Friday, January 31, 2003

From today's New York Times:

JERUSALEM, Jan. 31 — Israeli forces shot and killed a Hamas militant in the West Bank city of Jenin today in a gun battle outside a fire station in which a bystander was also killed.

Israeli forces continued what the army called an open-ended operation in Hebron, also in the West Bank, where they demolished the homes of two militants today.

Has the time come to embrace the nightmare? Isreal consistantly denies it is engaging in collective punishment, which would be in violation of the Geneva Convention. Yet it is hard to see how else suicide bombers might be deterred. Furthermore, this thought seems to have occured to some in Isreal already. In some ways an unspoken policy of collective punishment is worse than an explicit one. An explicit policy could be debated, limited, evaluated. An attempt could be made to obtain the most deterrence with the least cruelty and violence. The terms could be spelled out clearly, so people would know at least what behaviors to try and watch for in themselves and their families. If even a few neighborhoods might sign on it would be a start. Perhaps there could be rewards as well as punishments.

This is a really horrible thing for an American to suggest - I think it would come under the heading of an unconstitutional Bill of Attainder here.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

I have to admit The Washington Times surprises me sometimes. Here they honestly and unflinchingly describe the results of a refusal to raise taxes no matter what.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A county jail began freeing inmates yesterday as state agencies across Oregon implemented emergency spending cuts following voters' rejection of a temporary income-tax increase.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Speaking of Global Brains, I just found the weblog of Steven Johnson, author of "Emergent Intelligence". Needless to say, nothing I've suggested has been endorsed by him, not even when I've mentioned him as one of my sources of inspiration. As far as I can see he's always been gently skeptical about the idea of the web and blogs as initial foundation for a Global Brain, not hostile but systematically pointing out differences between the web and systems in which emergent intelligence has been observed. As soon as we fix the last one, whammo! Maybe. At least it's worth a try.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

If you were a Global Brain, what would you be thinking about? If you were one of the world minds described by Olaf Stapledon in Last and First Man and The Starmaker, you would be thinking about organizing yourself so all your elements could find the greatest individual happiness and material comfort with the least effort, so they would have plenty of energy to devote to being a part of you. You might be thinking about sciences and technologies beyond merely human comprehension. You might be thinking about growth and reproduction, not just individuals units, but reproducing yourself onto other planets circling other stars. You might be seeking ecstatic contemplation of the Creator, the Starmaker. You might be reaching out across the galaxies for the company of other planetary minds such as yourself - power and wisdom can be lonely.

Surfing the web, I see more and more of the idea that being a Global Brain might be awesome, more like enlightenment than being assimilated into the Borg. People have even begun to wonder what interfaces would be required to participate fully in such a being. My suspicion is that technology is ahead of the curve, and greater social and spiritual achievements are required of us before we will fully be able to put it to use. If we hate our neighbors, bringing us closer together cybernetically will not bring us nearer to unity.

After reading Emergent Intelligence, I began to wonder if there was and simple set of rules that might help bloggers assemble at least an alpha testworthy version of what Anders Sandberg might call a low bandwidth Global Brain. I've googled many people thinking about similar potentials in the blogosphere, though none from precisely the same angle.

Proposed rule number three (for alpha testing) follows. If you're still interested after reading, you might want to look at one and two.

I think we should try and figure out what we would expect a Global Brain to be thinking about and think about it. Of course, neurons don't have to do that to build a brain, but if that's really how the Global Brain will work we have no role as individuals except to think it would be nice and cross our fingers and hope. I don't think that part of the analogy applies. For one thing, the brain has many more neurons than the noosphere has individuals, let alone the blogosphere which has even fewer members. For another, we are capable of imagining a global brain, while a neuron can't imagine a human brain.

All the Stapledonian themes are good candidates, but all natural intelligences are concerned for their own survival. Is the nascent Global Brain in danger for it's life? I believe it is. I believe a disaster large enough to destroy civilization would destroy the Global Brain as well, or at least the Global Brain we know, even if another one someday grew.

Global warming could conceivably present such a danger, as could AIDS if we allow a patchwork of affluence and poverty to breed more and more virulent and resistant strains of it. I think terrorism combined with nuclear proliferation is also such a danger - and a more immediate and more certain one. If we want to alpha test the nucleus of a Global Brain, I think we have a problem that nobody alive is capable of resolving alone, but that many have thought about, if only we can link the pieces together.

Monday, January 27, 2003

I've just been reading a Slate discussion between Christopher Caldwell, Christopher Buckley and Walter Shapiro. Many conservatives may be starting to feel like Christopher Buckley:

"And yet, and yet, I wring my hands like Hamlet. Some very smart people, such as Bob Graham, who I suspect knows rather more about all this than I do, think this is not an especially wise course we have embarked upon. And yet I cannot bring myself to side with Susan Sarandon and Ramsey Clark."

Can anyone dig up any truly loathsome people who favor war to balance out ANSWER?

Sunday, January 26, 2003

I read a rather odd article by Donald Lambro in the Washington Times today.

"Class warfare said not to be working for Democrats"

Republicans (and a few democrats) say that in their opinion a tactic of the Democratic party will not work. This is news? There is no mention of the fact that some people believe that the Democrats are pointing out accurately who will benefit from the tax cut and not practicing 'Class Warfare'.

One more quote.

" Even so, the Democrats have been flogging the class-warfare issue for all it's worth since Mr. Bush announced his proposals to accelerate his income-tax rate cuts for all taxpayers this year and end the taxation of investor dividends."

Even as an editorial this would be one sided. They put it under news.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

I've been waiting for part two of Thomas L. Friedman's New York Times column on Thinking About Iraq. He thinks there are two possibilities once we have invaded Iraq.

Let me quote the second one first.

"You've just won the Arab Yugoslavia — an artificial country congenitally divided among Kurds, Shiites, Sunnis, Nasserites, leftists and a host of tribes and clans that can only be held together with a Saddam-like iron fist. Congratulations, you're the new Saddam."

Oddly enough, as worried as I am about Iraq, reading that is a considerable relief at first. Over the past few weeks, I've been wondering why none of the people favoring war could see that possibility. Not only does he see it, he describes it clearly and honestly. I don't have to hope I'm crazy in order to avoid feeling we are headed for terrible disaster. I still wonder why the solution to this problem hasn't been discussed anywhere I could see it, but some of the people favoring war have thought about it.

Just for balance let me quote his other possibility.

"Congratulations! You've just won the Arab Germany — a country with enormous human talent, enormous natural resources, but with an evil dictator, whom you've just removed. Now, just add a little water, a spoonful of democracy and stir, and this will be a normal nation very soon."

Of course Germany didn't have the kind of ethnic divisions Iraq has, at least not after the Nazi's murdered all the Jews. Not even before, they didn't have an organized minority ready to fight a civil war, just people hoping to fit into their adopted homeland. But Mr. Friedman knows that.

Unfortunately, after reading the rest of the article I feel only a tiny bit better than when I started. His first suggestion:

"Does that mean we should rule out war? No. But it does mean that we must do it right. To begin with, the president must level with the American people that we may indeed be buying the Arab Yugoslavia, which will take a great deal of time and effort to heal into a self-sustaining, progressive, accountable Arab government. And, therefore, any nation-building in Iraq will be a multiyear marathon, not a multiweek sprint."

Unlike the generation of the Marshall plan, nobody wants to pay higher taxes to rebuild Iraq. He doesn't even mention the oil that is supposed to be sold to rebuilt Iraq while financing the American occupation. Just as well, unless you've planned carefully how much you can sell without driving down oil prices and destabalizing the Saudi's. If anyone considers the latter acceptable, lets hear the plan for dealing with it.

Next he wants UN support and backing. In one way I agree with all the UN bashers out there - it isn't going to happen. They all think this is a bad idea, and will be a disaster for the world. I agree with the UN bashers in another way too - I think the UN is using inspections only to stall American invasion of Iraq. I can even see how it might seem justified to them, although you can see where not discussing their real objections has gotten us all.

Even if Europe and Nato of did support us, what could they do? What exactly could they do to prevent all these groups from trying to kill each other, while occupiers try and prevent them while being easy targets for Al Queda? He still hasn't suggested a way to avoid civil war. It may be if there was a workable answer to this, some countries could be talked into joining us whole heartedly, or at least three quarters heartedly.

I've been having a discussion about this with Kieran Lyons on a Carraig Daire comment discussion, and he did have an interesting idea.

"If we resoundingly defeat the subset of the Iraqi army that chooses to fight, we might be able to avoid the devastation of Iraq and still satisfy requirement #1. #2 is a matter of political will, and I've seen very little of that from the Bush White House. I can only hope that someone like Condi is put in charge - I've met her, and she is a very smart and purposeful person. She instinctively understands the things that take me so many words to express. I have very little faith in the fortitude of Bush II, but much more faith in some of his appointees such as Condi."

She has actually pulled a couple of rabbits out of hats for the administration. If there is a way to do this, she's as likely to think of it as anyone. I haven't heard any claims from her or anyone in the administration that she has a plan. In fact, Carraig Daire is where I found this exerpt from Dawn, a online Pakistani periodical.

"The United States has tapped a retired army officer - Maj-Gen Jay M. Garner - to head the Pentagon office planning for a post-Saddam Hussein administration in Iraq.

Garner is 'beginning the process of thinking through all things necessary for Iraq,' Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a Reserve Officers Association conference in Washington on Monday."

Well, we can hope. Meanwhile visit his web site and the article, I can't copy everything.

Brevity is the soul of wit, and this is too brief for me to quote only part of it, and too wonderful to ignore. A great thought from Transterrestrial Musings:

Psssttt, Pass It On

There are CIA and MI6 operatives among the "human shields" on their way to Iraq.

Oops! Loose lips sink ships...

Posted by Rand Simberg at January 24, 2003 03:40 PM

Friday, January 24, 2003

This instapundit post seems to me to show a funny idea of 'funny', maybe a little childish. I haven't yet seen one war blogger express respect for honest disagreement from several countries which have been allied with us on many issues in the past.

From the text of a keynote speech delivered by Rep. Chung Dong-young, special envoy of President-elect Roh Moo-hyun, during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Friday. Full text on this page of the Korea Times.

"North Korea must face up to the reality. If it continues to threaten peace, the international community will not simply turn a blind eye. Time is not on North Korea's side.

If North Korea gives up its nuclear programs and address other security concerns, however, it will be able to receive rewards, both economic and diplomatic, that will surpass its own expectations.

We are considering a bold North Korea reconstruction plan to move toward the "Korean Peninsula Economic Community." Thus, we will go beyond the policy of reconciliation and cooperation of the Kim Dae-jung administration, and move toward a policy for peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula."

This is a speech to make South Korea proud for several reasons. They frankly discuss the cause of the problem, and plan bold steps towards the solution.

After weeks of debate in the blogosphere, the roots of A.N.S.W.E.R. have sparked more discussion in the print media. I think this piece in National Review Online subtly distorts the issue, almost reverses it. Communism in the abstract isn't the danger in today's world, supporting governments which murder and torture huge numbers of their own people is.

Reds Still being baited.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Once again Carraig Daire Weblog has found important news in an international paper that doesn't seem widely available in the U.S. papers. And once again I can't help taking a different slant on it than they do.

"Garner is 'beginning the process of thinking through all things necessary for Iraq,' Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a Reserve Officers Association conference in Washington on Monday."

The Pakistani online newspaper Dawn reports on a retired American general appointed to plan the post-Saddam future of Iraq. It might have been better to make sure we had a plan in place before putting ourselves in a position where it would be almost impossible to decide the cure is worse than the disease.

Acording to this Newsday column by Paul A. London:

American medicine is a paradox. This is where you want to be for a heart transplant and where most of the world's cutting-edge medical research is done. But America is also a place where thousands of Americans die each year because doctors forget to recommend shots for flu and pneumonia. These problems and others would be greatly reduced by computerized information systems that are already used at a few advanced hospitals and in some medical practices. The failure to adopt these systems more broadly is the unmistakable symptom of an industry whose culture and organization have not been forced by competition to keep up with modern capabilities, not of a confused payments system.

He makes some good points, although I would have liked to hear specifics about countries where they do it better. I wouldn't be surprised to hear Denmark was one, but I suspect the list isn't huge.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

This is from a new The New Yorker article called The Cold Test::

The Bush Administration may have few good options with regard to Pakistan, given the country's role in the war on terror. Within two weeks of September 11th, Bush lifted the sanctions that had been imposed on Pakistan because of its nuclear-weapons activities. In the view of American disarmament experts, the sanctions had in any case failed to deal with one troubling issue: the close ties between some scientists working for the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and radical Islamic groups. "There is an awful lot of Al Qaeda sympathy within Pakistan's nuclear program," an intelligence official told me. One American nonproliferation expert said, "Right now, the most dangerous country in the world is Pakistan. If we're incinerated next week, it'll be because of H.E.U."—highly enriched uranium—"that was given to Al Qaeda by Pakistan."

Monday, January 20, 2003

A recent discussion from Another Useless Blog has brought my thoughts back to emergent intelligence. I did one of my favorite searches on Google again to see if there was anything I could do to help organize the blogosphere into the seed of a superconsciousness. I found a great entry in the blog Escapable Logic. Even so, I can't help thinking that Al Qaeda are more intensely dedicated to destroying freedom than the blogosphere as a whole is to preserving it. A true intelligence thinks seriously about it's own survival.

Emergence by Steven Johnson is still in my mind. He suggests that an emergent intelligence usually comes from smaller units following a set of simpler rules. I guess that if there is a set of rules like that for us the blogosphere as a whole will have to come out with the final version. Maybe that isn't the way it will work at all, but I think it's worth thinking about.

Here's my second proposed rule, if anyone is interested enough to try to make improvements.

2. The Sensory Cortex rule

Just as much of the human brain is devoted to dealing with input from the senses, and much is also devoted to secondary processing, the blogosphere needs good information too. If you're actually close to a news story or know more about it than the mainstream press, blog it. If you come across someone who has blogged something like that, and it's not well known, link to it. Until one of those happens to me, I try to read English language foreign newspapers online and link to anything interesting. Blogdex is a great idea, people from Kuro5hin seem to be working together to get stories in the top 100 that really aren't that interesting.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

After reading this new article in the Tapei Times of Taiwan, I get the impression Iraqi journalists have slightly different standards of objectivity than some other journalists.

"Iraqi security forces kept control, but UN vehicles had to go out through an entry gate, edging their way through the crowd, fists raised, shouting "Down Down Bush."

The journalists' union, headed by President Saddam Hussein's eldest son, Uday, staged a first demonstration on Friday to commemorate the outbreak of the Gulf War on Jan. 17, 1991."

Saturday, January 18, 2003

I'm going to propose a worst case scenario for the next fifty years, mostly because it's time to think about exactly how much we want to sacrifice while fighting terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

It seems that not only are nuclear weapons spreading, but the rate is increasing as well. When Pakistan and India's nuclear tests are still in the recent past, it suddenly becomes a certainty that North Korea has nuclear bombs as well. Perhaps our efforts to resolve the North Korea crisis without a second Korean war will meet with great success. If George Bush manages to get the North Koreans to destroy rather than merely freeze their nuclear program, he will have an accomplishment to be proud of - and have stood firm in his refusal to offer more concessions in return for a 'horse already bought'. Of course the North Koreans will want some proof that our aid cannot be revoked before they take such a drastic step, and they will probably want more than they charged for the freeze, but hope springs eternal.

Meanwhile let's suppose that more countries continue to acquire the weapons, while scientists in countries which already have the technology occasionally need extra income after they retire, get fired, get laid off, or encounter unexpected expenses. Sooner or later terrorists will obtain nuclear bombs.

A missile shield won't prevent terrorists from loading a bomb into the back of an SUV and driving it into New York city. It would probably be hard to sneak that much radioactive material into the country, but I'm not sure what barriers we have after that. The sort of country where vehicles were searched while being driven into big cities might well be more repressive than cold war Russia - but if it would really work and it's the only way it would be worth it. Otherwise no large city is safe from a organization which couldn't stop even if it wanted to - assuming there's no central control as many suspect. If you have a bunch of independent sub groups who decide what to do for themselves, one or another will always want to test their new idea once the murderous momentum has gotten going.

I don't discuss this nightmare because I want to try to scare people. It could well be this is just another crisis, and it will be resolved in the next few years with non draconian measures. If not, what would we be willing to give up? Free speech? Freedom or religion? Freedom from collective punishment via 'bills of Attainder'? All these are freedoms the terrorists don't observe - and all are freedoms they make use of to spread their poison. They are also freedoms that cannot be touched without serious danger to a free society, and severely curbing them is almost like implicitly admitting the idea of a free society has failed.

In many ways the tide seems to be turning in South Korea. I saw at least three interesting articles in the Korea Times today. The first one says 'It was claimed that outgoing President Kim Dae-jung secretly gave $400 million to the impoverished country via the Hyundai business group before the inter-Korean summit meeting in June 2000', referring to North Korea. It wasn't so long ago that many people would have looked on that with favor. The second one says Kim also called for the nation to refrain from indulging in anti-Americanism, saying that people were blinded by 'sentimental nationalism' in calling for the withdrawal of United States troops stationed here'. According to the third one,
A leading security institute cited the need to employ a combination of economic and military containment policies against North Korea as a solution to the escalating nuclear crisis

I've just been reading this new Arutz Sheva editorial calling Isreali Culture: The Last, Great Frontier. The main thrust is that religious Jews are not active enough in the media. Considering their role in the Isreali Knesset, I can't help suspecting this is voluntary on their part.

This editorial brought to mind several editorials from last week, such as Transfer - A Humane Solution, and Court Hands Terrorists Major Victory. Many editorials in this paper favor the idea that the Palestinians should all be removed from Isreal.

Remember how many Jews remained in Germany before world war II, when they were actively encouraging them to leave? Many had nowhere to go, and could not bring themselves to leave the only home they knew for somewhere speaking a different language where they had no job or friends. History shows that such a thing could not be done without massive killings.

I meant everything I wrote a coulple of days ago about suicide bombers who have been brainwashed into expecting paradise finding themselves in hell instead, but these people too are a bar to peace. Somehow they must be marginalized, since nobody sincerely proposes giving a Palestinian state the means to fight Isreal. There will never be peace until the Palestinians are convinced that a shift in electoral politics is not all that is required for any of them to be driven from their homes.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Could this be new hope for peace in the Middle East? According to this New York Times article, the Shinui Party is poised to become the third most powerful political party in Isreal. They are secularists, concerned about the power of the Orthodox Jews over the Isreali government.

"Hence it is to be remarked that, in seizing a state, the usurper ought to examine closely into all those injuries which it is necessary for him to inflict, and to do them all at one stroke so as not to have to repeat them daily; and thus by not unsettling men he will be able to reassure them, and win them to himself by benefits. He who does otherwise, either from timidity or evil advice, is always compelled to keep the knife in his hand; neither can he rely on his subjects, nor can they attach themselves to him, owing to their continued and repeated wrongs. For injuries ought to be done all at one time, so that, being tasted less, they offend less; benefits ought to be given little by little, so that the flavour of them may last longer."

Machiavelli's The Prince, chapter VII, at this Art of War site.

"The other and better course is to send colonies to one or two places, which may be as keys to that state, for it is necessary either to do this or else to keep there a great number of cavalry and infantry. A prince does not spend much on colonies, for with little or no expense he can send them out and keep them there, and he offends a minority only of the citizens from whom he takes lands and houses to give them to the new inhabitants; and those whom he offends, remaining poor and scattered, are never able to injure him; whilst the rest being uninjured are easily kept quiet, and at the same time are anxious not to err for fear it should happen to them as it has to those who have been despoiled."

ibid, Chapter 3

Machiavelli would not attribute the problem to the fact that there are settlements so much as the fact that the Palestinians know Jews who want to expand and create new settlements are part of the government.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

I've been reading "In the Name of Osama Bin Laden" by Roland Jacquard. Thinking as I have been about emergent intelligences, one quote in particular struck me.

"He held no official post as military leader, ideologue, or religious leader, but his influence was real and profound. He demanded nothing, but there was always a fighter burning with the desire to give him satisfaction. He never gave precise instructions, but there was always a mujahed somewhere in the world to obey blindly what he believed to be an order, or even to anticipate his wishes. If we are to believe what he said or what we read in his statements and fatwas, Osama bin Laden never explicitly ordered an attack ... "

Imagine four main castes:

The Queen of the anthill : This is Osama himself, but although killing him would be worthwhile, many anthills can produce another queen when the old one dies. Although he provides some money, his main function is to publically praise terrorist attacks after the fact it appears. This could be done by someone else if he died. It is more than mere speech though, because it contributes to the belief of the next bunch of terrorists that they are on their way to paradise. Hell must be one heck of a shock for these guys.

The murderer (or warrior) caste: This is the potential pool of suicide assassins. Direct action against it has a very low chance of success, because it consists of all combat veterens who do not think "what a bunch of stupid thugs" when hearing about a suicide attack.

The drones: This is all the really poor and desperate millions who somehow believe a murderer can also be a martyr. Without the knowledge of these millions in the back round, the underlying knowledge of the hell prepared for them might leak into the consciousness of the would be suicidal killers and make them try to build a life instead of a pyre.

The really stupid drones: These are the rich people who give money more or less knowingly to terrorists and affiliates. Many of them live in countries which Al Qaeda has stated it plans to overthrow, and would lose a great deal of protection and privilege, including perhaps their own wealth. The psychology of the guilt and hypocrisy which contribute to this, and the sheltered easy lifestyle which inhibits the survival instincts are an essay in themselves.

Superficially, the main flaw in this vehicle is lack of brakes. We all know it would be useless to give in even if we wanted to, because there is nobody to give in to. If Osama stopped preaching violence, the people who gain false hope from it would soon find another leader. Thus, it can never bring prosperity to Muslims, but only death to their enemies and retribution to those with homes and jobs and families who can't hide as well as they. I hope that this weapon is not as formidable as it appears, and will be destroyable by conventional means. The only sure fire weapons I can think of against them would be almost pyrric, striking at the roots of our own civilization.

I have always had reservations about some of the things Isreal has done, but think of all the things they haven't done that Arab leaders have done to their own people. The point is not to justify Sharon, but to realize that an enemy who will fight unless (unlike them) we are always perfectly fair is implacable.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Good for Newsday's Ed Lowe - in Admitting the Naked Truth he devotes an entire column to a single retraction. I can appreciate an honest mea culpa with no attempt to be inconspicuous.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

I read a James Pinkerton column in Newsday today. I'm skeptical about what's going to happen if we occupy Iraq as well, but I hope I'm wrong, because it seems like it will be done. Pinkerton alludes to the difference in spirit between today and the great wars where rich politically well connected men served with honor in the military. He mentions Theodore Roosevelt in 1898, but not George Bush senior in world war II.

Still, he's gotten me back to thinking about the long term prospects of the occupation following the next war. While a war in North Korea would be much more bloody than the invasion of Iraq, it's by no means clear that the building of a democratic government afterwards will be easier in Iraq. After all, look at the reunification of Germany after the fall of the Berlin wall. Two halves of what had formerly been a unified country reunited - as a democracy. The cost was huge, but it was mostly paid by the West Germans. Of course Germany had had some experience as an independent democracy prior to division, in addition to the West German experience parallel to South Korean democracy.

I'm not really suggesting we should after all fight North Korea, just trying to build a base for thinking about the formidable task George W. Bush proposes - rebuilding Iraq as a democracy. Let us not give up hope of it - especially not those of us who don't believe we should put ourselves in a position where we must succeed or suffer serious consequences. Instead, let us use our privileged position. The president and his strongest supporters may feel obliged to gloss over some of the difficulties lest they sap our will to undertake a duty they believe in so strongly. Those of us who feel otherwise may freely and openly consider the difficulties, pleased either to deter the unprepared or to improve the chances of a true triumph of democracy.

If we look at the great twentieth century triumphs of peaceful democracy such as Japan, Germany, Taiwan, and South Korea, we will see they had several things in common. Although some of them were only part of a former whole, none of them were riven internally by serious and constant ethnic strife - at least not to the extent of civil war. All of them had some outside aid in building a prosperous economy, and nobody was looking for a large short or medium term profit or reparation they were willing and able to use force to insist on (one of the reasons the Weimar republic failed).

Iraq is divided between the currently dominant Sunni moslems, the majority Shia who would dominate a pure democracy, and the Kurds who are persecuted by both. A Republic has safeguards so that the majority cannot cook and eat the minority even if the vote to do so is honest. No minority can tolerate a pure democracy when there is a majority who would like to cook and eat them. Yet Iraq has no history as a republic, no history of a government of laws rather than men. In his better moments, Machivelli speaks of how a republic can be created where there is no tradition of it - he considers it the most praiseworthy and difficult achievement of politics. I'm not saying it's impossible, I just want to hear how he plans to do it. I would do my best to help, but I can't seem to wrap my brain around doing it in 18 months at a profit. He has openly acknowledged there are no serious potential leaders among the dissident groups we deal with. Let's assume Saddam doesn't manage to trash all his oil fields on his way out. I want to hear about the constitution of this democracy.

After world war II, we were willing to endure taxes at wartime levels to help rebuild Japan and West Germany. During the cold war, we were not proportionately as generous to South Korea and Taiwan, yet we helped them, partly by shouldering some of their defensive burden. West Germany subsidized East German rebuilding. I cannot think of any case in history where a new democracy turned a profit for it's sponsors in 18 months. Yes I know - oil. Pinkerton quotes a Wall Street Journal article proposing we should pull Iraq out of OPEC and flood the market with their oil. If we still assume Saddam doesn't manage to devastate Iraqi oil fields on the way out, this might produce a short term profit. How it will affect our simultaneous attempts to build a democracy I don't know. I'm not sure how either the Saudi government or the Saudi people would respond either.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

I just finished rereading Emergence by Steven Johnson. It's partly about how unintelligent things like ants and neurons can form things like ant colonies and brains which display greater intelligence. I say partly because it's also about how people can form things like cities with lives of their own and meaningful patterns which people form without thinking about it - although the people are probably more intelligent than the city itself.

The book was written before blogging was as big as it is now. One of the questions the author addresses is if the web could lead to the formation of a kind of distributed intelligence or global brain. He answers no, because the links are one way without feedback. He proposes a partial solution to this, the use of Alexa.

The ants and cells in his book form greater collective intelligences by the use of simple local rules. If anyone ever tries to formulate a similar set of rules by which bloggers could form themselves into a collective intelligence greater than the individuals composing it, I would suggest the following three part rule for a start. With thanks to Steven Johnson - which doesn't imply that he agrees with the idea below. As far as I know he's never read it.


The Easy Rule, so called because because most serious bloggers tend to do at least some of these things anyway.

A. Download the Alexa toolbar, or at least use the Alexa site. Read the privacy policy carefully.

B. Use a blogger statistics package (like the one near the bottom of my sidebar) which shows which sites refer people to your blog. Visit the sites, think about what the fact that these people like your site says about it. Think about linking to some of them. Consider the existence of these links and the number of people who click through as feedback. These are a big part of your audience.

C. If you think someone might be interested in your blog, link to them and click through your own link if you don't know if anyone else will. The odds are they use some statistics package that will tell them, whether they have a button on their page or not. Your own links are not only suggestions to your visitors, but feedback to the site owners - and links to your site.

Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come back again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.

Sun Tsu's The Art of War, edition by James Clavell

Sometimes spinning a globe can be a little depressing. Look how many of the countries are repressive dictatorships. Look how many are democracies without human rights or the rule of law, where an ethnic group which is 60 percent of the population ruthlessly oppresses another group which only makes up 40 percent - the tyrany of the majority. Look how many democracies exist at the whim of a military the civilian government does not actually control. Look how many democracies are in danger of willingly electing a religious dictatorship and making it their last election. Look how many avoid all this, yet have failed to create prosperity for their people and may someday fall into one of the traps above.

I mention all this because it reminds me how precious South Korea is. Think of the attitudes of different groups of Americans towards the Soviet Union in the fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties, just before the Soviet Union fell, and some time after. Large swings of public mood and opinion from decade to decade in a democracy are not uncommon. Remember Sun Tsu, and also remember American interests. A defeat for a democracy allied to us for so long would be a massive blow to American prestige. After a war, I do not think the resulting country would be a force for peace and democracy - or even a prosperous country with no need to blackmail the world with nukes. So not only is it worth fighting to help them defend themselves, it is also worth trying to learn why their feelings toward us are sometimes not what we would expect considering that we give them military aid and they don't give it to us.

I was just reading this editorial Anti-Americanism and Anti -Koreanism in the English language edition of the Korea Times. The author talks about how there was a time when most Koreans felt positive about almost everything to do with America. Perhaps the largest part of the column is about American soldiers in South Korea, who are after all the only Americans many Koreans will ever meet.

"When there was a draft in United States, many college-educated soldiers came to Korea, and they were not only soldiers but many were students who want to learn something about Korea while they were here. And as educated men, they were sensitive about Koreans and their pride, and their feelings."

Even when not talking about Americans soldiers the problem is similar - a feeling of lack of knowledge of and respect for Koreans. Many Americans may find it exasperating that South Koreans should worry about this when they are in immanent danger from North Korea and want much of the aid that they hope will pacify them to come from us, but in view of the many and frequent changes in public opinion everywhere we've been talking about, I think we should try to do it anyway. Feelings can change.

Saturday, January 11, 2003

Here's a picture Seoul Daily, a South Korean newspaper, got from This picture is of South Koreans burning a North Korean flag with a picture of Dear Leader on it. For Americans it's hard not to think 'About time!'. The accompanying article is about North Korea's talk of firing test missiles which may have set off the demonstration, not the demonstration itself.

One of the three online newspapers written in North Korea is in English, and I visited the web site of The People's Korea. Sometimes you can learn something from the untruths someone chooses to tell. What I learned this time is chiefly that The People's Korea has nine articles on it's current web site, with dates between December 14th and January 10th. Unless they keep some articles while deleting others, they publish much less than one article a day. It doesn't seem to be a weekly publication, four articles were published on December 14th, four more eleven days later, and one on January tenth.

Not much you haven't seen in Western papers and on television. I don't happen to have read the article about world war two reparations for Koreans, but I'll bet if I followed the English language Japanese press more closely I'd know more than the author of the article tells us.

Friday, January 10, 2003

According to this AP report via the Washington Times, North Korea has agreed to allow the U.S. to verify it is not producing nuclear weapons. In exchange Washington must drop their hostile stance. They don't say how the new verification steps will improve on the old, or what words and actions will convince them a hostile stance is not being taken.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

Could it be? Via Sine Qua Non Pundit, North Korea May Offer Way Out of Crisis - Diplomats. Could it be they really are worried about a US invasion? Everything else points to North Korea being worried about internal collapse and using pretended 'fear of invasion' as a ploy to get the United States to the negotiating table where they can demand more economic handouts, but this makes me wonder. Of course the North Koreans may want to save face themselves, have a pretext to back down while pretending American aggression was their real fear. Who knows.

Ever since reading this via Little Green Footballs I wanted to blog about the good news from Yemen. Since many people have seen that article by now, I googled for more. I soon found the latest issue of the English language Yemen Observer. All it all it seems pretty level headed. Not everyone will agree with the editorial emphasizing the role of poverty in terrorism - but there is no attempt to pretend no Yemeni's are involved in it or to justify it. The local news page is largely about Yemen's efforts to modernize and promote economic growth. You can tell from the letters page they are aware of their overseas readership, so caution is advised as always.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

If the January eighth post of talking points memo is correct, the pendulum swings back to Bush bearing a heavy share of the blame for the Korean Crisis aka the Korean Non Crisis. Apparently former Clinton administration officials are prepared to testify they gave Bush the nuke info when he got into office. He chose to share it with North Korea while we were tied up with Iraq and Afghanistan, apparently hoping to weaken the Korean negotiating stance.

The talk about pulling our 37000 troops out of Korea (same Josh Marshall post) might not be as silly as he thinks - if it's talk. The idea isn't (I hope) to pull them out, but to make the South Koreans think seriously about the danger posed by North Korea. Many of them do, but public discussion might inform many more. There is something to be said for guns over butter, but they should be prepared to offer a larger share of the butter if that's their proposal. Let's remember, after Japan and Germany, they may well be our third most successful attempt at helping a nation to remake themselves as a democracy. They have much to be proud of, and don't forget all the wild swings American politics has taken over the past fifty years.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

I've just been rereading John Hiler's article on blogs and journalism, not for the first time. He's interested in the idea of the blogosphere as a "collective hive mind", smarter than any of it's components. He talks about a couple of times the "blog borg" beat professional journalists to a story, and one time when a blogger may have had a correction to a story which the New York Times and other papers all may have made the same error in. In this article and elsewhere, he balances this out by talking about the many times when professional journalists really are better at what they do.

I think the idea of a Stapledonian collective supermind (kind of like a Borg, but you join voluntarily and don't all dress alike, and your components make love and enjoy life more intensely than ordinary individuals) is really awesome, but I don't think we've even taken the first step along that path. If President Bush wanted to learn something about the best way to handle Kim Jong Il, he would be better off studying history or even reading the MSNBC Newsweek article I linked to in my January fifth entry than surfing the blogosphere. Although you do find interesting stuff percolating to the top at Blogdex, (that's where I first found the MSNBC Newsweek article) I don't think the blogosphere as a whole is smarter than it's smartest members - a purposeful human brain that can decide whom to rely on is still needed to make good use of the valuable information in the blogosphere and seperate it from the rest.

Arguably, individual neurons in the brain of a baby can do simple math and and/or logic which the baby cannot. Yet if these neurons apply the information coded in their genes correctly, they may create the foundation of a mind which will far surpass them. I wonder if we have the potential to do the same.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

During my long ago college days, I remember looking through an annual index of Pravda editorials, and laughing to myself at the calculatedly aggressive phrasing of what was, after all, a government mouthpiece. Has the day really come when Pravda (literal translation truth, ironical as it long seemed) tells us stuff our own newspapers might forget to mention?

Don't get me wrong, the American media do some amazing stuff. I think it was in the American media I learned how the military has been trying to use access to information and the front lines to manipulate them. All the same, if this is true, I wish I had heard it here first.

Of course the media did mention some fighting in Afganistan where an American died, but I didn't know we had 10,000 troops there. Is this story of a ground war heating up correct?

Via Watch, this MSNBC Newsweek article on Kim Jong Il. After reading it, I am leaning towards agreeing with this closely reasoned OxBlog post where he retracts one thing he said before right up front, then goes on to argue that since North Korea started making nukes before Bush got into office, Bush can't be blamed, and criticizes the Bush critics for not offering workable alternatives. I'm not totally convinced, but I like his style.

Saturday, January 04, 2003

South Korea has much reason to be proud. Like many countries, they had a long history of subjugation before world war two. Unlike most of them, they successfully developed into a democracy with the military firmly under civilian control. Democracy is nothing without free speech and freedom of the press - what's the point of voting when you're not allowed to head what the other side has to say? They are a developed nation that competes economically rather than receiving foreign aid. I say all this as an American, with what I believe to be a largely American audience.

The reason this is so worth emphasizing is that in some ways this is a frustrating time for Americans. Some South Koreans, especially younger ones, seem to feel either that America and North Korea are equally responsible for the current crisis, or even that America is somewhat more responsible. Oddly enough, I don't think even the North Koreans really want us to believe that. They want us to know that they will not let their people die of hunger and cold until their is a revolution, nor will they spend less on their army to care for their people and improve their economy. These demands for a non agression pact with the United States are not really caused by a fear of invasion - as always they want to get us to the bargaining table so they can extract economic aid in return for commitments they already made previously.

Nobody really wants a war with North Korea. Since South Korea is justly proud of all their economic achievements and wants a relationship of equals with the United States, they should be prepared to shoulder a large share of the costs - after all sunshine is the policy they favor, and they live much closer to North Korea than we do. These costs can also be investment opportunities. Nobody is really willing to spend more and more to feed the ever increasing demands of a nation that puts military spending first while demanding others support their people. This aid should come in the form of foreign investment in North Korea. Those South Koreans who firmly believe the North is bargaining in good faith should not consider the risks unacceptable.

Although of course the North Koreans began building nuclear bombs before George Bush even became President, his remarks about axis of evil and two wars at once accomplished nothing. After the various claims and demands and accusations of the North Korean government over several decades have been contemplated we might not owe them much of an apology, but we should regret any misunderstandings that have been fostered in South Korea. In addition, since even George Bush appears not to want war, and since the North Koreans will not back down, and since we don't want to let them manufacture bombs until they decide to do something more drastic to force us to bargain with them, we have no choice but to negotiate. That being the case, remarks which make these eventual negotiations into a loss of credibility to the United States are regrettable.

I believe these are good starting points as guiding principles for negotiation.
1. Trust nothing not verified - and think hard how they could circumvent the verification before accepting it.
2. North Korea doesn't actually want a war, because they know they would lose.
3. North Korea will start a war if they believe their freezing and starving people are on the point of revolution.
4. If they succeed in getting more and more by demanding it, they will continue. One point is non-negotiable - the aid must come in a form that will more North Korea towards being a self sufficient nation with something to lose.
5. Foreign investment is also the path to a freer North Korea.

Friday, January 03, 2003

I've edited my sidebar - after a reading the comment below the December 31st entry and writing a private e-mail and receiving a brief reply, I'm pretty much convinced Dear Raed is a genuine Iraqi blog. I'm not an expert, but how do you know anyone is who they say, except Atrios.

This started me thinking about all the things that might seem inconsistent about me and my attitudes to someone from a different country. I'm not absolutely sure what's prudent to say, so I'll let him take the responsibility for deciding what to say and what not to say in my comment section. Even in the United States you can't safely say absolutely whatever you want on the web, I was just reading about some people who would be in trouble for a joke faked Dow Chemical web site if they could catch them. I do want to thank Salam Pax for helping to make my blogging more fun and interesting for me.

I guess some of the things most interesting to talk about wouldn't be a good idea - but if I lived in another country I might feel nervous about keeping a blog at all.

Salam Pax, if you're reading this and care to answer, is there anyone you would feel nervous about if they read your blog? If you choose to answer in public you might as well put it in the comment section below these words. If you have anything you think would be more interesting to talk about, go ahead. You write excellently in English by the way - I've never been good with any other language.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

While I agree with Joshua Marshall that Bush has handled North Korea poorly, I think it's important not to get so caught up in criticizing Bush that we understate the depth of the basic problem - or rather, interlocking problems.

After all, North Korea did start this second secret effort to build a nuclear weapon before Bush came into office.

The North Korean government are now proven liars. They are brazen, claiming that they are forced to develop nuclear weapons because we no longer send them fuel oil - although they started a second secret effort to develop the bomb when their better know one was stopped in exchange for economic aid. How should we deal with them now?

Oddly enough, there is an argument for continued economic aid. If starvation in North Korea brings the government to the point of internal revolution, they might well attack South Korea first. Due to previous commitments, we would have to defend South Korea, perhaps in a war more bloody than the first Korean War. Before we cut off aid, the secret bomb developing program they were engaged in seems to have been much slower at bomb building that what they are doing now. Questions have also been raised about the humanitarian consequences of cutting off food aid. If we are going to consider continued aid to the North Korean government to prevent these problems, we must honestly acknowledge the potential consequences. First, no matter what monitoring they agree to, they will try to find a way to continue nuclear weapons research secretly - and will probably succeed, although the new secret programs may be much slower than the ones they replace. Bush is right about one thing - if we make blackmail successful, we should not expect the perpetrators to give it up. Secondly, while the North Korean government probably won't risk being toppled in a bloody war while they are receiving enough booty to live in comfort and avoid a popular revolution, they will certainly make sure their military machine is as threatening as possible to South Korea - and the worse the situation gets there, the more of their limited resources they will spend on their military, since blackmailing the west seems to be their most workable method of getting food. Which brings us to three - we may ultimately be perpetuating the problem with our so called humanitarian food aid. I do not know exactly what role the North Korean government played in their economic collapse. Other repressive governments such as China have achieved limited successes. If North Korea is not totally at fault economically that is one thing, but if they are they will cost the West more and more to support until they collapse. Apart from blackmail, their other economic success is selling missiles. It seems nations friendly to us can buy better ones elsewhere, which leaves unfriendly nations, or marginal ones, as buyers.

There are no easy answers. Let's talk about the consequences of refusing to be blackmailed. If we bomb their reactor they would probably invade South Korea. If we cut off all aid including 'humanitarian food aid' they would probably do the same, unless they felt they could make enough to survive by selling nuclear weapons, in which case they could fortify their position and wait for us to attack their barbed wire entrenched positions. To make it worse, the South Korean government seems to be in denial. If we cut off all aid to the North they may blame us for the war, even if it was ultimately inevitable.

In the face of repeated North Korean provocations, the Bush administration seems to be backing down, claiming they are looking for a way to talk to North Korea without giving in to blackmail, which is hard to do since that is their stated goal. Once we've started talking, they will accuse us of breaking off negotiations if we steadfastly refuse to give them more aid. I think we have to accept our stark choice - give in to blackmail or prepare for a Korean war. Of course American history is full of seemingly unresolvable problems that got solved or even just went away, along with the occasional problem like German aggression in the thirties and the great depression which didn't. I suspect that Bush doesn't want to fight North Korea, and will do basically the right thing, made harder and more dangerous by his axis of evil talk and his confronting the North Koreans we the evidence of their deceit without being prepared for their brazen acknowledgement and demand for more concessions from us. I'm not absolutely sure what the right thing is though - but I'm only one I've seen so far, left or right, with a horrible fear that what we really need to do if we are committed to South Korea is prepare for war with North Korea.