Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Are we losing our spine?

I think we've decided to lose in Iraq.  I think it's over.

What do you think? Please convince me that I'm wrong, dude.

Heh... yeah... that really sucks... It's really pretty much Kerry's time, yet he's fucked himself up so badly that he can't steal the real show.
I mean... it's the heart of pessimism, and Kerry's pretty much pessimism incarnate...

I don't think it's all lost. The Iraqi government has had enough time to get acquainted with the difficulties of having to deal with other politicians, so I kind of agree that now is a more reasonable time to start 'weaning' them, so to speak. By weaning I mean that they need to have some fire under their feet motivating them to stop arguing over the size of their slice of pie, and instead focus on making sure that they still have a pie to cut.
I do think a lot of Iraqi politicians have not been taking their predicament seriously, and the turn-around by the Bush administration will hopefully force them to cooperate instead of fighting turf wars.

I noticed that Bush' 60-minutes interview actually did get through to my mom, lefty of lefties, hater of everything Bush. She suddenly thought that he was right that Iraq *would become* a huge threat to us if we leave it to chaos. She blamed him for it, but if only other people *suddenly* figure that out...
This near change of heart gives me some hope that with enough focus on the issue, the administration could bring people back behind the effort, and this time for the right reason.

That's the only thing in several months that's made me optimistic. I'm on board with pacifying Baghdad, but at the same time, I think we shouldn't need another 20K troops to do it. I actually do believe that other areas of Iraq are doing pretty well, and if I'm right, then we really should be able to redeploy troops within Iraq to secure Baghdad, without all other parts going to shit.
Probably would be a little more responsible to send in more troops, but if the push for more troops was staking out a position from which Bush can negotiate an extension of the commitment while abandoning the worthwhile attempt at a surge in numbers, it may be worth it.

There are also a couple other possibilities:
1) perhaps they're more ready than we know, or perhaps when faced with the reality of losing their government to brigands, they will actually step up. From this perspective it may be that we've been giving the Iraqi government *too much* support.
2) perhaps we can turn America's opinion by showing progress on US casualties.

One thing that has been a constant thorn in *my* side, is this insistence on solving Iraqi problems with US military power. If you'd asked me for a tactical plan for post-regime change Iraq, I would've built US military bases out in the desert and stationed *all* our forces there, leaving Iraqis and their government to largely fend for themselves, with limited engagement from our forces in order to pick winners, secure voting rights, and a few other important tasks.
Building stuff, reconstructing things, protecting infrastructure and people, I'd send money, but not a drop of blood from US soldiers.

My main point here is that we all *knew* that the US populace would not stomach the loss of US soldiers in exchange for Iraqi freedom or democracy. The people of the US don't care one bit how many Iraqis die, but they care quite a lot about *any* US soldier killed in action. We *all* knew this, so there's just no excuse for having the administration let our soldiers get nickeled and dimed into a total of 3,000 troops dead over four years. It's a *stupid* policy that's gotten us here. If we completely disengaged like in my model, yet still technically had a presence in Iraq, the US would support our intervention there indefinitely. And what you need when beating down an ideology like we're facing in the arab world, is a guaranty that we're a force that's going to stay. Due to US casualties, everybody in the world *knows* that this is not the case.

On the other hand, we still have that as an option. There are ways to reduce troop casualties, and if Bush was a little more responsible with his oversight of republican politics, he would've implemented the required policies in order to win these last elections, even if it meant throwing some Iraqis to the wolves.

My point here is that if we had lost 300 soldiers instead of 3,000 soldiers, there wouldn't be any question in anybody's mind about whether we're going to remain in Iraq. And in that case, we'd have much better leverage against our enemies globally.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Let's go have a par...err protest


My new theory... to decrease the number of antiwar protests, simply increase the number of "Burning Man" events.

It's just incredible... these people don't care much about Iraqis dying in Iraq or US soldiers dying abroad. They care about drum circles, statements, slogans, group-think, chanting, singing, and their 'creative ways of protesting'. Being 'anti-war' is only incidental.

The west postures to Iran... again


I know I disparaged this as juvenile before, but who could possibly expect this to pay some sort of dividend?
We imposed wrist-slap sanctions on Iran for nuclear development, and even those are unlikely to be enforced (...still searching for evidence of UN sanctions actually working to resolve problems, if anybody knows of any examples, please give me a shout).

Iran: Give us some time, let us think about it and finish our centrifuge work, then we'll tell you 'no', okay?

Iran has been the *only* consistent voice in this dispute. They have steadfastly maintained their commitment to building nukes. It's the west that's been shuffling its feet and pretending to come up with different propositions, all of which end up being a form of "How much can we pay you to stop this?"

Acquiring nukes is not about money for Iran, they've got plenty of money. It's about the very survival of the theocracy. Without nukes, they are doomed to be overthrown.

It has long been my opinion that there is not sufficient will in any power capable of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons to actually prevent them from doing so. China and Russia will never support meaningful sanctions on such an important economic ally. The rest of the world is far too gun-shy since the Iraq invasion to undertake any form of military intervention. Consequently, it would be wisest to invest more of our time and attention to issues that potentially have a solution in which western powers can participate.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Iran is unhappy with us

Iran is 'upset' that we're going to crack down on their interference in Iraq... but this quote made me laugh.
“This is support for terrorism. It is against all recognized international treaties to order the death of nationals of another country in a foreign land,” Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of Parliament’s Foreign Policy and National Security Committee, said on state television.
Uhh... I'll bet it's not against NAFTA, for one.
My apologies, but the quote was really *begging* for it.

Kerry on a foreign rampagehttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif


What's more sketchy about Kerry's European traipsing is how familiar it sounds. This reminds me quite a bit of his non-dept-of-state meetings with Vietnamese communists in Europe during the Vietnam war.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think Kerry is *trying* to harm America. I think he believes that he's smarter than he actually is, and that he is effectively advocating for a 'separate peace' between our enemies and the left, by saying "hey, it's not my country, Bush and the republicans are causing the problems".

Whether he thinks that's true or not, he shouldn't be saying that to either our supposed allies or our enemies, both of which were in attendance in various forms.

I think this comes down to a serious difference in viewpoint.

By electing the US government, the American people as a whole are fully responsible for the actions of that government.
Foreign powers cannot pick and choose. If they hate the US government, they hate the American people. Obviously Ahmadinejad & Khamenei don't understand this, considering their many overtures and claimed attempts to split the American people from its government. This is similarly opaque to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, who thinks he can break the people from democracy by offering cheap heating oil to people in the north east.

They don't understand this because it is *always* possible to separate a dictator from the people he rules. They are merely attempting the same tactics that others use to target them, without realizing how asymmetrical the situation is. We didn't invade Iraq to kill Iraqis, we invaded to remove Saddam. In a dictatorship, there is no acceptance of liability by the people for the actions of the government. In that case, one can actually dislike or hate a government, without disliking or hating the people controlled by that government.

I think it will be a long time before the dictatorship world will learn that they cannot hate the US government without hating the people of the US. I think the reason for this slow learning curve is simple. They're dictators. You don't get to be dictator by being smart, you get to be dictator by being brutal and mastering deception.

I'm not going to argue about a definition of 'smart' here, suffice it to say that I'm using this word in a certain context.

Comps Finished!

Finished my comprehensive exams (physics) last week, after a month and more of studying and freaking out. I clearly understudied for some subjects and overstudied for others. One note about them, and then back to vents on political travesties.

Our comprehensive exams consisted of:
1) Mathematical Methods for Physics (2.5hrs)
Didn't do as well as I wanted to here, but I understand it well. I think I hosed up a Laurent Expansion problem, as that was my weakest point going into this exam. Another day of focus on this subject probably would've saved me.

2) Classical Mechanics (2.5 hrs)
This was a relatively trivial test, but there was a rotations problem that many others perhaps didn't get, and a question which was effectively "Do you remember this diatribe I went on in class?" I happened to remember it, some probably didn't.

3) Electricity and Magnetism (2.5 hrs)
Felt pretty confident coming out of this exam, though I made a few mistakes. It was probably the most technically difficult part of the comprehensives.

4) Statistical Mechanics (2.5 hrs)
Definitely the weakest subject for me in this exam. The questions made little-to-no sense, their numbers didn't come out cleanly, and they were largely focused on Thermodynamics. There were a few questions which likely tricked me as well. Others taking the test also felt stat mech was the most obscure exam.

5) Quantum Mechanics (2.5 hrs)
I think I nailed this one. Understood all the questions and almost all of them worked out cleanly with reasonable numbers. I know that some of my calculations didn't work out exactly right, but they certainly weren't far off. I have more confidence in this than any other portion of the exam.
6) Modern Physics (2.5 hrs)
This was a joke. Essay questions and conceptual problems. It was difficult to take this portion of the exam seriously.