September 28, 2002



A good prediction on the upper and lower limits on American casualties in an prolonged Iraq war, by Michael O'Hanlon. I disagree with the assumptions, as I still don't see a scenario where large numbers of regular U.S. troops (as opposed to special forces) have to go house-to-house to win this, but I have to concur that, if America chose or were forced into that approach by the Iraqis, total combat fatalities over 1,000 would not be unreasonable. (If that's the only obvious path to victory, however, I fully expect the current Bush government to pull the main force units back, however incomplete the job might be to that point, rather than intentionally incur those kinds of casualties. Frankly, once the country is already prostrate, special forces and an air flotilla would seem to be enough to keep up any kind of inspection-support/Saddam-hunt going, with a couple divisions kept in theatre for contingencies... kind of like was done in Afghanistan after Kabul fell, with the regular forces guarding a couple major bases, while the SF flitted around the hill country looking for JDAMS targets.)

Posted by BruceR at 11:56 PM



He's in the Attorney General's office. You Yanks really should think of doing something about him.

Posted by BruceR at 11:53 PM



The Globe's Heather Mallick's always great for a little dash of incoherence:

If Americans had been allowed to see photographs of the oozing faces and crushed torsos of their fellow citizens [on Sept. 11], they might well have objected to the same violence being done to Afghan children. I recently saw on a Web site the half-severed heads of Israeli soldiers killed by Palestinians, and was so profoundly shocked that I am now wildly in favour of peace negotiations between all groups of humans. That's what literal representation did to me.

That's nice, Heather. You're such an idiot. The amazing thing is that that paragraph is actually in a column about art, as near as I can tell just a bizarre aside she had while she was struggling with her keyboard. Her real thesis?

We are now at the point that there doesn't seem to be any art -- figurative, abstract, badly sculpted, well-articulated, stumblingly stated, startling or subversive -- that Americans will admit to understanding and liking, or will even tolerate.... How pathetic. Art is one great civilizing force they could use right now.

In Heather's world, graphic evidence of Palestinian brutality she thinks she saw on the web is evidence only of man's general inhumanity to man, everywhere. But because Americans aren't ready for Sept. 11 art yet, they're a uniquely pathetic and uncivilized culture. (Here's a thought, Heather... if the Americans won't take it, why not send your rejected art to the Palestinians, so they'll become civilized enough to stop cutting people's heads off?) Yep, the Canadian press elite's hate-on for Americans continues full-bore.

Posted by BruceR at 11:26 PM

TROUBLESOME The previous entry notwithstanding,


The previous entry notwithstanding, I am puzzled by the continued lack of mention in the Globe, Star, Post (National or Washington) and many other news sources today for the truly troubling discovery of smugglers bearing enriched uranium in Turkey. Now, obviously, there's lots more to find out before one can be certain (for instance, said uranium could conceivably have been headed for Syria or Iran, not just Iraq, two countries with their own WMD programs). But if true that Iraq was purchasing it, in the belief it was weapons-grade, it is a flagrant violation of UN resolutions, and an undeniable casus belli, should America choose to pursue it as such... so why is everyone so quiet so far?

Posted by BruceR at 10:59 PM

MORE ON WMD'S Gary Farber


Gary Farber does not make as convincing a counter-argument against Gregg Easterbrook as he thinks he does (or he's been given credit for). To a degree they're talking past each other... Easterbrook is talking about the value of "weapons of mass destruction" as military weapons, whereas Farber sees them more as terrorist threats. So whereas Easterbrook sees chemical weapons as pound-for-pound and dollar-for-dollar less effective than simple High Explosive would be in killing enemy soldiers, which is almost certainly true, Farber is still focussing on their use as a terror weapon against civilians. And whereas Easterbrook makes his other strong point, that bioweapons have yet to influence a battle or even undisputedly kill a single soldier, making them at best an unknown quantity, Farber cites the undeniably deadly experiments by the Japanese Unit 731. Easterbrook doesn't mention those experiments, which is a failing of his article, but if asked one suspects he would view them more as an elaborate form of mass execution than a weapon per se, successful in killing thousands, no doubt, but thousands among a captive and utterly subject population... under those circumstances, as Rwanda showed, even machetes can be just as effective. By Farber's standard, wouldn't we consider the gassing of Jews a successful example of chemical warfare, too? And how would that help to clarify the issues?

Throughout, Farber complains of Easterbrook's "straw men," but he's the one setting up the scarecrows. Easterbrook says that bioweapons have not yet been successfully militarized... but influenza has killed millions, Farber responds, completely beside the point. ("And they had a working vaccine," he adds, both cryptically and incorrectly.) Chemical weapons killed only 1 per cent of the combat KIAs in the one and only war they were used ubiquitously, Easterbrook reports, quite possibly less than an equivalent weight of HE might have done... but 90,000 dead is still a lot of people, comes Farber's rejoinder, rather missing the point again.

Towards the end, Farber appears to argue that one chemical bomb, under the right circumstances, could kill just as many as a nuclear blast could, and that a biobomb could kill 100 times as many over time... claims it's hard to find any support for, either in Farber's piece or reality. Farber promises to "be just as upset" regardless of which WMD kills people, a fact both entirely irrelevant and, again, entirely beside the point.

Farber would have been far better off splitting the difference here. Chemical weapons are about as fully weaponized now as they're ever going to get, and they're still not so effective that their use would ever be so successful as to compensate for the inevitable WMD response from an enemy (hence both Hitler's and Hussein's entirely rational cost-benefit based decisions not to use them against the U.S.). Nothing Farber can argue indicates that they deserve to belong in the same category of unthinkable weapons as the others. They are certainly not in the class of mass destruction that nuclear weapons certainly are, and biological weapons, given the steady advance of science, one day could be, if they are not already. I agree with Robert Wright that we are, if anything, discounting the bioweapon threat... but I still have to agree with Easterbrook's observation that they have, as yet, still to be successfully employed on a battlefield.

The simple counter-argument to Easterbrook, of course, the one that Farber does not make, is that successful battlefield use is not the only criterion anymore. A "dirty bomb" would be useless in a war, for instance, but it is still something the west's security apparatus needs to worry about. Likewise any bioweapon release by Iraq in its own region would, given the relative state of their healthcare systems, degrade Iraq's ability to resist the U.S. far more than it would any American ability to fight... but as a terrorist weapon in the hands of a group like Al-Qaeda, it could still have potency. Of course, one might say the same thing about a 757 and a flight manual, too...

Posted by BruceR at 10:54 PM