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TBM: The Safety Stormtroopers and Nazi Nannies

I'm sure all y'all know that thing "Then They Came for Me": ACLU-ish-type-poemy-ranty-thing that got a second wind post 9/11, right? (Hat tip to an unexpected combination of the Stupid Angry (Psychically) Internally-Displaced Resident of Canukistan Da Rant and Talk Left )

Well here's my Ode To Social Engineering:

First they came for the politically incorrect, and I didn't speak up because insensitive speech creates a hostile environment.
Then they came for the smokers, and I didn't speak up because smoking is bad.
Then they came for the drunks, and I didn't speak up because alcohol is bad for you.
Then they came for the fatty foods, and I didn't speak up because fatty foods lead to health problems.
Then they came for the gun owners, and I didn't speak up because I didn't own a gun.
Then they came and they came, and I didn't speak up because they were looking out for my best interests.
Then they came for me....... and by that time no one was left to speak up because they'd all been pestered into obscurity.


SRBM: France and the Israeli Nuclear Program (Shades of Russia and Iran)

Well, now I've gone and done it. Not actually screwed up (that happens all the time) but actually have gotten off my duff and responded to a request for documentation (almost). Oliver Kamm had posted about French behavior, when I made an off-hand comment in his blog:
"One thing I'm rather amused by is the sleight of amnesia which has allowed those of the Middle East to forget that France gave birth to the Israeli nuclear program."

To which Daniel in Medford responded (in part):

"Anticipatory Retaliation: documentation, please?

Please include in your explanation exactly what you mean by the phrase "France gave
birth to the Israeli nuclear program". If you mean that French nuclear scientists
built reactors at Dimona, and assisted in the construction of nuclear weapons -- and
can document this -- then I'd agree with your assertion.

If, on the other hand, you meant that the French sold military hardware to Israel,
leaving it up to the Israelis to build their own reactors etc., then I'd say "gave
birth to" is misleading, at best."

So, hearkening to the call of "documentation, please?" (and heck, he even signed "respectfully") - Daniel, I present for you the following: a rambling missive which indirectly answers some of your core questions, but veers off sharply into uncharted waters at the end.

Overview in the Telegraph (selected paragraphs):
"[The Bomb in the Basement: Israel's Nuclear Option] reveals how France helped Israel on its nuclear programme in exchange for support in the Suez War. In the mid-1950s, relations between the two countries were warming because of their shared anxiety over burgeoning nationalist movements in North Africa.
The agreement with France was unprecedented. Until then, no country had supplied another with the means for developing a nuclear capability.
In Paris, Jean-Francois Daguzan, the deputy director of the Foundation for Strategic Research, said that France's deal with Israel had been kept a secret for almost 30 years. 'It was well known in military and political circles but it didn't become public knowledge until the mid-1980s after a book was published about that era and the agreement was mentioned.'"

From the Wisconsin Project on Israel's nuclear program:
Franco-Israeli nuclear cooperation is described in detail in the book "Les Deux Bombes" (1982) by French journalist Pierre Pean, who gained access to the official French files on Dimona. The book revealed that the Dimona's cooling circuits were built two to three times larger than necessary for the 26-megawatt reactor Dimona was supposed to be--proof that it had always been intended to make bomb quantities of plutonium. The book also revealed that French technicians had built a plutonium extraction plant at the same site. According to Pean, French nuclear assistance enabled Israel to produce enough plutonium for one bomb even before the 1967 Six Day War. France also gave Israel nuclear weapon design information.

In 1986, Francis Perrin, high commissioner of the French atomic energy agency from 1951 to 1970, was quoted in the press as saying that France and Israel had worked closely together for two years in the late 1950s to design an atom bomb. Perrin said that the United States had agreed that the French scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project could apply their knowledge at home provided they kept it secret. But then, Perrin said, "We considered we could give the secrets to Israel provided they kept it a secret themselves." He added: "We thought the Israeli bomb was aimed against the Americans, not to launch it against America but to say 'if you don't want to help us in a critical situation we will require you to help us, otherwise we will use our nuclear bombs.'"

Hmmm... looking through the resources, it seems as if Globalsecurity.org's offering is probably the easiest one-stop shop, so I'll quote a couple of segments:
On 3 October 1957, France and Israel signed a revised agreement calling for France to build a 24 MWt reactor (although the cooling systems and waste facilities were designed to handle three times that power) [ed: this is important for reprocessing] and, in protocols that were not committed to paper, a chemical reprocessing plant. This complex was constructed in secret, and outside the IAEA inspection regime, by French and Israeli technicians at Dimona, in the Negev desert under the leadership of Col. Manes Pratt of the IDF Ordinance Corps.
Trouble arose in May 1960, when France began to pressure Israel to make the project public and to submit to international inspections of the site, threatening to withhold the reactor fuel unless they did. President de Gaulle was concerned that the inevitable scandal following any revelations about French assistance with the project, especially the chemical reprocessing plant, would have negative repercussions for France's international position, already on shaky ground because of its war in Algeria.

At a subsequent meeting with Ben-Gurion, de Gaulle offered to sell Israel fighter aircraft in exchange for stopping work on the reprocessing plant, and came away from the meeting convinced that the matter was closed. It was not. Over the next few months, Israel worked out a compromise. France would supply the uranium and components already placed on order and would not insist on international inspections. In return, Israel would assure France that they had no intention of making atomic weapons, would not reprocess any plutonium, and would reveal the existence of the reactor, which would be completed without French assistance. In reality, not much changed - French contractors finished work on the reactor and reprocessing plant, uranium fuel was delivered and the reactor went critical in 1964.

Ok, finally, enough digging for some money quotes from FOIA goodness:

"Post-Mortem on SNIE 100-8-60: Implications of the Acquisition by Israel of a Nuclear Weapons Capability."
(I've left out some really fascinating background materials, but feel free to look at your leisure)
"The Israelis probably made the decision to go forward with their secret reactor project as early as 1956, and collaboration with the French on this project had been initiated by 1957."
"US Embassy, Tel Aviv, forwarded on 2 August 1960 a report from a US nuclear engineer that the Israelis were constructing a major reactor with French assistance."
[Paragraph 21]"During the period 1952-59, there were numerous reports of rumors that France was assisting Israel in the nuclear energy field. A few of these reports indicated that the French would supply, or aid in the development of nuclear weapons. A French-Israeli agreement for cooperation in atomic energy has been known to exist since 1953, but it has never been published and its details are not known to the US. On 15 April 1958, Dr. Bergman stated categorically that the agreement was limited to the exchange of information on uranium chemistry and the production of heavy water. U.S. intelligence presumed (wrongly) that French aid was in fact limited to these fields. The French repeated this position in November 1960 but finally officially admitted to reactor collaboration in mid-December (see paragraphs 32 and 42 below.)"

[Latter half of Para 32]"However, on 27 December 1960, a French official advised the AEC representative in Paris that earlier statements were the "party line" at the time, but that the assistance concerned a heavy water, natural uranium reactor."

[Part of Para 35]"Prof. Gomberg was debriefed in Washington on 1 December by representatives of AEC, CIA, and State, and reported that he was convinced that the installation in the Negev was a French-Marcoule-type reactor being erected with French technical assistance, that construction had been underway for about two years, and that it was scheduled to be completed in about a year."

Another document yields this howler from the last day of the Eisenhower administration:
"We do not believe, however, that extended public speculation regarding the Israeli atomic energy program will advance the interests of the United States, and we have taken and will continue to take any feasible measures to damp down speculation on this matter and in particular to avoid giving occasion for renewed suspicions and possible undesirable reactions in the Arab world. We believe that persistent but quite diplomatic approaches are most likely to be productive."

"We have been given responsible assurances by the French that the French-Israeli cooperation program is limited to the 24 megawatt research reactor, that the French will supply all the uranium for this reactor, that the plutonium produced in the reactor will all be returned to France, that adequate arrangements have been agreed upon to assure the exclusively peaceful use of the reactor, and that resident French inspectors or periodic inspection visits will be accepted. The French assured us that they do not want to be associated with any Israeli nuclear weapons program, that they have urged public assurances of peaceful intention by the Israelis, and that they support our efforts to this same end."

Well, there were a whole raft of attempted inspections under Ben Gurion, which were essentially stonewalled. Here's an excerpt from a letter from JFK to the then newly-installed Prime Minister of Israel Eshkol, where JFK promises he might get concerned.
"I am sure you will agree that these visits should be as nearly as possible in accord with international standards, thereby resolving all doubts as to the peaceful intent of the Dimona project. As I wrote Mr. Ben-Gurion, this Government's commitment to and support of Israel Could[sic] be seriously jeopardized if it should be thought that we were unable to obtain reliable information on a subject as vital to peace as the question of Israel's effort in the nuclear field."

One of the seven visits to Dimona by American inspectors, yields this Memorandum of Communication which gives some interesting insights:
"From a number of sources, the team has drawn the inference that the US government is not prepared to support a real 'inspection' effort in which the team members can feel authorized to ask directly pertinent questions and/or insist on being allowed to look at records, logs, materials and the like."

[NB: the credit for the above documentation goes to Avner Cohen and his book Israel and the Bomb]

The above memo reflects the tacit understanding that had developed between Golda Meir and Richard Nixon - approximately one or two years after the Israelis had built their first device and almost a decade after we see "We believe that persistent but quite diplomatic approaches are most likely to be productive." from the Eisenhower administration.

Now that you've got that lovely taste in your mouth, take a swig of this.
"The Iranian authorities and the ministers, following extensive consultations, agreed on measures aimed at the settlement of all outstanding IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] issues with regards to the Iranian nuclear programme and at enhancing confidence for peaceful cooperation in the nuclear field."

I've been pounding away on this for a while now and am nowhere near done. I've gone a lot more into the history of the Israeli nuclear program not simply because I wanted to do a hatchet job on France (or Israel) but rather that as I started looking through this stuff, I was getting hit pretty hard with the deja vu stick. I was going to construct the analogy France:Israel::Russia:Iran (with a lot of juicy details I just don't feel like looking up anymore), and then go on to the broader point about the utility of inspection international inspection regimes, since Israel was able to keep the hush-hush over Dimona from JFK through LBJ to Nixon. Given that, is it any wonder that folks will always go for "inspections" when stonewalling is fairly easy and attention spans are short? More significantly, given the CIA estimate of Israeli nuclear development or the 1998 detonations in South Asia, how much, exactly, do people expect from intelligence on nuclear programs. And why are they so bloody surprised that someone got itchy on Iraq?

Some 35 years down the road, Israel is thought to have a few hundred nukes, including the possibility of hydrogen bombs. Iran's making the same noises, Russia thinks Iran is a more or less responsible regional power and counterweight to America's Israel. And the Europeans are hoping for magic inspections to work. Well -- I guess they have to, since they've jack-all they can do about it, short of nuking Iran.

UPDATE: David points out this excellent history of the Israeli nuclear program in Oliver's comments sections. Very worth the read.


EBS: More people asking for the 200 kT of goodness

Let me introduce a few new targets to the list of retaliatory strikes ... the indubitable JKS you may already know from the comments at Bill Whittle's EjectEjectEject! has blessed us all with his bloggy goodness at Electronic Countermeasures. I can't help but loving a military technology themed blog. It would seem that the JKS-meister is irretrievably wrapped around the axle on "Fiscal Conservatism vs Libertarian Laissez Faire." Beats me. And I know that "indubitable" didn't really fit in that first sentence. I just hadn't used the words in ages, and it seemed to be as good a time as any to use it.

And, yes, JKS, you have been Reciprocated.

Otherwise, I've also inexplicably netted another person who should know better: the widely read and oft-quoted Norman Geras. You may be familiar with him from his early essay which floated up with the mighty Instapundit, the WSJ Opinion Journal, and Andrew Sullivan (who is quite effusive in his praise). Yep. I can't figure out exactly what gems of wisdom I've left about that have merited such attention, but hey, gift horse and all that.

Finally, for those of you who have voted in the poll in the right-side column, I've been thinking about putting together a whole series of posts as sort of a collection of essays on warfare. I had been thinking about doing it to inaugurate a move off of blogspot, but I'm not sure I'm getting around to the transition - largely because I'm a great big wuss, and don't want to start stamping my name all over domain registrations, et al. Well, that, and it looks as if it might involve effort. Would any y'all read such things? Would I? Does it matter? It would mean a drift away from topical coverage, but I've no idea whether or not any of you show up for the snazzy orange color scheme or commentary on the state of things or what.


TBM: Just an FYI

China in regards to North Korean stability. I would invite the casual observer to note that China has three divisions on the North Korean border.

Just thought you might want to know.


TBM: Pakistan and Saudi Strike Secret Nuclear Deal

This story in the Washington Times has the stunner that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia might be on the way to a trade of oil for nukes. The report by Arnaud de Borchgrave, and I would give him significant credibility on this, based on his past history. At any rate, here are the 'money grafs':

"It will be vehemently denied by both countries," said the Pakistani source, whose information has proven reliable for more than a decade, "but future events will confirm that Pakistan has agreed to provide [Saudi Arabia] with the wherewithal for a nuclear deterrent."

As predicted, Saudi Arabia — which has faced strong international suspicion for years that it was seeking a nuclear capability through Pakistan — strongly denied the claim."

Of course some will decry this because de Borchgrave writes for the Washington Times, but all in all, given what I know of him, I would be very skeptical of the assertion that the report was not fully consistent with the information he had available to him.

This story has also been picked up in the Times of India.

It is also instructive to consider the past history of Saudi's nuclear ambitions.


SRBM: 1984 in 24

Rachel Lucas has recently been re-reading Orwell's 1984. I've generally been a big fan of dystopian fiction, and Orwell is one of the finest. After I had reread his book this summer, I was fixin' to write and post something elegant and incisive. But then I was looking through my blog today, and noted that after a post about shit shoveling, the bar isn't set altogether that high. So, these are just some of my thoughts and maunderings, in no particular order, poorly thought out, even more poorly organized and not particularly well edited. Enjoy!

  1. 1984 deals quite deftly with the totalitarianism of both the far right and far left.  If you go through the text with two highlighters, marking statements that reflect the fears of the right in one color, and the fears of the left with the other color, you'll see why the term Orwellian is used by people from all parts of the political spectrum to describe their fears, even though they are afraid of very different things (or as some would have it, some of the very same things.)

  2. This book would make a fantastic companion read to Frederik Hayek's "Road to Serfdom."

  3. In the midsection of the book and the appendix on Newspeak he sheds a significant amount of light on the kind of thinking we now see flourish in Post-Modernism, Textual Deconstruction (Derrida), and Moral Relativism.  He also points out one of the most significant flaws of these schools of thought when he speaks to engineering and weapons development in the three states.  As mentioned earlier, this kind of thinking is also manifest in political correctness, amongst other things.  Read the Appendix - it plays little part in the story itself, but think about the fact that Orwell considered it important enough to write an appendix and develop a grammar for a completely synthetic language.  It does play a significant part in the underlying theme of the book.

  4. Orwell is considered by some to be completely off base in his descriptions of the economics driving his world.  Much of his thinking reflects a labor/production view of economics (similar to the one espoused by the Soviets) rather than the now more widely accepted free market and capital flow view.

  5. In the canons of dystopian fiction, 1984 provides an interesting connection between Yevgeni Zamyatin's We (as well as Brave New World) and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.  In We, Zamyatin posits a all-controlling government that, despite best intentions, cannot survive simply because humans are entirely too unruly to live contentedly in a perfect world.  In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury describes a world which is run purely for the sake of garnering power, but is not traditionally totalitarian and preys upon the weakness of man as it's instrument of power.  1984splits the difference, positing a totalitarian government that exists solely to perpetuate the power of those in charge (you'll note that O'Brien, while he lives well, does not live like a king).  This is done by pandering to the raw, unwashed humanity of the proles, while enforcing an incredibly soulless puritanism among the Inner and Outer Party.  Additionally, 1984 serves as a fascinating counterpart to Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

  6. The premise of doublethink is also tied into the (at the time) recent development of Goedel's Theorem, in which he shows that any system of rules can either be complete or consistent, but never both.  In order for Oceania (or Eurasia and Eastasia) to work, citizens must overcome their internal inability to deal with contradistinction, so the set of rules established by the state can be complete and all-encompassing.  The inability to use doublethink in both thought and deed inevitably leads to incorrect action on the part of individuals and into the hands of the thought police.

  7. Orwell also argues the connection between liberal democracy and the existence of a middle class.  In 1984 the outer party are the middle class and far and away are subject to the most stringent control.  The inner party are allowed to shut off telescreens, while the proles have none.  He argues that it was the effective suppression of the middle class that allows the state to retain control.  He also notes that the middle class need not be particularly well off, but rather serve as a strata of necessary functionaries and technicians keeping the machines of industry and government turning, without any actual power.  Thus, the outer party are really the slaves of the novel.  This has interesting parallels with the history of the Turkish Janisssaries.  additionally, it seems to imply that the middle class cannot (or at least should not) be destroyed, but their very existence means that no one government can last forever.

  8. He also posits the idea (I don't know where else this particular idea has been discussed, but I'm sure it has).  That the state is an organism unto itself.  In the same manner that living creatures seek to reproduce, the state seeks to amass power.  Thus the Party seeks to perpetuate the Party.  In 1984 ongoing war is necessary - not to gain ground, but to serve as an external galvanizing focus for control of the state.  If one of the Orwellian states were to conquer the world, it would soon collapse, because it would have no external focus.  See also Hitler and the Jews, as well as North Korea today.

  9. Similarly, he does a very effective job in showing that power, intelligence, commerce, money, and knowledge are all radically different things and bear no necessary connections.  It's a useful point to remember when examining the history of Stalin's purges.

Questions to think about:

  1. Why edit back editions of newspapers?  Who has the old newspapers?  Why keep old records if they represent a potential danger?  Who reads these? Who is the audience of the currently published newspapers?  Who is the audience of the old newspapers?

  2. How does the attitude towards history as shown in their obsession over rewriting the past compare and contrast with the existence of the antique store?  Does this relate to the obsession of retroactively extending the reach of the party back in time?

  3. How does retroactively extending the temporal reach of the party mesh with the ongoing development of Newspeak?  Why is it that they are continually rewriting classic works to put them in Newspeak, but not old books and media?  Is there any particular reason they just didn't make Kipling a unperson?

  4. Why go through the trouble of generating propaganda at all?  Why not just enforce direct control directly in the manner of a tyrant?

  5. Why is the Party so incredibly puritanical on sex, but actively promotes alcoholism and smoking?  Why do they have morning exercises?  How does this contrast with traditional views of sports and physical education being useful and character building?

  6. How are their attitudes towards such matters tied into the idea of Thoughtcrime?  Why is it important that their crushing of dissent be so absolute and thorough?  Not just that they destroy their opponents, or that their opponents are irretrievably crushed, but that the Party knows that their opponents realize how extensively they have been destroyed?

  7. Why perpetuate Goldstein and the Brotherhood?  What's the purpose of continually grinding the heel of a boot in the face of humanity?

  8. How does the Inner Party rely on or gain advantage from the Proles?  The workers in the contested territories?

  9. How do they manage to deliberately fight their wars to a stalemate?  Would any of these states start a space race?  Why or why not?

  10. How does Winston's unconscous writing of Down With Big Brother compare with his neighbors mouthing of same in his sleep? Between these two incidents and Winston's inability to play chess such that the black player wins, what statements is Orwell making about the subconcious? Is this the same statement that Bradbury and Zamyatin are alluding to in their books?




Additional items to think about, but are merely my suspicions and aren't (AFAIK) borne out by any interviews with Orwell. 

  1. The old drunk lady is his mother.

  2. The Inner Party and the Brotherhood are the same organizations.

  3. It is entirely possible that all members of the Inner Party also work for the Thought Police, but I'm much less sure about this. It would make the Thought Police sort of a Party within the Party - a sort of meta-party, as it were. This would have some interesting implications, bureaucratically, but that's a post for another day.

  4. It is also entirely possible that the three states are not, in fact, seperate countries, in any meaningful sense of the word. (See also this fantastic manga - Grey by Yoshihisa Tagami). To take that a step further, is it necessary for there even to be "others" that they're fighting with. Would it not be possible to just send two armies into the field and tell each army that the other guy is Eurasian, and anything an enemy soldiers says to the contrary is merely treachery?

  5. I found it quite interesting that Winston was so unpracticed at writing by hand, yet he lives in a state that operates on huge amounts of paper. This has interesting paralells with Farenheit 451, but doesn't appear in We.

So, folks, doubleplusgood Ingsoc uncrimethinkful dreams...


TBM: Genie Out of the Bottle and Over the Horizon

Incestuous Amplification reports that the South Koreans are getting a bit clever and have opted to play hard ball by demanding a quid pro quo exchanging peacekeeping troops in Iraq for what amounts to a non-aggression pact with North Korea.

Boy, is that ever dumb...

First off, the United States is generally very hostile to linkage of issues, simply because the US involved in so many things around the globe that allowing linkage like this can create Butterfly Effect diplomacy, which would, to be charitable, be nightmarishly complex and essentially unworkable. Widespread issue linkage would put the US in a situation similar to that of the Holy Roman Emperor presiding over a loose amalgamation of squabbling feudal states mired in petty disputes. Responsible for all with authority over none.

Moreover, creating linkage between North Korea non-aggression and Iraq peacekeeping, in light of the recent UN resolution, does create the awkward situation where the US is supporting a UN-backed peacekeeping force in South Korea while the South Koreans refuse to assist in a UN-backed peacekeeping operation in Iraq. Thin ice, indeed. This kind of move could provide a valid departure point for complete withdrawal of US forces if that's what's decided in Washington. Similarly, the US could even take this a step further and withdraw from the UN cease-fire monitoring agreement - since North Korea's already done it, why continue the charade?. The US could sign the non-aggression pact, declare the war over and pull out of South Korea. Of course there's not really effective way to spin such a maneuver without it being perceived as a total defeat brought on by the US invasion of Iraq. Additionally, I don't think there's really any cause to cut the South Koreans loose like that and hang them out to dry so completely.

At any rate, that's the murky and uncertain territory South Korea could find itself lost in should they get to jack-happy about shafting Washington.

Overall, it seems that many (especially South Korea) have forgotten some significant things about North Korea. First of all, North Korea's current regime will never, ever disarm. Full stop. Keeping in mind the ongoing problems that were associated with UN weapons inspections in Iraq and the absolutely stifling paranoia of North Korea, can you possible imagine a future in which a) they would actually cooperate and scrap their nuclear program in its entirety, and b) an environment sufficiently open that they would be able to demonstrate a good faith effort to disarm?

So, yes Virginia, North Korea really does have nukes. And the odds that they'll ever willingly get rid of them with the current government are significantly less than nil.

This realization (that they have them and there's nothing short of war to be done about it) has been a strong influence on the American policy towards North Korea. The Bush team recognizes that the only prayer they have of getting rid of the NorkNuke is regime change in P'yongyang. The cost of doing that 5.56 mm at a time is astronomical. But, given the weakness of the North Korean economy, external economic and diplomatic pressure can be put on the government to encourage its collapse. The US is big on the multi-party talks, simply because US pressure alone will be insufficient. The pressure that all six governments can apply is not insignificant, provided that it can be focused effectively. Thus, the multi-party talks are a forum for North Korea to continue to act badly in, hopefully, therefore, acting as a consensus generating engine.

With this consensus, it is hoped that East Asian nations can do for North Korea what McDonald's and West Germany did for the Warsaw Pact. A few decades back, this kind of strategy would have been regarded as sheer nonsense, but the horrifically abrupt collapse of the Eastern Bloc has fostered a hope that the miracle can be repeated. I don't really know if it can - I see precious few promising signs, but then again a few years before the collapse, similar signs in places like Romania and Albania were equally scarce.

The other question, is how a collapse will affect the region. It will almost certainly increase tensions between America and China since both armies will end up either jointly occupying North Korea or facing each other over a border - be it the Yalu River or the 38th parallel. This obviously has huge potential ramifications on the Taiwan Straits problem - effectively opening another major front should the balloon go up over the Straits of Formosa. This could easily be compounded by a South Korean shift into the Chinese sphere of influence which would be a distinct possibility, given recent anti-Americanism in the South and the absence of a very visible threat for the US to defend Koreans against.

Secondly, the abject, utter poverty that we defines North Korea will mean massive floods of refugees both north and south, should the government collapse -- combined with the incredibly vast army and stockpile of weapons in North Korea, the potential for ugliness there would not be remote. This would further compound the incredible humanitarian crisis that would surely follow collapse.

Third, as we see in Iraq, about the only thing that can get more expensive than defending against a threat is rebuilding the country that you no longer have to defend against. South Korea can, in no way, shape or form, rehabilitate a collapsed North Korea. Japan's contribution would be limited by a number of factors, including the weakness of their economy and the historical antagonism between Korea and Japan. I really don't know that China could do a lot, either. Problematic.

Fourth, given the thoroughness of the indoctrination of North Koreans, it could be extraordinarily difficult indeed for the US to step in and lend a hand. This indoctrination could also mean that rehabilitation of the state would take at least a generation, if not more, before they would be able to collectively get off the dole queue.

On the other hand, given Kim Jong Il's predilection for being a pain in the ass, I'm not a super big fan of propping up the government either.

I guess it's chosing among the least distasteful of a whole raft of crummy options.


TBM: Shoveling Shit Increases Life Expectancy

This just in from the Stupid Angry Canadian: "You cannot shovel shit when you are dead. Trust me on that one."

This mysterious announcement has understandably gotten me to mulling over another bit of arcane wisdom from the maple syrup encrusted (Don't you think it might be better to replace the maple leaf on the Canajun flag with a picture of maple syrup, perhaps Aunt Jemima?) Great White Siberian Northern Lapland Tundra.

Hmm... How does the denizen of the wastelands know? I've never tried either shoveling shit or being dead. In any case, maybe if shoveling shit and being dead are mutually exclusive, then they're just not being done right. On the other hand, if they are truly mutually exclusive, then maybe that means that their diametrically opposed logical opposites. So we could say that the not being dead is equivalent to shoveling shit, or that being dead is exactly equivalent to not shoveling shit.

In that case, I think we best ship some shovels over to Iraq pronto, so the Iraqi civilians won't die in droves. We can then deny shovels to the Hussein hold-outs, and absent any shoveling activity on their part, then they should drop dead pronto. We also need to find out who has been keeping Osama in shovels, and start radio tagging shovels to track their location. If we do that, we can drop a laser-guided bomb on Osama, which will blow his shovel so far away from his body and stop his shit shoveling activities so promptly, he'll drop dead, right on the spot.

Likewise, we can also virtually eliminate drunk driving fatalities by making the inclusion of a sack of shit and a shovel in all cars, and only those who are so drunk they toss out either the shit or the shovel will be at risk for fatalities. Smoking related fatalities are a little bit harder to figure. We should conduct some research into determining whether or not really tiny shovels will still ward off the reaper.

Back to the geostrategic implications, we should look at the Nonproliferation aspects of this. I'm pretty certain that shovels are considered a dual use technology, and thus might not be a good target for strict export controls. I know, firsthand, shovels are a fine tool for digging yourself deeper into what ever mess (shit or non-shit based) and are also mighty good for all manner of ill-considered rough housing and savage practical jokes. So we might want to look at limiting the transport of shit. The only problem with this, is that it is quite often, indigenously produced. Vexing. I am vexed.

Elsewise, from sort of a warfighting-humanitarian perspective, we should look at attaching GPS guidance units to shovels, on the one hand, and filling 500-lb JDAMs with shit, on the other. Thus, should people be in life threatening situations, we can immediately drop in both life-saving shovels and shit. I would guess that, given the fine millennium-long traditions of soldiers everywhere, they will immediately know what's expected of them if shovels start falling out of the sky, followed by a gigantic shit storm, as it were - start shoveling. Civilians, on the other hand, I'm not so sure about. Like the old saying goes, you can lead a spade-bearing person to shit, but you can't make them shovel. We should probably explore shoveling education and shit outreach programs.

It just occurred to me that the whole premise to this thing might be tied to the value of the Canadian Dollar. That could be bad, as this possibly sinister Esquimaux/Laplander dark magic might not be valid outside of Canukistan (Motto: It's Like France, But Without Castles!™). This could be both quite a bother and further evidence that the metaphoricallyDark Denizens of the North represent a sever threat with their shit shoveling technologies. I think further study is definitely needed. Perhaps a White Paper needs to be produced. Preferably on a roll, double-ply, quilted and with perforated squares.


TBM: China Launches Man Into Space


Anticipatory Retaliation avoided making a fool of hisself with a mere 150 minutes to spare (on my 9/29 post, I predicted a launch between October 10th and 15th, Eastern Time, and I was right). China launched a man into orbit according to a Xinhua News Agency report released at 9:30 PM Eastern Time.

I would like to invite the casual observer to check this post out. Showing my unsurpassed ability to pull dates off a calendar at random and my skillful use of intelligence from deranged passer-by.

No word yet on the how many taikonauts were propelled into the ether.

Please return to your regularly scheduled, non-self-aggrandizing blogging.

UPDATED: New and Improved! Now with less subtilty! And more information!

It seems that despite the ability to stuff three taikonauts into the Chinese Son Of Soyuz, they opted to hurtle one brave soul into the vast deep. Unless they have an Cosmic Cadbury's Easter Egg of sorts on return. Which, I guess would make a certain amount of sense, right? If the thing doesn't make it back then they've lost only "one" taikonaut, but if they're successful, they've pulled off a coup. Still, seems like rather long odds to me that they'd try such a stunt.


TBM: Cyber-monkeys

In today's Washington Post, we find that Monkeys Control Robotic Arm With Brain Implants. Presumably, they are referring to a limited number of monkeys, as I would imagine that I would have heard about this if all monkeys were now controlling things with their minds. Furthermore, from reading the article, it would seem that they (the monkeys) aren't really telekinetic, as one might be lead to believe, based on the headline. I do wonder if all these monkeys (could be thousands) are controlling a similar multitude of robotic arms, or if they have some sort of voting/time share agreement about the control of one arm. All quite baffling. At any rate, the article does indicate that the robotic-arm-controlling monkeys are going wireless, presumably so they can continue controlling robotic arms from Starbucks. Or maybe via blackberry or something of that sort. Rather vexing.

But on to the good news (and here at AR HQ, that means it's related to warfighting) technology like this could be the ticket for running exoskeletonseses. If you can get some sort of non-invasive snoopy helmet to pick up on the brain opting to, let's say, move the body's arm, and then tell the exoskeleton arm to get with the program and do likewise, you might have a way to control power armor. Just as soon as you manage to design power plants, electrical storage, and so on and keep the price down to a reasonable number, and do it without having to customize each outfit and make it possible to assign armor to multiple users.

Taking it step further, why screw with the exoskeleton, when you could just take the man out of it altogether? Just have a well controlled bipedal armored robot thing.

There is also an open question to what kind of reflex-time saving advantage might be possible with such an outfit. Would it be faster and more precise for a tank commander to use manual controls to slew a turret, or use his funky brain reading helmet? Beats me. How about aiming a gun? We won't see how that particular problem sorts itself out for another few decades. Also applies to pilots and other equipment operators.

This also brings up the question of how well you can download info to the brain. But then again, do you really need to? Would I be able to get more from a data display if I could see it in my mind's eye, so to speak, rather than on a CRT. The utility of that entire operation is a long way from figured out yet. The jury will be in chambers for quite some time on that count.

The biggest thing that will have to be sorted out is whether this stuff can be done non-invasive.

I'll have to think on it for a bit.

EBS: A bit more maintenance

Well, it seems that the earlier trial, trauma, and tribulation of my previous worries about having invoked the wrath of two of the sphere's leading ladies was, fortunately, a case of Anticipatory Grieving.

Our fine Esquimaux denizen of the Great White North, a self-avowed Recovering Moron™ the Temptress of the Tundra, Belle of the Blizzards, the Stupid Angry Canajun has, indeed re-blogrolled me. After a long day of cutting holes in the ice to fish, and clubbing baby-seals, she has trekked back to her igloo and fired up the whale oil-fired generator, chipped the ice off the keyboard and, between skinning polar bears and fighting off coyotes, allowed me to return, with hat in hand, to her esteemed blogroll.

However, it would seem that our Polynesian Princess, the ineffable, Venomous Kate, must still be crashing around the islands on her aircraft carrier canoe and has not been able to correct this grievous error. I imagine after she's done entertaining guests, the issue can be revisited.


TBM: Another Fine Frenchman

The Big Hominid takes a more reasonable and sober look at Frenchosity and all that good stuff, and the works of Jean-François Revel and how some of those debate going on in France is particularly insightful and keen. I am wondering right now that if this is part of the process by which the French intellectual class perpetuates itself. In taking a position strongly contrary to the mainstream, it sets the stage for future vindication and reassertion of the notion that most of the best arguments just aren't heard by the unwashed masses.

Or to put it more plainly, if one views today's winner only as being yesterday's underdog, then wouldn't that create an environment where people start looking to underdogs to be tomorrow's winners all the time. Thus leading to a state where the current winner then becomes tomorrows loser? Hmm.

TBM: The Democratic Party, Mercenaries, Plame and Whatnot

Well, going back to the Great Big Post on the Left and the Democrats, the California Recall Election has been quite an interesting phenomenon. Not so much for all the Arnie this and Arnie that, but for a couple of interesting tidbits of flotsam and jetsam and mixed metaphors.

Here's Roger L. Simon who went and got hisself to votin' Republican. That, in and of itself, might not be earth-shattering. But the comments section is quite a read (even aside from my obviously stellar contribution) - evidently this realignment has been a long time coming.

Likewise, Michael Totten shares his views on voting for The Terminator in Total Recall damned mixed metaphor thingy. Similarly, a lot of interesting byplay to be found in the comments. Even if Mr. Totten still won't link to me or put me on his blogroll. Phuagh!

Ya also might want to wander over to the Journal of the Street Named After a Fortification Opinon Section (ala Taranto) for a couple of good days of coverage on the behavior of the Democrats in California. Particularly here.

Oh yeah, and the Stupid Angry Canajun and Venomouse Kate have both taken me off their blogroll. I must say it is a sort of perverse redletter day when I can now state that I've invoked the capricious wrath and scorn of two women, from different countries, thousands of miles apart, who are both married. And I haven't even been drinking.

But enough preening... No, seriously, enough.

Here's the noodler for the day - perhaps the problem with government control of business lies not in the control of business per se, but rather in the fact that it creates monopoly conditions, which are widely held to be a bad thing - no matter who does it. This then leads to the interesting question of the role of Private Military Contractors and whether or not they posses an intrinsic edge - simply because they aren't monopolistic by nature.

Now I remember the last, little niggling thingy in my mallet - a good Plame roundup from the WSJ here in which the NYT announces that Plame was working under Non-Official Cover (i.e. the fer-real stuff). Which would raise this dilemma. If she were NOC, then whatever alledged leak that occured should result in someone getting their pee-pee whacked but royal. But, if that's true, then shouldn't the NYT be taken out and shot for announcing the identity of a NOC in the newspaper of record? And shouldn't their source get their pee-pee chopped off for it? Still waiting for the investigation on that one.

On the other hand, if there is not problem with the NYT's behavior, then that would indicate that she weren't up to all manner of nefarious sneaky business. But that would reduce the "seriousness" of the charge itself and make it much more likely that no leak had occured at all.

UPDATE: Yep, I logged back on and added material, rather than writing a new post, cuz lord knows anything I can do to be scatterbrained and long-winded in my posting is sure worth doing.


EBS: A few more birds out of the silos...

Well here, deep under the mountain (of crap) we've just caught a track rising from the fields near Grim's Hall. Definitely a quick retaliatory strike. No moss on those early warning radars. Wait a minute... He launched first. Oh well, time for a retaliatory strike anyways.

Ok - enough gibbering. The guy's done some yeoman work on the Plame Affair. Good stuff, good linkage, and good balance, to boot.

The other demon my launches have brought to the surface is none other than the Mighty Roger L. Simon. Ah-ha!

It seems that I've bagged another person who rates as a professional paid scribbler. It seems my hypnotic collection of incoherent screed, tendentious crap and deranged yammerings has laid low another respectable professional who was hankering for a Retaliatory Strike!

Other than that kids - I may (may) have found a way (I would do the whole italics way thing here to make it rhyme, but I just couldn't say way there without thinking I'm Keanu Reaves) to actually get back to passing this huge kidney stone of malformed thoughts and potential posts. Dunno. I'll ring y'all up on the red phone if I get a brainstorm.


TBM: The Plame Game

Ok, with all this talk about the Plame affair, people are tossing around words like undercover, agent, analyst and whatnot like goddamn hand-grenades in a china shop. I wanted to take a moment to lay out some of the groundwork on this whole matter.

The CIA has four Directorates. We’re concerned here about the three non-administrative Directorates – all the other administrative divisions which are beyond the scope of this post fall into the fourth administrative directorate. The Directorates are the Directorate of Operations, the Directorate of Intelligence, and the Directorate of Science and Technology. The duties of these three Directorates are as follows:

The Directorate of Operations:
The Directorate of Operations (DO) is the clandestine arm of the CIA. Its core mission is to support our country’s security and foreign policy interests by conducting clandestine activities to collect information that is not obtainable through other means. The information the DO collects is screened for reliability before its dissemination to policymakers. Although the primary focus of the DO is the collection and dissemination of foreign intelligence, it also conducts counterintelligence activities abroad and special activities as authorized by the President.

The Directorate of Intelligence
The Directorate of Intelligence (DI) analyzes and interprets information collected through clandestine and other means, including open sources. The DI integrates this information and produces a variety of finished intelligence products emphasizing immediate and long-term implications of US interest. The substantive scope of the DI is worldwide and covers functional as well as regional issues; its products range from quick-reaction, informal oral briefings to complex, long-term research studies. The DI supports the President, administration policymakers, the Congress, Pentagon planners and warfighters, law enforcement agencies, and negotiators with timely, comprehensive intelligence analysis about a wide range of national security issues. The DI also provides Congressional members and staff with several hundred intelligence briefings and papers each year. It works closely with the other parts of CIA and the Intelligence Community to make sure intelligence consumers get the products they need.

The Directorate of Science and Technology
The Directorate of Science & Technology (DS&T) attacks national intelligence problems with bold technical operations and tradecraft. The DS&T engages in all phases of the intelligence process. It develops technologies and analytical tools to close gaps in access, processing, and exploitation of information. The DS&T expands the sense of what’s possible, infusing collection operations with innovative technologies. It partners with DI and other Agency all-source centers to exploit the revolution in information technology. The DS&T is always ready to provide technical support to the DO whenever and wherever needed. It ensures that the Agency’s investment resources are targeted against the highest intelligence priorities. The DS&T also fulfills a leadership role in R&D for the Intelligence Community. The DS&T is expanding its partnerships with other US Government organizations, academia, and private industry to keep pace with the demands posed by the changing intelligence environment and the global information revolution

Now, as a matter of general policy, the CIA tends to be rather secretive on just about anything relating to the CIA. By default the CIA tends to classify anything. For a number of years there was some internal controversy about whether or not the CIA would sell CIA coffee mugs – even though retailers and folks all over the DC area were selling the same sort of novelty items. As a result of this culture, the CIA doesn’t like information about itself to creep out into the world. Not because they’re necessarily doing anything that interesting, it’s just the way they do business – in private.

Now the business of espionage has to, by its very nature, be conducted in secret. How do you get secrets if every time somebody slips you some microfiche, you publish their name on the front page of the Washington Post? Now much of the CIA’s behavior during the mid-Cold War was, on occasion, a bit dubious and cowboy-esque – behaviors that were permitted to thrive in a culture of secrecy. This, and the subsequent revelations about the activities of the CIA have allowed people to believe that secrecy is axiomatically synonymous with skullduggery. However, after the Church Committee in 1975-6, much of the adventurous behavior that got the CIA into so much of the stuff that had historically gotten the agency into trouble has been absolutely halted.

But the culture of secrecy persisted. In any environment which involves collection of closed-source material, there’s really never a way to call ‘time-out’ because you’re having some sort of domestic issues and you’ve got to indulge in a complete bearing of the heart. You can’t tell the KGB to plug their ears because you’re cleaning house.

So, even with the ongoing evolution and developments in the mission of the CIA over the last half-century, some fundamentals have remained the same. For starters, the CIA won’t confirm or deny that you work for them. Full stop. Even the janitor. It doesn’t matter if the closest you might get to a Chinese agent passing secrets to the CIA is free egg rolls with your Chinese takeout. It doesn’t matter if the most classified paperwork you see is toilet paper. The CIA doesn’t spill beans about this (or anything else if they can help it.)

Now going back to the Directorate of Operations (DO) description, I leave it to the reader to figure out what “…by conducting clandestine activities to collect information that is not obtainable through other means” means, particularly when compared with the listing for the Directorate of Science and Technology description. Clearly, it’s not a good thing when the folks working for the DO get outed. But how bad exactly? Well, the CIA is not in the habit of engaging in any of the nonsense you see in the Tailor of Panama, the Agency, or Alias. In other words, not so many guys wearing masks using secret laser-decoder rings and doing other James Bond stuff. So if somebody drops the dime and says “So-and-so works for the CIA” it doesn’t always mean that they’re going to be treated to the North Korean hospitality seen in Die Another Day. The odds of that are dependent on where they’re working, how long they’ve been there, to what extent the host government has kind of sussed out the person in question (and they all do eventually), whether or not they feel a need to expel an American and so on. More significantly, however, outing someone in the field (particularly if they’ve been under surveillance long enough for the local cops to know who they’re meeting with and whatnot) can create a rough situation for the locals working with the US. [ed. – the CIA guys crashing around in seedy bars and dark alleys are known as Operations Officers, not agents, not undercover this, or secret that, so get off all the cheap novel terminology, folks, will ya]. And that’s a pretty bad can of juju.

Now the folks working in the Directorate of Intelligence (DI) do all the pointy-headed thinking about things - the analysis, prognostication, prediction and production of finished product that gets shipped out the door. The CIA doesn’t like to spill the beans about those guys either. Not because they know the name of the blind man with the three-legged dog at the train station who has the keys to the locker with the microfilm (and they don’t because they don’t have a need to know). But because if you get in the habit of saying yes/no to some questions about who works for the Christians In Action, but not others, it doesn’t take the sharpest tool in the shed to figure out who works for what Directorate.

However, on the practical side, what happens is that neighbors quite often figure out who works for what. Girls in the sewing circles talk. People get sloppy and it’s not uncommon for a leak here or there to occur. Does the CIA get itself in a bind every time that happens? Not really. You want to try crucifying the janitor because his neighbor happened to see him turn into the front entrance at Langley one day? If nothing else, you gotta figure that the other guy’s counterintel folks aren’t complete lackwits. They’ll figure out you’re a funny fellow after the first couple of decades. Heck, even if you aren’t a spook, they’ll shine the bright light of suspicion on you, because they do it to everybody.

Where this gets to be a real issue of National Security is not whether Miss Plame was outed. The first question is what exactly she did for the Christians In Action. If she was a spookette (or ‘case officeress,’ as they’re sometimes known), then this could be a big issue. If she was relatively fresh off the boat (before all the chatter and cross-talk among intel agencies had more or less figured her deal out) then you may have jeopardized some lives. If Miss Plame is a case officeress and has been around for 4.2 bazillion years and is hitting the career sunset years then it might have been widely known but not widely talked about information that really couldn’t hurt much of anyone. I mean really, is it a big surprise if someone sidles up next to you and tells you George Tenet is involved with the CIA? Third case is that Miss Plame is not a denizen of the DO at all. Well then, we’re on trickier ground – at the end it’s still an operational security and counterintelligence matter and still serious, but we’ve migrated away from life-endangering serious down to merely serious. The distinction between life-endangering serious and serious is an important one. Just ask a surgeon about that. Or someone who’s just had a heart attack, tumor, or whatnot. The difference also drives, in my opinion, whether or not this is a breach of national security that requires us to take up arms and storm the Bastille, so to speak.

Personally, I don’t think it is. Based on the tidbits and the way this was reported, it was common insider knowledge in the circles in which the Ambassador Wilson and his wife traveled. I don’t think anyone outed anyone. After that many years on the circuit, in the remarkably tiny community that these people are a part of I think people just kind of knew, I don’t think anyone sought out an attempt to spill the beans to endanger Miss Plame’s life. Why not? Because it would be stupid, messy, and a horribly ineffectual way of “getting revenge.” Why have two people call around? Why quadruple the exposure? Why senior White House officials? Why leak through people that offer no plausible deniability and failure to preserve a firewall between the pigeon and the roost? Why shop it around to six reporters? Why tell your chosen leak-mobile that you’ve shopped it around to six reporters?

I do think, however, Novak may have possibly engaged in some creative interviewing. Leading questions and a quick pull along the lines of “Why do you think that they sent Amb. Wilson to Niger? Did he have any long-term intimate acquaintance with anyone who would give him any insights into investigation or WMD?” Damnedfool might reply (this is all off record, of course) “Well sure, I thought you knew that that his wife Valerie has done a lot of work in that area. Jeeze, she and the Ambassador were at the CIA Christmas party.”

The other thing I’ve been noodling on was how this ties in to the to the chronology of Uraniumgate or whatever the hell it was called. Let’s say, for sake of argument, that the person spilling the beans (such as they were) back in July wanted to hurt the administration’s case for war. Wilson was scooted off to Niger to go suss out this whole yellowcake gig. He said “Nope – none here.” Now imagine that’s not getting the coverage someone thinks it deserves. How about if they can make the whole thing look like a CIA investigation that turned up zilch? Yeah, how about focusing on the fact that the CIA “sent” someone (who would then, presumably, be from the CIA who), found nothing? Lends some weight to Amb. Wilson’s findings?

NOTE: All information in this post is open-source. For further reading I would recommend Ronald Kessler's "Inside the CIA" and Bob Baer's "See No Evil" as a couple of really good intros to the CIA.

UPDATE: Or you could just read what Novak himself has to say about the whole matter (and another reason you should review the blogosphere before you post). Crap. If I had posted this when I finished writing it, I would be all vindicated and everything.