equipment for the Northern Alliance for years, and just before the fall of Mazar-e Sharif they shipped in 60 fresh T-55 tanks and a bunch of trucks and APCs and a lot of other stuff, along with Russian technicians to keep it all running. And they've continued to ship in supplies in ever increasing amounts. And I don't think I have to go into too much detail about all the ways that the Americans have been earning points there in the last two months.

The British have been very helpful in this campaign, particularly with aerial tankers which have assisted the bombing. They've provided other kinds of assistance as well (SAS, for example) but I think most of it has been invisible to the Afghans. What they see is American FAC's speaking on radios and bombs hitting the Taliban, Russians showing up with goodies, Americans helping them to plan their war, the Americans also showing up with lots of goodies (e.g. neat looking camo uniforms) etc. But they don't see much that the Brits are doing to actually help them in this war. (The SAS probably have been on the ground, but I suspect they've mostly been doing scouting rather than making contact with the locals and doing negotiating and coordination like the American Special Forces have been.)

I think that a major movement of Russian troops into Afghanistan would also be fiercely resisted by the Afghans, but for the moment they're tolerated in small numbers because of all the goodies they're shipping in. But I think that right now the Americans are the only foreign forces that the friendly Afghans really trust, which is why American troops are the only ones (we know of) on the ground in substantial numbers.

Which is the other possibility: this may be disinformation. But I don't think so; I think there really is some sort of rift, and how it was settled was "Americans, yes; British, no". I hope this doesn't embarrass Tony Blair. He's a good man and he's been a good friend. (discuss)

Stardate 20011126.1156 (On Screen): Zach responds in what may be developing into that debate I sought. (I haven't made up my mind yet whether I really want to pursue it much further.)

To begin with, he begins with an extended survey of Christian theology, including a discussion of the Ten Commandments, and I'm not going to bother resonding to it because it has nothing to do with this. That's because I'm not Christian and the US is not a Christian nation, and the First Amendment says that we're not supposed to run this nation according to the precepts of any single religion. That's also implied by the third clause of Article Six of the Constitution, which forbids any religious test for holding any position in the Government. Christian theology is no more relevant to this discussion than would be the statements of the Zen Masters. So, moving on:

Did we have a choice? NO. Bin Laden's gonna kill anyone who disagrees with him. Anyone who gets in his way. We can't stand that. We can't tolerate it. In fact we HAVE tolerated him and Saddam and a bunch of other nitwits for far too long. We've tried to be nice and play diplomacy and be good guys about this, but they aren't playing by the rules. They're not going along with the world society's rules. They're not coloring inside the lines. So we have to play hard ball. In the short term, it's to preserve our own way of life, and our own existence.

That's more or less my argument, too. So Zach is saying "War is always wrong, except that this particular war is right." It's rather difficult to resolve that contradiction. I'm tempted to stop here, since we both agree that we need to fight this particular war, which is what I was contending all along. But once again into the breach, my friends:

Should we have done it? NO. As I said before, history has proven time and time again that nothing permanent and pure ever stems from violence.

And then he proceeds to present a lot of examples of how violence resulted in only temporary gains. But there's an unspoken assumption in there: Nothing is worth doing unless it has permanent and pure results. I don't agree with that. I used to give flowers to my girlfriend; it made her happy. We've since broken up, so it didn't lead to any permanent result. But I still think it was worth doing and I don't have any regrets about it, because I think that transient and impure results are also worthwhile. Short term gain is worth having, all other things being equal. So for me, to demonstrate that there result of a given war would not be permanent isn't to prove that the war is not worth fighting.

One of the reasons why is that "short" isn't necessarily all that short. The destruction of Carthage was part of a tapestry of acts by Rome which resulted in its dominance of the entire Mediterranean for 500 years (and the dominance by its culture of the eastern part for a thousand years. That's not permanent, of course, and by the standards of geological time it's probably "short". But it's not short measured in human lives, and a lot of people who lived in those times were glad it had happened. (And of course a lot of others were not.)

By the same token, the war we're fighting now won't have permanent results, either. But it may last a long time and what it does do may be good for us -- and that's sufficient even if it's not permanent. So, moving on...

"The goal is to prevent future attacks against the US -- and there's now a damned good chance that it will be at least partially successful at that."

It won't even be partially successful. Have you forgotten the first World War? The War To End All Wars? Then it's sequel, and the various spinoffs. Now we're looking at the potential for Part Three.

The only way to win, my dear sir, is not to play.

Zach misunderstood me. I didn't mean that the goal of this war was to make there never be another attack forever on the United States by anyone. I meant the more local goal of preventing attacks during the next fifty years by the particular bunch who attacked us the last time. (And the only way to "not play" is to surrender.)

The rest was more of the same. I'm afraid that this was not the droid I was looking for. (discuss)

I recommend to you Gleemax's excellent response.

Update: Zach responds one more time, and I'm going to let it rest here. It's, um, err, interesting.

Stardate 20011126.0946 (On Screen): We in the press (yeah, right) have a new nomenclature problem: what to call the forces fighting against the Taliban? Way back a couple of weeks ago, they could be called "The Northern Alliance" or less commonly "The United Front". But now the war has moved to the south and the local Pashtun are carrying the combat, and since they were never part of the NA, it's silly to keep using that term. I've started calling them "Friendlies", but the legitimate (ahem) news sources can't use a term like that. The consensus term seems to be "Anti-Taliban", which is the best they can do, I guess. (discuss)

Stardate 20011126.0833 (On Screen): Senator Leahy announced that the suspicious letter addressed to him contained enough anthrax to kill 100,000 people. This is not a useful announcement to make. It's also a crock.

It may be true, if you were to line up 100,000 people, and then carefully adminster precisely a fatal does to each of the without wastage. I think that unlikely to happen, and in the real world, nearly all of any toxic substance used as a weapon is wasted. The worst case plausible scenario for his letter was that it kill a few dozen people, perhaps even a few hundred. Note that in fact as far as anyone knows that particular letter didn't actually infect anyone at all.

Is Leahy blowing his own horn here? "Hey! I'm important! You know that because someone tried to kill me." Is receiving an anthrax-letter the new DC status symbol or something? (discuss)

Stardate 20011126.0824 (On Screen): Reports about the Marines have been confused, but I think that the straight word is coming through now. This comes directly from the Marine commander on USS Pelelieu. A desert airstrip near Kandahar has been taken and presumably is being prepared to be used to bring in bulk supplies. First, this will probably be used to provide arms and ammunition to the local friendlies. Second, it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if they start to base helicopter gunships there, for use in close air support of the assault on Kandahar. Jets are good, but there are a lot of things that helicopters can do better because they can hover and move slower. Of course, once something like this is done it has to be done in overwhelming force, and General Mattis says that there will be a thousand men on the ground very soon. That is prudent. (If you put a small number of men in, they're vulnerable to a counterattack.) For the moment they're probably being moved in and supplied by helicopters, which is very difficult at that range. The air strip will be used to supply the Marines themselves. And this may be the beginning of a major deployment of US forces into the area in preparation for major ground action.

Apparently the upcoming winter doesn't seem to be a factor in this. If they really thought that the theater was going to shut down because of it they surely would not have moved in so many men at this point. Evidently they expect action to continue in the immediate future. I suspect one thing that's going to be shipped in large quantities through that airfield is snow suits for the friendlies and similar equipment. The ability to operate in winter using Western equipment could give the friendlies a major military advantage over the remaining Taliban forces in that area. General Winter looks to be fighting on our side. (discuss)

Update: They have based helicopters there and they're already in action.

Stardate 20011126.0706 (On Screen): It's amazing how so much of the news coverage of digital music seems to forget about the consumers. This article discusses a two-way tussle between the record producers and the companies which make players, indicating that right now they are going in divergent directions. It then suggests that they make becoming together and that diplomacy will prevail and peace will rule the planet and it's the coming of the age of Aquarius...

Well, not exactly. Like so much of this coverage, it forgets that the customers themselves are also a party. If the producers of portable digital players and other devices for listening to digital music do indeed give in to the RIAA's wet dream, the result would be a collapse of sales as the customers refuse to buy. For customers, the ability to make copies of music is part of the value proposition. As soon as music can no longer be copied (to portable players or onto CDs in personal compilations of favorite tracks) then the music itself will be seen as substantially less valuable, and if the price doesn't come down then the customers won't buy any longer. (And I can't believe that anyone will be willing to buy music with an expiration date.)

I think that the companies making players know this, which is why they haven't been playing along with the record companies on incorporating digital rights management into their products. That's part of why SDMI fell apart, and it's why I think that despite what this article says there will be no industry-wide adoption of DRM unless it's mandated by law. (Which better not happen.)

So why the articles? I think it's fluff from the companies trying to push their own versions of DRM. This article mentions several of them by name, and they're trying to push their own products with an "Of COURSE this is going to happen" point of view. Only it ain't. (discuss)

Stardate 20011126.0633 (On Screen): One of the stranger aspects of running this site is that I seem to have gotten the reputation for knowing all the answers. Every once in a while, out of the blue, I'll receive a letter asking me some question, from some person I've never heard of. I respond as best I can. About two weeks ago I received this one: simple english, not in "geek speak," what the hell do I do to stop the pop up ads?

He wanted a short, simple answer, so I gave him one: Purchase and install AdSubtract Pro. I started using this a few months ago after I got fed up with Norton Internet Security blue-screening Win 2K all the time. AdSubtract Pro (and ZoneAlarm Pro) are much more reliable products, and I think they work better, too (although in some ways they're not quite as flexible).

Some of the web sites out there have gotten crafty. CNN has started running Flash ads on their pages, for example. My usual solution to that is to set up a rule for the site which prevents it from retrieving ".swf" -- but that didn't work there. So I had to dig into the page source and loading logs a bit. Turns out that they're loading javascripts from another site. The solution turned out to be to set up a rule for a site called "" to prevent it from loading ".js". As soon as I did that, obnoxious flash ads at CNN vanished forever (or until they find another way to slip them through).

In the mean time, I'd like to reassure people that I will answer all questions to the best of my ability, but that sometimes the answer will be "I don't know." (discuss)

Stardate 20011126.0526 (Crew, this is the Captain): Michaël writes to me as follows:

I am a Belgian trying to live together with my USAmerican girlfiend despite our cultural differences. I realize that I do not understand the USA at all so I am doing this little personal research project. In your article "What are we fighting for?", you mention that you think "the US system is flawed". Could you expand on this a little? I am interested to know what Americans living in the USA think are the flaws of their system.

I started to respond via email on this but once I finished writing it, it seemed as if it would make a good log entry. The system in the US where the President, the Senate and House are all elected separately leads to the possibility that one party may control two of them while the other party controls the third. That has been the norm in the 20th century. It's been extremely rare for one party to control all three for an extended period. (That happened during most of the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for example.) So when control is mixed, it has lead to deadlock and political posturing, with each party trying to set the other up to take the fall for bad news. As a result, the parties spend more of their time maneuvering to try to gain more control than they do actually governing.

Sometimes governments have to do things that they know will anger the voters. If one party controls the government then it has to grit its teeth and do it. But when you have the situation in the US, then there will be maneuvering where each party tries to set the other up to take the blame.

The Parliamentary system is better in that regard. There's only one (important) legislative chamber instead of two, and the executive is selected by the Parliament. While you do sometimes get coalitions to form a government, once it happens you have a single group with control who can unambiguously act on their own policies.

There are disadvantages to that, too. One advantage of the US system is that elections are scheduled. Necessarily, in the Parliamentary system the government can fall at any time, and it's possible to have Italian-style government churn, where the nation spends much too high a proportion of the time mucking around with campaigns and elections, during which time the government is paralyzed.

Equally, you can have Israeli-style party fragmentation where you have a scad of parties and many times the government is a coalition of several. This means that often the coalition is forced to give disproportionate influence to some extremist fringe group, which means that the policies of the resulting government will not be representative of the electorate.

ALL democratic systems are flawed; that has actually been proven mathematically. It's not possible to create an ideal democratic system. (A guy named Arrow won a Nobel Prize in Economics for proving it.) So it's not so much a question of the US system being flawed and systems used in Europe being better, it's rather that each has different flaws. And Arrow's proof is eternal, so it's not possible to fix the flaws without introducing others. (discuss)

Stardate 20011125.2253 (On Screen): It's reported that several hundred Marines have now been committed to an area just south of Kandahar. I have no idea what their mission might be. I wish them well: to fight bravely in battle and to come home safely to their families. (discuss)

Update 20011126: It's reported that they took the Kandahar airport.

Stardate 20011125.1909 (Crew, this is the Captain): I think maybe there is a new internet worm going around. Twice today I've received letters containing nothing except a file named "blah-blah-blah.MP3.scr". I'm pretty sure it was the same file both times, but it had different names. Of course, if you're using one of those mail programs (coughMicrosoft) which suppress the file extension of known types, then it would look as if it were an MP3 file. But ".scr" is actually a screen saver, which is an executable. I wonder if someone figured out that the mail filtration programs and virus checkers are not checking for screen savers? I have not (and will not) run these babies, but if I did double-click it, it would begin to run immediately, and presumably do various fiendish things to my system.

On the other hand, it may simply be a straightforward attempt to crack my system, since someone has tried (and failed) to disguise where it came from:

Received: from ( [])

In other words, it didn't actually come from AOL. Both times the file was 28 KBytes. (discuss)

Update 20011126: It seems I'm not the only one to be getting these.

Yup, it's a worm alright! (Thanks, Kathy)

Stardate 20011125.1610 (On Screen): Junkyard Wars has to be the ultimate techno-geek television show. Just to let you know, tonight on TLC they're running a special 2-hour version. Three teams (UK, US and Russian!) will compete to build vehicles which must compete in three different tests. I've got my money on the Americans. (discuss)

Stardate 20011125.1529 (On Screen): Taliban fighters are abandoning the town of Spin Boldak and heading west to Kandahar. They're moving at night via a caravan of pickup trucks moving with their lights turned out. I seem to recall Mullah Omar saying that there would be no further retreats or withdrawals, but that's as may be. What I find interesting is this strange faith that the Taliban have in the power of the night to conceal. Perhaps it's no more than "If I can't see you, then you can't see me." For example, early in the bombing campaign they were routinely killing electric power in Kabul every night. And now they're moving pickups with their lights off.

After all these weeks of accurate nighttime bombardment, haven't they figured out yet that we're not using visible light to do our aiming? Starlight and GPS and FLIR, oh my! (discussion in progress)

Not to mention RADAR.

Stardate 20011125.1517 (On Screen): Some of the prisoners taken from Kunduz were being held in a POW camp near Mazar-e Sharif. Hundreds of them have now been killed, many by US bombing deliberately targeted at the camp.

I see an anti-war meme coming: Expect the accusations of brutality and war crimes to begin any day now. So let's nip this one in the bud right now: the prisoners had broken into a weapons cache and were fighting. At that point they ceased to be prisoners and regained their status as enemy soldiers, and as such were a legitimate war target. Had they not tried to get arms and started to fight again, we would not have bombed them. (discuss)

Update 20011126: Well, that didn't take long.

Stardate 20011125.1202 (On Screen): Well! Someone actually attempted to make a cogent case against war in general. Let me reproduce it in its entirety:

Around 2500 BCE in what was then called Sumer, The King of Kish set the boundary between the villages of Umma and Lagash. Lagash's land boundaries happened to contain the water supply. This ticked off the Ummarians. As it was unfair. This is what started one of the first recorded wars between human beings. Perhaps it was THE first recorded war between human beings. That was over four MILLENIA ago. We've been throwing things at each other ever since. From rocks, to spears, to arrows, to knives, to bullets, to missiles and nuclear warheads.

Has it made a difference? No. For all our technology, we're still cavemen howling at the damned moon.

Today? We're still fighting. Violence begets violence. I kill your brother. You kill me. My brother kills you. Your distant cousin kills him. On and on and on. If it wasn't for the fact that sex feels so damn GOOD, we'd have run out of human beings to kill each other with a long time ago.

I could cite literally thousands of examples of that, from the dawn of history to present day. Every violent act you read in today's newspaper or saw on last night's Evening News TV program proves that. This cannot be argued.

Violence is pointless.

Should we have bombed Afghanistan? We had no choice. Just as the Ummarians had no choice but to fight the Lagashians for water. Water is a necessity for survival. It's the real reason why Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait a decade ago. Iraq is landlocked. No shoreline. Kuwait's in his way. Iraq could better compete with the rest of the world in so many ways if only Saddam could have successfully gotten their land, their water, and their OIL.

It's the relentless, endless, pathetic battle between the Haves and the Have-Nots. Violence has not solved this problem in over four thousand and five hundred years of recorded civilization. It's redundant. It's pathetic. Violence is the last resort to the one who lost the argument. So us bombing Afghanistan is going to make no difference. It's not even a drop in the bucket towards World Peace.

Did we have a choice? No. Should we have done it? No.

I appreciate his effort; I just wish he'd done a better job. There are number of things wrong with this argument. First and foremost: if we have no choice about something then there is no morality associated with it. If there's only one thing to be done, it's neither "right" nor "wrong", it's merely necessary. The purpose of ethics is to guide us through situations where we are faced with choices. So to say Did we have a choice? No. Should we have done it? No. is a contradiction in terms. If we had no choice, then how could we have done anything else?

Second, it doesn't deal with the fact that there may be many different goals to violence. To pick one ("peace") and show that violence doesn't accomplish it doesn't prove that violence couldn't achieve other goals -- and in fact, the history is full of cases where war did accomplish the goal set for it by one side. (Carthago delenda est.)

Nor is it the case that tit-for-tat violent reprisals necessarily go on forever. If one side mounts a major attack and completely destroys the other side, then the struggle is well and truly finished. (Which in fact was the exact result of the Punic Wars.)

Violence begets violence. Often this is true, though not by any means always. But the goal of war is not to eliminate violence, so this is at best irrelevant.

Violence is pointless.

Should we have bombed Afghanistan? We had no choice. Just as the Ummarians had no choice but to fight the Lagashians for water. Water is a necessity for survival.

This is decidedly odd: right after stating that violence is pointless, he proceeds to make a very good case for why one group should have engaged in violent war: that being that without water they'd die, and they had to fight to get it. So for them violence wasn't pointless -- on the contrary, as he himself says they had no other alternatives. Without violence they were sure to die; with it they had a chance of survival. (Actually, they did have just those two alternatives: fight or die. I don't suspect anyone at the time seriously proposed that they should sacrifice their entire tribe in order to prevent war because war is evil, though.)

It's the relentless, endless, pathetic battle between the Haves and the Have-Nots. Violence has not solved this problem in over four thousand and five hundred years of recorded civilization. It's redundant. It's pathetic. Violence is the last resort to the one who lost the argument. So us bombing Afghanistan is going to make no difference. It's not even a drop in the bucket towards World Peace.

It may well be true that it won't accomplish the goal of World Peace, but where was it written that this was what war was about? In the case of this particular war, that's not the goal at all. The goal is to prevent future attacks against the US -- and there's now a damned good chance that it will be at least partially successful at that.

Unfortunately, this entire argument is a strawman. Suppose that I say "My clothing is a failure because it hasn't made me wealthy." But that was never the goal of my clothing; it is rather intended for such prosaic goals as keeping me from dying of hypothermia in the winter -- and it's succeeded in doing that. The fact that it hasn't made me rich doesn't prove that it's a failure. That's the kind of argument Zach is making: he's picking one single goal for war (world peace) without paying any attention to any of its other purposes(which are both less noble and less global); he's proving that it hasn't accomplished that one goal and then he declares it a failure. By so doing he ignores all the things war has succeeded at (like gaining independence for the United States from England, or giving Rome 500 years of dominance of the Mediterranean). Yes, some of the results of war are fleeting, but what of that? Who ever said that the only worthwhile results were eternal?

I guess I can't put down my lantern quite yet. (discussion in progress)

Just in passing: Iraq is not landlocked. It has about 60 km of coastline on the Persian Gulf, between Kuwait and Iran.

Zach responds!

Stardate 20011125.0742 (On Screen): As part of the publicity and runup to the meeting in Bonn on Tuesday where the warlords will try to decide what Afghanistan's new government will look like, Afghan President Rabbani has been making a lot of press releases. This one says that he thinks that the foreign al Qaeda soldiers should be turned over to the UN, to get them out of Afghanistan. He doesn't want them in the nation and doesn't want to have to decide what should be done with them.

I would completely oppose giving them to the UN. These foreign al Qaeda soldiers are the primary target of this war. The primary point of this war was to neutralize them and to prevent them from having the ability to operate in any way, shape or form in the future. My biggest fear is that if they were given to the UN, the UN might well repatriate them -- and then Pandora's box would be opened and we'd have 30 years of unrest all over the world caused by these guys. That's not tolerable, and not something we can risk. Furthermore, it's not clear why the UN would be involved in this given it's near uselessness in fighting this war. The war was fought by the Afghan Northern Alliance and by the US and UK, and those prisoners are ours. If the new government of Afghanistan doesn't want them, they should give them to us. We'll confine them and keep them from making mischief in future. But given the breadth of opinions at the UN, and the prevalence of anti-Americanism there, I don't see how we could trust them with this. (discussion in progress)

Stardate 20011125.0643 (On Screen): I'm happy to report that I was wrong: Kunduz has fallen and there does not appear yet to be a core group who are still fighting, as I predicted. This is tremendous news, because it means that the foreign al Qaeda forces holed up in Kunduz will not go free. The Northern Alliance are, atypically, promising not to slaughter the foreigners and I think they'll stick with it. (This is clearly US influence at work.) We now have the happy problem of figuring out what to do with them. One proposal was to create a POW camp for them on Guam or Wake Island, if the Northern Alliance wants to turn them over to us. (discuss)

Or maybe we could store them at Guantanamo.

Stardate 20011125.0614 (On Screen via long range sensors): This article is the latest in a long line of articles from the antiwar left desperately groping for some way to prove that we're really fundamentally no better than the Taliban. There are numerous levels on which it could be criticized, but I want to go straight to the heart of it and analyze the motivation of the authors.

If there's anything that the antiwar leftists agree on, it's feminism. One effect of the war in Afghanistan has been a substantial improvement in the lot of women there; in the liberated areas they actually now can walk where they want, and hold jobs, and educate their daughters past the age of 8. These are simple pleasures that the women of the US have enjoyed since before the founding of the Union. The women of Afghanistan in Taliban-controlled areas lived with a degree of repression unsurpassed in history; it was brutal and vicious and inhuman. Now their situation is vastly better because of the bombing.

It's blatantly obvious now to everyone that the bombing, abhored by the anti-war left, is primarily responsible for the collapse of the Taliban and the liberation of most of the country. So this presents the anti-war left with a profound contradiction: the bombing (which they hate) resulted in a major advance in the feminist cause (which they desire). That would tend to suggest that they were wrong about the bombing, but actually to admit error is not acceptable. In fact, the nearly complete silence from the radical left about the success of the war and its contribution to the improvement of conditions for Afghan women has been deafening.

They need to find some way to applaud the improvement of conditions for the women of Afghanistan without actually praising the US, and this article represents one attempt at that. It's thesis is that Yes, the Taliban oppressed its women, but we also oppress ours so fundamentally we're not really any better than they are. It's a convoluted attempt to justify moral equivalence.

This gets them out of their dilemma: they don't need to praise the US for improving conditions for Afghan women because the US continues to oppress its own women. (Of course, the price they pay is to make themselves look ridiculous because of the nonsensical argument they make.)

There's a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin is complaining about how cold it is inside the house and wants to turn up the heat. Dad takes Calvin out and sticks him on the front porch in the snow without a jacket and says "In a couple of minutes you can come back inside, and then it will seem toasty warm." (To which Calvin responds, "I'm going to tell the newspapers about you.") The fact is that the two women who wrote this article don't know what real repression is. I suspect that if they went and spent a month living in Taliban-dominated Kandahar and then came back here, they'd feel a tremendous liberation. Suddenly the US would be toasty warm. It's certainly not the case that the women of America have perfect equality with men, but they vote and can own property and can live alone and go where they want and wear whatever they feel like; they get advanced degrees and hold professional positions and even run large corporations. Many are extremely wealthy. By any standards the idea that American women are repressed in any sense comparable to what the Taliban did approaches hallucination.

The real point of this article was to preserve a moral position that permits its authors to continue to criticize the US and the war despite the fact that it massively helped the women of Afghanistan. Its real goal is to try to find a way to avoid admission of error about the war. (discussion in progress)

Captured by MemoWeb from on 9/16/2004