August 05, 2003


Looks like the Australians are going to have to give up their F-111s. As noted much earlier, that would leave the U.S. as one of only four countries in the world with any airplane capable of striking a target more than 1,000 miles away, with no one building strategic bombers anymore.

It also raises a point often made here, that buying into the next generation of air superiority aircraft is now beyond even the affluent middle powers' abilities. If Australia is cutting everything else in order to buy Joint Strike Fighters, imagine what the effect on Canada's military bottom line will be.

Posted by BruceR at 08:53 PM


Phil Carter links approvingly to an important Fred Kaplan piece in Slate, saying he said the same thing (that America does not have enough troops on the ground) back in May.

*cough* February *cough*

As I said back then, regardless of any technology or technology differential, the basic number of forces required to keep an unwilling population in check in modern times has always wandered from 1,000:1 (benign) to 100:1 (oppressive). Now, you can certainly argue, as I did, with the Kosovo/Bosnia levels, which seemed higher than that situation dictated, but it was certainly foreseeable the American levels were unlikely to be much lower than they've ended up. They had to be low, though, because of a unilateral foreign policy approach combined with the new small military.

Which is sort of what bothers me about many hawks' post-war criticism that those who opposed the war are just looking for something new to harp on now. There were lots of people, like me, who said the actual war was likely going to be pretty easy for the U.S., but the post-war occupation would limit U.S. foreign policy options for several years, and ultimately was a serious gamble on the American people's willingness to persist through years of occupation. We also said that, given the paucity of information that indicated active Iraqi involvement in terrorism, or threats of much "mass destruction," that it was better to get a broader international consensus pre-war in order to secure larger numbers of partners post-war.

Well, it looks like the WMD predictions part pretty much came true (I actually may have overstated the threat when I said there might be some leftover chemical left.) The only question now seems to be whether any weapons R&D continued in Iraq AT ALL after 1998 (a reason for international action if it did, but not preemptive strike). And American ability to operate militarily elsewhere has been compromised for some time to come, more so even than I had thought likely. The verdict on the American people's commitment is still out, but I can't help but feeling that an American people that weren't prepared for the open ended commitment this required beforehand, are not as prepared as they should have been.

Okay, so what would you have done, BruceR? The UN sure wasn't going to authorize any action itself that would have suited the American need for a Middle Eastern reconstructivist crusade. There was no reasonable series of events that would have led to an internationally supported occupation of Iraq that I can see. Nor was there one I could see then, for that matter. If there is a "what-if" scenario out of all this in the history books of the next century, it'll probably be something like Robert Wright envisioned with his Thirteen Axioms, and I tried to apply here to the real-world situation.

Of course, THAT post was back in September...

PS: That post itself built on another trio of posts, back in March, 2002.

Posted by BruceR at 08:02 PM


I'm going to part ways with Jim Henley on the Iraqi hostage-taking incident. The whole accusation of a U.S. war crime to date relies on a single-sentence, from one source, in one news story. If that sentence was even slightly altered or contextualized, the story can veer from straight-up criminality to standard intelligence-gathering. (Presumably the sentence was in Arabic, so at the minimum we're dealing with any opacity due just to translation.)

Take two examples. If the note to the Iraqi general actually was understandable, by a reasonable person, as saying:

"Your family has been taken into U.S. detention so they can be interrogated about your whereabouts. If you'd like them released promptly, you can always turn yourself in, you know."

... then that's legal, and entirely appropriate (indeed, it's more upright than the U.S. handling of, say, the Maher Arar case, where his family was only left to find out days after he was disappeared that he had been secretly deported to Syria).

If on the other hand, the sentence could to the same impartial, reasonable person, be read as:

"Your family has been taken into U.S. detention. The day they'll be released is the day you turn yourself in."

... well, then that's clearly against U.S. army procedure, all common legality, and the Geneva Convention to boot. (Bill Herbert and Max Adragna's defences of this as "just f*cking with [the general]" do not change the fact that such conduct is about as far from any successful hearts and minds strategy as you're likely to get.) That way lies Amritsar, and at least two online commentators with relevant military experience have fully disavowed such actions, if that is in fact how it went down.

So while I would agree with those that say the latter statement would be evidence of American depravity, there's simply not enough evidence yet to assume the facts in question are as they've been understood. A war crime that isn't? Maybe. More accurately, "a war crime that maybe isn't."

Posted by BruceR at 07:04 PM


Okay, lots of email over the Canadian long weekend, largely dealing with how I run the site. Here's my responses, for the record.

1) I have a personal website because I design web applications to assist in corporate communications for a living. More than anything else it's my testbed. I have used it to test out Blogger and now Movable Type, and I've used the lessons I learned doing that in my real job. Any other function the site achieves would be secondary, if I wanted to get mercenary about it. That's why, for instance, I feel no need to ask for donations... this site has already more than realized its value in terms of straight-up costs to me. If you'd like to give someone money, give it to someone like Colby or Damian.

2) I don't have comments enabled in Movable Type because the Quicktopic board solution I have now is the lowest-maintenance one for me in terms of time. If I do replace it someday, it'll be when I find a new discussion board product I want to test out, or some other circumstance. (Of course, I also feel a great deal of responsibility to longtime readers now, too, and I'd never change the functionality of this site again if I wasn't committed to both improving the site, as I believe the Movable Type switchover did, and keeping any new functionality running longterm.)

3) My "absences" this summer have something to do with work, but also a large and increasing list of things that, for confidentiality reasons, it's difficult for me to comment on right now. I would love to talk about the Canadian government or military operations overseas or the university system more someday, but it would be inappropriate at the moment, and likely will be for the foreseeable future. My first responsibility in such cases has to be to live up to my word.

4) I've used the nick "BruceR" online for years, as a discussion board moderator, an online news site poster, a gamer, etc. It's my preferred online cognomen for that reason. That said, there's no secret who I am, or if you wanted to look it up, where I live. All my employers are aware of this site, and I'm not hiding in any way behind any alias here at Flit. (So call me what you like, Jim.)

5) I understand people who like my writing and don't like TMLutas, and more recently, vice versa. That's perfectly cool. I've installed some buttons along the top so you can filter one or both of us out. But barring some outrageous circumstance, I'm going to keep him around, because I like a lot (not all) of his stuff (no doubt also vice versa). If I do anything to address "balance issues," it would be to add still more posters. I have already at least one (as yet unaccepted) offer out there in this regard. If I were to offer it to anyone else, it would be drawn out of the excellent crowd that congregates online at Flitters, where we got TM from.

6) I have sympathy for Ikram's argument that blogs are better if they have an individual voice. But experimenting with Movable Type's multiple-poster functionality has, in addition to livening things up in Flitters and bringing new viewers here, for better and for worse, helped me think through a few ideas I've had related to blog use in a commercial setting. And again, to be mercenary, that kind of testbed stuff is what pays my bills. So even though I'm sure some people feel the individual point-of-view has been weakened recently, from my own point of view it's still been a success thus far.

7) I really do appreciate the commentary to this site, both in email and in Flitters, and especially the kind words I've received. Since the switchover to a blog-type site, I've found I've really had my preconceptions about all kinds of things challenged by you on a regular basis, and that's never a bad thing. While this site sometimes has other purposes, it's your feedback that helps me grow as a person, and I'm very thankful to all of you for that. I hope you'll keep dropping in when you can.

8) I am as concerned as anyone about the growing amount of kitten porn on blogs.

9) Er... that is all.

Posted by BruceR at 12:12 PM