Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Nukes are Cool

Much busy... won't be posting until next week. Go read this from Bastard Sword about Chernobyl. Here's a teaser:

Death from radiation, aside of those who fought to contain the reactor -- about 3.
Number of amphibious zombie children – 0.
Death from hype, paranoia, and fear-mongering -- 200,000.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Kill 'em All

Came across this article today. Two comments:

1. Tomorrow is Saddam's birthday. So be sure to think of him while you're sittin' on the toilet tomorrow.

2. This paragraph:

"U.S. commanders have said they will not move against the shrines in order to capture al-Sadr, whose armed supporters have launched attacks against the U.S.-led forces. Under the Geneva Conventions (search), firing upon mosques or other holy sites is prohibited unless the structures are being used in battle."

Grrrrrrrrr. Part of me is frustrated that we are returning to the Vietnam-era policy of telling our enemies where we will and will not kill them (unbelievably dumb). And part of me thinks this is necessary to keep from pissing off more people.

Right now the first part is winning the argument. Osama himself said that Arabs look to see who is the strong horse for who they follow. He thought he was in that position. By acting like such pansies and letting our enemies take advantage of us like this, we look like a pretty weak horse. I think we should mount up, grab a lance and go medieval on them.

(As a snide side note, I noticed the author uses the phrase "in order" which adds nothing and shouldn't be there. Tsk. Tsk.)

The title is referring only those who oppose us, of course, so don't get your knickers in a twist.

Update: Also see this related One Hand Clapping post.

You know you're crazy when tell yourself, out loud, to stop talking to yourself. talk to your computer, again out loud, and expect it to do something. (I feel bad for the guy who I share a cubicle with) growl (audibly) at inanimate objects (including your computer of course).

Monday, April 26, 2004

Classic Joke

I'm bored so I'm going to pass along a dorky math joke proving that girls are evil.

Step one is that girls require time and money or...

Girls = Time * Money

But, as the saying goes, time is equal to money so substituting...

Girls = Money * Money = Money^2

The Bible says that money is the root of all evil so...

sqrt(Money^2) = Evil


Girls = Evil

I have more bad math jokes, but without equation editor I don't think I can get them on this blog. Oh well.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

International Law

International Law has no meaning without international law enforcement. This is a hard reality that too many people refuse to face, but there is no law with no law enforcement.

If A enters into a contract with B, promising to trade ten thousand bucks in exchange for a car, and B accepts his ten thousand but does not hand over the car, B can go to the authorities who will, by force if necessary, fulfill their contract. If there is no authority to go to B's only recourse is to enforce the contract by whatever means are available to him (or just cut his losses).

In the international system there is no authority to enforce contracts (international law) between nations (and the UN definitely does NOT count) and therefore they are in the same boat as B in the example above. The quote from this post is particularly relevant:

"for you know as well as we that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must."

It matters not who is correct in the legal sense unless the two parties are equal (that is why the phrase "all people are equal before the law" is so important). So whenever someone invokes international law they are spouting out their ass not their mouth, because international law is meaningless without enforcement.

[I thought of a better excuse for creating a post out of that quote.. Yippee]

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Military Reorganization

With a name like "Antidisestablishmentarianismesque" I feel some obligation to be negative (anti-,dis-). But as I mentioned here I also want to include some positive articles where I lay out what I think we should be doing. So in this article I'm going to make some suggestions on how the U.S. can alter its military policies to adapt to the ongoing struggle against Islamo-thugs.

First it is important to recognize some of the realities. The war in Iraq is expensive, in both men and material (I'm using men in the human sense, and I'm not talking about large numbers of death but that many are tied down there). It is causing an immense strain to keep ~130,000 people stationed in Iraq out of a total force of over a million. That should not be; it clearly implies that the basic organization of our forces is out of balance. What can be done?

In the short-term it would be advisable for Bush to make this reality clear to all Americans. We are in a state of war and it will require some sacrifices. As a temporary measure and one of these sacrifices I believe that we should mobilize or adequately equip to mobilize a large portion of our Reserve and National Guard forces. This would send a signal that we are in a serious war that we intend on winning. As a corollary to this the defense budget should be vastly increased to replenish our stocks of equipment and ammunition and ensure there is sufficient funds to allow the high-level of training that is our military's greatest strength.

In a more medium or long-term sense, it appears likely that we will be engaged in this type of low-level, manpower-intensive conflict on a fairly regular basis. We should re-structure our forces to be better prepared for this type of conflict. We should keep a smaller, mechanized force capable of the type of maneuver warfare practiced in Iraq, capable of defeating any possible threat from a threat countries armed forces. But we should also have a large cadre of light infantry troops trained for guerrilla warfare, peacekeeping, reconstruction, counter-insurgency type operations. This would allow us to handle future threats with whichever force is most suited to that threat. Currently we compromise our ability to handle these types of conflicts by primarily training to fight other armies. By maintaining two parallel force structures we could handle either type of conflict equally well. That is my theory anyway. I do not expect it to come about but that is what I think we should do about that.

A Big Bite of Stupid

I'm bored with writing a report on multi-discplinary optimization strategies so I'm going to go all snarky on Oliver Willis, who prominently claims that his blog is "Like Kryptonite to Stupid." That kind of arrogance is just begging for a response. I found the following all on his front page (as of today).

First Monsieur Willis discusses the calls for John Kerry to be more forthcoming on his war records (after explicitly saying that he would open his records up [which Willis conveniently fails to mention]).

The man got injured saving the lives of his fellow soldiers, fighting for his country -- and for that they have the nerve to question his patriotism? No shame.

I, for one, do not understand how asking for some records (which is being done by journalists and not just Republicans) constitutes questioning his patriotism. That charge sounds, well, STUPID. Though I would like it to be noted that it is hard to say that Kerry's Vietnam service qualifies him as a patriot, considering the vitriolic hooey that he spewed upon his return (and those are just examples from the National Review).

Next there's this response to a Denbeste article (link in his post).

Steven Den Beste has an email exchange with a French journalist in which he makes it pretty clear he'd like every journalistic enterprise to act as a stenographer for the Bushes rather than reporting... the news. Thanks, Fox, for lowering the standards!

That would be untrue. It is one thing to talk to vicious, nasty people; it is a very different thing to stand idly by while they do vicious, nasty things to people who you are supposedly allied to. Failing to recognize this clear, simple distinction qualifies as STUPID in my book.

Lastly is this little gem about Bush's comments last night or the night before.

I would like Bush to show a little humility, admit that the government wasn't 100% on point before 9/11 but there wasn't a whole lot he could do to prevent it (something I believe to a point). But I could do a little less with the "America Is Now Open For Terrorism" signs.

"Our intelligence is good -- it's just never perfect, is the problem," Bush said. "We are disrupting some cells here in America. We're chasing people down. But it is . . . a big country."

Bush added: "Have a good night's sleep, now I'm off to my lead-lined bunker!"

Bush is being realistic. It would be STUPID to say that there is no chance of another terrorist attack on our soil. He is trying to make the point that the government is doing what it can but that perfection is not achievable. And, I hate to say it, but true perfection is NEVER achievable in anything, and certainly not anything the government is involved in. This should be obvious, but apparently not for someone who is STUPID.

The Nature of Criticism

I've been thinking that perhaps in my Fiskings I have been too strident and over-the-top. It's more fun the more extreme I take it, but it may not be particularly effective. It's too easy to criticize. As I was commenting to a classmate of mine the other day, I could find something to criticize in ANYTHING (including, no especially, my own work). Focusing purely on negative (i.e. critical) commentary is too easy; it amounts to more of a self-congratulatory intellectual masturbation than any sort of critical thinking. But it is alot of fun, so I'll continue to do it. I will try to accompany my criticism, however, with what I think should be done. Anyone can come up with reasons why something is a bad idea; it's much more difficult to generate a real alternative. This seems to be the problem with John Kerry's campaign; he's running on the not-Bush platform, with no real ideas of his own. And it's clearly not working.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Higher Education

There is an excellent article at Techcentral Station today entitled "The Professoriate and the Truth."

Here's a few choice excerpts with comments:

Most relativists, however, are not consistent. Their actions are at odds with what they claim to believe because no sane person could seriously hold the pernicious and absurd beliefs to which relativists are committed. This is shown every time relativists consult a physician, not a faith healer; call a plumber to unclog a sink, not a magician; want rapists prosecuted, not held up as role-models; and send their children to school, not to a shopping mall.

True enough, these type of absurdist beliefs seem to abound. I find it irritating.

In discussing students, Kekes says:

Doing well is severed from intelligence and hard work. Students see this, it makes them cynical, saps their motivation, and, since learning is often hard, it makes them flock to what are known as "gut courses," that is, courses in which they can count on getting high grades without much effort.

I can certainly relate to this. Even in a field as demanding as Aerospace engineering (which I chose at least in part because it IS difficult) there are certain teachers and classes that are quite easy and a waste of time.

Professors tend to be intelligent and analytical, consequently it is most unlikely that the deplorable state of higher education I have been describing would be news to them.

I think that Kekes is underestimating the power of self-delusion. These people have convinced themselves of something that is manifestly wrong; the only way to do that is to lie to yourself. The problem with that is before long you can't tell the difference between lies and truth (which does make them good little relativists). I think that many don't think that higher education is in a "deplorable state." This type of relativistic self-delusion is a big part of the problem. I have no idea how to burst this kind of idiot bubble, because it's obvious the truth isn't enough.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Rock on

The Creator of the Universe links to this picture from the Droopareeno's web site (yes, it is real, and not an [intentional] parody). Just thought I'd pass that along.

Blaa blaa blaa

I've decided to post an e-mail address for people to contact me, see below and in the sidebar. Partly because I'm too lazy to figure out how to get comments added to my blog and partly because I've signed up for a new (and very cool) Google G-mail account and now that I have four (yes, four) e-mail accounts I figure I need some reason to check my hotmail account. This gives me a little motivation to check that account more often. That's all, hopefully I'll have something more substantial to say later.

E-mail Me (if you must)

<----We interrupt this blogging to bring you this public service announcement.---->

It's kind of cheap for me to be taking pot shots left and right without leaving a way for people to shoot back. So if someone really feels the need to talk back send mail to ccj96 -at- I've got it set-up so everything starts out in the junk mail folder so please put "YOU'RE MY HERO" (in all caps, too) in the subject line so I know not to just delete it.

<----We now return to our regularly scheduled programming. Thank you.---->

It's not convincing, if it's written like poo


Sweet. Another idiot makes historically uninformed analogies and ridiculously unsupported arguments about Iraq, in an article entitled "It's Not Nam, But It'll Do." Time to pull out the Fisk stick and beat him in the head with it. Here goes...

I tried making a little fridge list of Iraq options. I came up with one: "nukes?" The nukes aren't much use now, with no Russia to do High Noon with. So dust off a Fallujah-sized neutron bomb, and let it do its thing.

This list of options seems somehow... incomplete. Perhaps the "War Nerd" (scare quotes deliberate) is suffering from a lack of imagination? Oh, and Russia still exists (last time I checked), it's ye olde Soviet Union that is in the dust bin of history... and the Russkies still have nukes, as well as the Chinese, so if we really felt like getting into a nuclear conflagration there are plenty of other possibilities. And if this guy thinks Vietnam was bad, just imagine how pissed the world would be if we nuked Iraq (much better to just Nuke the Moon:)). Before the situation got so bad we needed to pull out nukes we could just pull some of Saddam's methods out because we all know how much the Iraqis loved that.

It'd make more sense that what we're doing now, fighting the enemy's war. It's real simple: when we're fighting a combined-arms, mobile, armored war, we're fighting our war. When we're hunkered down in somebody's backyard trading potshots over the adobe fence, we're fighting their war all the way. At that point it's just rifleman vs. rifleman, and the enemy has the advantage, because he knows the neighborhood.

Wait just a dental-flossing minute here. Who is fighting who's war? If we were fighting the enemy's war we'd still be issuing warrants for terrorists arrest and the Taliban and Saddam would still be in power. We have seized the strategic initiative from the bastards. It is important to not lose that initiative in Iraq, but we ain't lost it yet. We have proved capable of fighting almost any type of war. Obviously we can kick some serious ass in combined arms force-on-force type war, but we haven't exactly been getting our asses handed back to us in Iraq. Take this quote from a recent Belmont Club post,

...the Americans are demonstrating two new countervailing capacities of their own. They have shown that US forces can take any urban area at casualty rates less than 1 to 50. Second, they have begun to wage joint political warfare in cooperation with the Iraqi governing council.

Fifty casualties to one doesn't exactly sound like the "enemy's war." It sounds like an old fashioned ass whoopin'. Our superior training gives us the advantage in any type of battle. The army is not composed of a bunch of Russian conscripts; we give much more than we take.

I just saw video of the Marines in Fallujah sniping by nightscope. They fire over the wall, some Ahmed fires back, it goes on all night and you've got just as good a chance of killing Ahmed's donkey or his two-year-old daughter as getting him.

See above, nothing new here. Our Marines are going to be a much better shot than your average Muhammed. Much more likely that Ahmed will accidently shoot his own two-year-old daughter and then show her to Al Jazeera and claim it was us.

There's another way. You do it the way we were starting to do in Nam, when Colby came up with the Phoenix program. You find out who's shooting at you, and then you send somebody quiet to kill him and anybody who works with him.

Do you honestly think that the military is telling the media the whole story on how we're fighting? If you're that gullible then I've got this website with traffic through-the-roof that I'd be happy to sell you. I can guarantee you that more is happening than you see on the news. I thought nerds were smart.

But to do that you have to have this little thing called intelligence, and we ain't got none, because if we did we'd have to admit the Iraqis are the enemy, and these crazymen, Bush and Wolfowitz, won't admit that. So all we can do when they get unfriendly is fire blind into those mud huts.

You frelling idiot. Have you ever studied Vietnam? Categorizing everyone as the enemy is the surest possible way to turn everybody into an enemy. That would be the dumbest thing possible (other than that nuke suggestion [War Nerd seems to be making a very different list of things to do about Iraq]).

I heard a Marine officer complaining that the insurgents in Fallujah use the locals for human shields. Don't they teach you anything about guerrilla war in the service? The whole idea of guerrilla warfare is to hide in the civilian population. You snipe from the mosque or the kindergarten till finally the occupiers get mad enough to start firing blind at the mosque, the kindergarten, whatever. The people blame the occupiers, not the guerrilla. You're doing the guerrillas' recruiting for them.

Of course the Marines are going to complain about the use of human shields; it's cowardly, and illegal according to the Geneva Convention. What should he do, give the terrorist a medal? With 50:1 exchange ratios it sounds like we're thinning their ranks, not filling them. It'd take a hell of a lot of recruits to replace those kind of losses.

It's a little weird, if you ask me, how nobody in charge seems to know all that. After all, we just went through a whole century of guerrilla warfare. Take a world map, point at random and you'll find a country that probably had a guerrilla war in the past 100 years.

But we're acting like it's a shock, like the Iraqis are breaking the rules. That's like calling a personal foul in a bar brawl.

I'd just like to re-reiterate my point about the 50:1 casualty ratio, because it sure seems to me that we've learned how to handle guerrila war's militarily. Another quote from the Belmont Club article linked above...

Lost in the frenetic headlines of the last week was an unnoticed military revolution. Never in history have 1,200 men stormed a city of 230,000 in urban combat without extensively using heavy weapons before the US Marines did in Fallujah. This is nothing short of amazing because the 90% of the combat power of an infantry unit is embodied in their heavy weapons. And they were stopped only by a truce, not by enemy resistance.

The only thing that is shocking is how thoroughly outclassed the Islamo-thugs are. 'Nuff said.

Well, don't ask me, I just work here. If you want to know the truth, what's pissing me off most is I think the mess in Iraq is getting to me. I had to go to the doctor last week because my back's gone out again, and I was expecting just the usual lecture about losing weight, exercise, buying a bike and wheeling around in green lycra like some Italian or something. You know, painful but short.

Instead he puts the cuff on my arm and inflates it, then grunts and does it again, grunts again, does it for the third time and waves me over to sit down. In other words, we're going to have a serious talk. Turns out it's my blood pressure, and some other blood thing called "purines"--sounds like a dog chow to me, but apparently it's a blood count, and mine is through the roof.

Sounds like someone has serious psychological issues if they're letting events thousands of miles away that only indirectly affect them cause them physical suffering. Perhaps it's time to seek the help of a professional. My sister has a degree in social welfare and some counseling experience, maybe she could help.

I told the guy maybe we could try again after Iraq settles down. He looked at me like I was crazy.

Maybe that's because you ARE crazy.

So then there was another ten minutes of serious lectures about how I need to take care of myself and so on. I was thinking, all I need is for us to get out of this Iraq mess, but I decided it was better not to try explaining that to him again. I took the brochures and the prescriptions and got out.

See above Mr. Crazy Man, I mean War Nerd.

Now I'm on three medications, one for blood pressure, one for these purines, and one for my back disc. Like an old man. I just turned 38 and I've got little brown bottles all over the sink like my grandma did.

Judging from the picture at the top of your post maybe you should exercise. It might help reduce some of the anger issues you seem to have.

The other thing that's driving me nuts about the war is this stupid question, "Is Iraq actually Vietnam?" Answer: no, Vietnam is this place about 5,000 miles east of Fallujah.

Every time I hear that I want to ask them why? Isn't Iraq bad enough for you?

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Same old, same old. Iraq ain't even close to Vietnam.

It's dumb, the Iraq = Nam talk. No war ever repeats exactly, because the technology is changing so fast. And if you had to pick two countries in the world that have nothing in common, it'd be Iraq and Vietnam. The Vietnamese were the most dedicated, disciplined army since Prussia disappeared. If you want to know how dedicated the VC were, read this book, The Tunnels of Cu Chi, about the VC who lived in this huge tunnel network around Saigon. (Back when it was Saigon.) Men and women spent months down there with the spiders and scorpions, no fresh air for weeks, shitting into a bag. They had hospitals down there where they amputated hands with no anaesthetic. This VC doctor said, "Half would die of shock, but half would live."

To paraphrase Colonel John Boyd: the three most important things for a military are the people, ideas and hardware (technology) in that order. Technology is A difference between Vietnam and Iraq; but the biggest change (for our military) is our people and our strategy (ideas). The highly-trained all volunteer force is definitely better than the Vietnam-era conscipt army and we have learned much about how to fight so-called asymmetric warfare like we're doing in Iraq.

To quibble, Prussia never really disappeared. After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Germany was formed under Prussian leadership. The vaunted Prussian General Staff was inherited by Germany as well. This was why World War I and II both almost ended in German/Prussian victories. When they put their mind to it, the Krauts know how to fight.

Iraqis aren't like that. They're noisy where the VC were quiet. They're flighty where the VC were coldblooded. They mob up and get each other excited, where the VC could just coldbloodedly do it.

If the Iraqis (errr, not really, many of the people we're fighting are foreign to Iraq) are such pansies you'd think killing a few thousand of them would end it. Sadly this is not the case. Our enemies are not the herd of chickens War Nerd seems to be describing.

But the thing is, Vietnam isn't the only way you can lose a war. Look at what happened to the Israelis in Lebanon. Iraq is a hell of a lot more like Lebanon than Nam.

22 years ago the man in charge of Israel was Menachem Begin, a real weirdo. He and Ariel Sharon were sick of taking mortar rounds from PLO in south Lebanaon. They decided they'd invade Lebanon, push the PLO into the sea.

It went fine, as long as the Israelis were heading north, attacking via combined arms. Their airforce destroyed the opposition. The Syrians lost 82 planes; Israel The IDF zoomed all the way to Beirut in record time, bombarded the PLO district and pushed Arafat into exile in Africa. They lost only about 400 men, but killed thousands of PLO. They kicked ass.

Then came phase two, the occupation. And that was the biggest military disaster Israel ever had. Sound familiar?

Let me get this straight. We're killing our enemies 50:1 and it's like "the biggest military disaster Israel ever had"? That sounds like a compliment... to the Israelis. Moving on from this hyperbole...

The big difference between Iraq and Lebanon is that we're not trying to set-up a minority group as our proxies in Iraq like the Israelis did with the Arab Christians in Lebanon. That's old school empire-building, not a game we play anymore. We're trying to turn Iraq into a real country, not a smoking hole in the ground.

What happened to them is exactly what's happening to us: they woke up the Shiites, who turned out to be way, way scarier than the PLO. In Lebanon, just like in Iraq, the Shiites were the lowest of the low, basically terrorized into keeping quiet and doing all the crummy jobs the Sunni didn't want. And just like in Iraq, the Lebanese Shiites lived either in urban slums or in villages in the South.When the invasion came, the Shiites went from welcoming the invaders to warning them to leave, then to open warfare. Exactly the same script, 20 years apart, Lebanon and Iraq. Once the Shiites started to fight, they showed why it's better not to mess with them.

Sure, whatever you say Chicken Little. The big, bad Shiites (how was that Saddam ever ruled if the Shiites are so terrorfying?) are ticked off because we shut down some criminal crackpot's newspaper (Sadr). He has little support and it isn't growing. Not as big a problem as your making it out to be dumbass.

Shiites are big on martyrdom, and guerrilla wars make a lot of martyrs. Just last week, two Shiites purposely jumped in front of American tanks and got turned into catfood under the tracks. A lot of this Arab bragging about loving death and craving martyrdom is bullshit, but some of it isn't, especially when it's Shiites saying it. After all, their hero is a guy who charged at the Caliph's whole army with 30 men.

I hate to sound like a broken record but 50:1 makes for "a lot of martyrs." The enemies stupidity is NOT a reason to think we're losing.

It was the Shiites in Lebanon who taught the Palestinians to fight. It was Shiite kids, even some girls, who started driving cars full of explosive at Israeli patrols in Lebanon. Pretty soon there were Shiite militias like Hizbollah attacking harder than those softies in the PLO ever had. Israelis and their local proxies, the South Lebanon Army, were getting picked off at a slow steady rate until the Israelis finally gave up and went home a couple of years ago.

The bad guys in Iraq have nowhere near this kind of broad-based support or we'd be taking a lot more casualties. Wake-up. As the article continues you seem to be descending further and further into madness. I may have to end this soon so I don't join your sorry ass.

Wow, the rest of the article good old War Nerd continues with his condescending attitude towards Arabs. Calling the Sunnis "hotheads" and saying " [the Shiites are] always getting worked up about something horrible that happened to their ancestors 500 years ago." He also includes this supposed British quote: "The Arab is either at your feet or at your throat." So apparently Arabs are like a combination of children and animal, but it doesn't sound like he considers them human. That's helpful.

I could continue but I have other stuff to blog about and War Nerd has more than proven his own idiocy. Time to move on, and put this Fisk out of its misery.

How to fix Social Security

This website [hat tip: kausfiles] has a cool on-line game that helps you figure out potential ways to make Social Security solvent. Turns out it's not that hard. It can be done pretty easily by reducing benefits to or increasing revenues from people who are relatively rich. Seems to me that would be a more or less politically painless way to do it. Why all the hand-wringing and portents of doom about Social Security if it's this easy to fix? I think some people feel the need to play modern-day Cassandra's. Just think about all the predictions of doom coming from environmentalists; if they were even 10% right the Earth would have died long ago, yet it stubbornly refuses to do so. I think some people have some psychological malady that compels them to predict doom (think crazy homeless person preaching about Armageddon, without the smell [errr, maybe WITH the smell when it comes to hippy environmentalists {I seem to be really good at interrupting myself, I'm almost out of bracket types (oops, I did run out of brackets and had to switch back to parenthesis [ha, ha, prepare to be inundated, I'm stuck at work writing reports; time to flood the zone])}]). <-- Now THAT'S the way to end a sentence.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Frayed Ends of Sanity

You'll note that I've written quite a few posts the last few days. I've been staying pretty late at work and I take "breaks" by searching the 'Net; when something piques my interest, I writes me a little post. And today this article piqued me off. I'm concerned with the authors overall point but he gets so much wrong in the middle that I am forced to unleash the Fisk 'o Fury on him. Here is paragraph numero uno:

In the twelve-course meal that is the war in Iraq, America has just been served the first entree. The fight with IraqÂ’s state armed forces was merely the amuse-bouche. The subsequent guerilla war with the Baath, as distasteful as we found it, was still just the appetizer. Over the past two weeks, we have been presented with the first of the main courses, Fourth Generation war waged for religion. If, as is traditional, this is the fish course, our reaction suggests it is flounder.

Huh? Easy on the French, buddy. Part of writing is making a point; this first paragraph has one, but it's deeply buried. Clearly we swept the Iraqi army like so many fleas, but this Baath "guerilla war" thing has been on a pretty low-level, so the "appetizer" analogy isn't so bad. The "past two weeks" is referring to the recent Shiite thuggery commited at the behest of Al-Sadr. I believe when Lind refers to the course as "flounder" he is referring to us; it would be far more appropriate to apply it to Sadr's goons. They captured many government buildings, but were quickly thrown out; Sadr himself found a mosque to hole himself up in, but then got scared that the mosque wasn't enough to protect him and has moved; he's currently negotiating his own surrender so that he can face the murder charge awaiting him as a result of his ordering a cleric's murder. Go see here and here and here and here and here. The Belmont Club did an excellent job covering this. This is a lot to read so to summarize: Sadr is really an Iranian proxy trying (unsuccessfully) to destabilize the situation because Iran is fearful of having a free Iraq as a neighbor.

Frankly, I was surprised how quickly this dish arrived. It seems Mohammed’s kitchen is working rather more speedily than usual. While a broadening and intensifying of the anti-American resistance was inevitable, I did not think it would reach its present intensity until this summer. The fact that is has erupted so early has political as well as military implications. The full scope of our disaster in Syracuse err er, sorry, Iraq – may be evident before the party conventions, as well as prior to the fall election. Might Bush do an LBJ and choose not to run? Will a Kerry who voted for the war be a credible nominee? Military disaster can displace all sorts of certainties.

It's obvious that most Iraqis would prefer that we weren't there, but they also recognize the need for us to create a secure situation before we depart. It was and is far from "inevitable" that the "resistance" would broaden. Sadr's rebellion was a flash in the pan; a last gasp power grab by a weak leader and his gullible band. Then Mr. Lind makes a horrible analogy, by name-dropping Syracuse, he is implying that we are like the Athenians, in overstretching ourselves and biting off more than we can chew, resulting in our ultimate demise. Bullshit. We're not trying to conquer Iraq, for starters. And it's difficult to argue that Iraq is truly stretching our nations resources; on a short-term basis our existing military forces are stretched but if the political will existed we could pay for a much larger military. Moving on, Lind speculates that Bush might not seek his party's nomination a la LBJ. Again, bullshit. The security situation is helping Bush by demonstrating that national security is still a big issue (and people recognize Kerry is weak on this issue).

It is not yet a disaster, some may say. On the tactical level, that is true, although it may not be true much longer. But on the strategic level it is not just one disaster, it is four:

It is still a potential disaster at worst, even on the strategic level. And the only sure way it will be a disaster is to turn tail and run as Lind is implicitly suggesting.

The pretense that we came to “liberate” the Iraqi people and not as conquerors is no longer credible. Faced with a popular uprising, we effectively declared war on the people of Iraq. The overall American commander, General Abizaid, “gave a stark warning for the Iraqi fighters, from the minority Sunni as well as the majority Shiite populations,” according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “’First, we are going to win,’ Abizaid said, seated at a table in a marbled palace hall…’Secondly, everyone needs to understand that there is no more powerful force assembled on Earth than this military force in this country…’” That is the language of conquest, not liberation, and it destroys the legitimacy of America’s presence in Iraq, both locally and around the world.

What the frell is this guy talking about? He needs to read something other than Paul Krugman columns. There was and is no "popular uprising." If there were, we would be in some deep dren, but it ain't happened yet. And we have handled ourselves with incredible restraint in minimizing civilian casualties; we declared war on those who are trying to kill us, that's it. General Abizaid's comments are true. We ARE the world's most powerful force and anyone dumb enough to fight us directly will die in short order. And having a strong military force in country does not imply a particular purpose (i.e. conquest), as Lind suggests.

We have now picked a fight with the Shiites, who control our lines of communication and who make up a majority of the Iraqi population. I thought that even the Valley of the Blind that is the CPA would have better sense than to make this final, fatal strategic blunder, but it seems they can always find a new ditch to stumble into. We did it over the utterly trivial matter of Muqtada al-Sadr’s newspaper printing lies – this from an American administration that long ago won the Order of Pinocchio, First Class, with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. While many Iraqi Shiites don’t much like al-Sadr, they like seeing Americans kill fellow Shiites even less.

Ummm, no. Sadr (who does not represent all or even many Shiites) picked a fight with us. It would have been foolish to allow him to spew his violence-inciting invective without response. The Shiites understand that if we leave, they will be stuck with people like Sadr in charge. That would be bad, for them and us. We are doing now what we should have done when we first invaded Iraq: eliminate those who cannot accept a free Iraq.

The Marines threw away the opportunity to de-escalate the fighting with the Sunnis in Fallujah and instead have raised the intensity of anti-Americanism there. For months, the Marines trained for de-escalation. But because of one minor incident of barely tactical importance, the killing of four American contractors, the de-escalation strategy was thrown out the window and replaced by an all-out assault on an Iraqi city. The Marines may have been given no choice by the White House, but it also looks as if their own training did not go very deep; the Plain Dealer quoted a Marine battalion commander in Fallujah as saying, “What is coming is the destruction of anti-coalition forces in Fallujah. They have two choices: Submit or die.” That is hardly the language of de-escalation.

Methinks it was the Sunnis who escalated the fighting, not the Marines. The killing of the contractors was a gauntlet thrown by the wolves inhabiting Fallujah; if we had not responded we would be seen as weak and ineffectual. Once again we're doing something that should have been done earlier: draining the Fallujah swamp of criminals and thugs opposed to any non-kleptocratic government.

Finally, our whole “say good-bye at the end of June” strategy depends on the reliability of the Iraqi security forces we have been busy creating. But when faced with fighting their own people on behalf of Christian foreigners, most of them went over or went home. This was utterly predictable, but its effect is to leave us without any exit strategy at all.

The June hand-over date is primarily a symbolic move. We won't be leaving, and we're developing strategies to enhance the reliability of Iraqi security forces (like stiffening their ranks with Special Forces personnel).

So what comes next? The current violence may follow a sine wave, ebbing and then flowing again, with the whole curve gradually trending up. Or, it may rise in a linear, accelerating curve, in which case we will soon be driven out of Iraq, possibly in a full-scale sauve que peut rout. The former appears more likely, but it still leads to the same ending, if taking a bit more time to get there.

Undoubtedly the violence will ebb and flow. It seems more likely that the violence will follow more of a lightly damped sine wave than an unstable one (i.e. the violence will gradually decrease over time as the Iraqis start to take charge of their own affairs though there will be some spikes in violence). The Iraqis are faced with a clear choice: the American way, or the Iranian way. And the many protests and widespread discontent in Iran pretty clearly show which is the way of the future.

Unlike traditional twelve-course dinners, this one does not finish with a dessert or a savoury. It ends, to borrow one of John Boyd’s favorite phrases, with the “coalition” getting the whole enchilada right up the p--- chute. You cannot get anything you want at Mohammed’s restaurant.

Whatever. Mr. Lind's primary point, that we may have bitten off more than we can chew, is a matter of concern. But clearly he has swallowed the mainstream media's negatively exaggerated version of events hook, line and sinker. Interpreting everything in the worst possible way is rarely going to be correct (and that's coming from an admitted pessimist [errr, actually realist, but usually realism=pessimism]).

Democratic Referendum in Iraq

Most polls I've seen of the Iraqi people show that most of them want us to be there, helping them form a democratic governemnt, despite the violently vocal minority's intransigence. Perhaps one way the U.S. could silence its critics is to hold a referendum on whether the Iraqi people want us to stay and help them rebuild their society or not. It could be as simple as a single question:

Do you

a) want the Coalition to continue helping Iraq rebuild, to create the first free, secular and democratic Arab government.


b) want the Coalition to leave Iraq.

A fair referendum on such a question would demonstrate our level of support in Iraq, showing how few Iraqis truly oppose us. Even if, somehow, the referendum failed it would provide a good opportunity for us to leave, without suffering additional casualties for an ungrateful people. Either way, we would be better off than the current situation.

Moon Nuking

The Frankster over at imao, has brought back the Nuke the Moon shirt. I mentioned the concept back in
this post. Get yours today and be like me.

Monday, April 19, 2004

All that remains is the proper application of overwhelming ignorance

An article in Slate talks about the recent proliferation of Vietnam analogies. Most of the article is decent, but then as an aside the author loses connection with reality. He says:

"(What does genuinely echo Vietnam, however, is the barrage of scurrilous attacks against those who question the occupation. Richard Nixon used to argue, in a textbook case of black-is-white newspeak, that protesters who demanded an immediate end to the war were actually prolonging it—rather like saying that Martin Luther King Jr. was prolonging segregation. Now, sadly, that twisted logic is being revived to try to disparage administration critics.)"

It's "twisted logic" to say that demanding the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces DOESN'T play into our enemies hands. That doesn't necessarily make it wrong (it's important to examine whether or not what we're doing is worth it), but no thinking person can deny that the terrorists want us to leave. This was also true for Nixon in Vietnam, it was part of Vietnamese strategy to try and convince the American public that it was not worth it, and it wasn't until Nixon made it clear by intensifying the bombing in the Linebacker I and II campaigns in 1972 despite protests, that the Vietnamese were willing to make a deal (even if it didn't end up being the best deal in the world for us, we did leave). The author might want to look up the word "paradox" in the dictionary. For the record, the first definition over at is:

"A seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true"

It seems contradictory to say that working to shorten the war only lengthens it, but IT IS TRUE.

Fight Fire with Fire

Just wanted to share this article from the folks over at Winds of Change who share my hardest of the hardlinersestness. Read it all to see why we should invade Iran and probably will. Mwaa ha ha. It's all part of the vast Nazi/Jewish (i.e. Bush/Sharon) conspiracy to prevent the use of nuclear weapons. Beware!

Rocket Science is Easy

Mr. Denbeste has the first two parts up for a series speculating on characteristics of future space warfare based off the past. I have a comment on a particular off-hand comment he makes. Poor Denbeste gets deluged with letters about such tangential issues, so I'm posting it here instead.

"When the Harrier goes into 'hover' mode, the engine has to be overcranked and water is injected into the input air stream to keep the engine from blowing up. A Harrier usually carries enough water to hover for 90 seconds."

I can't say for 100%, but I believe his rationale for the water injection system is incorrect.

The Harrier is a peculiar aircraft, being able to land and takeoff vertically;these types of aircraft are called VSTOL or Vertical and Short TakeOff and Landing vehicles. VSTOL is obviously a desirable characteristic, because you don't need a huge runway from which to fly an aircraft. The airplane could be based almost anywhere; it could function like a helicopter. But there have been relatively few VSTOL aircraft; not counting helicopters, there are basically only the Harrier and Russian Yak-141 that have been built in significant numbers. There is a reason for this, and its part of why the Harrier has a water injection system, but I want to talk about some other things first.

There are several ways to achieve VSTOL ability. The engines can be tilted to provide lift, the thrust can be redirected down to provide lift or some combination of the two. The V-22 Osprey uses the first method by tilting its engines such that it is a de-facto helicopter on takeoff and landing. The Harrier uses the second method, having ducts that direct the exhaust to movable nozzles to direct the thrust down on takeoff. The Joint Strike Fighter uses something of a combination of the two. It directs part of its thrust downward by tilting to the nozzle and uses the rest of the power it generates to turn a fan at the front of the engine. This has many advantages and is a much more efficient system and part of why the Lockheed version won the JSF contract. But I'm going on a tangent to my tangent.

The Harriers direct lift system imposes some constraints on its design. It obviously has to generate enough thrust to lift its weight at takeoff, when it will weigh the most. This means it needs a large engine. The airplane also has to be controllable when taking off and landing, which forces the engine to be centrally located such that the thrust will balance the airplane. This can cause maintenance problems; the Harrier has to have its wing removed to replace the engine, for example. There is a cost associated with making an airplane VSTOL, which is why not every plane is.

Getting to my main point real soon, be patient. For any airplane you want to make the engine as small in thrust as you can get away with because it has a big effect on the cost of the engine and on how expensive it is to operate. However, as mentioned earlier, the engine must be capable of lifting the airplane at its heaviest. Like people, airplanes have a tendency to gain weight as they age, as newer, and heavier, equipment is added. If the engine was not initially designed to allow for this weight gain, then some compromise has to made (reduced payload or fuel). The other option is to increase the thrust of the engine. I'm going to give away some secrets of aerospace now.

Turns out that rocket science is pretty easy (errr at least thrust calculations). The thrust for a rocket is equal to the mass flow rate coming out the end times the exit velocity of what's coming out. That's it (though it does make numerous assumptions and ignores the chemistry involved). The basic equation for a jet engine is pretty similar; the mass flow rate coming out of the engine times the exit velocity minus the mass flow rate coming in times the velocity of the gas coming in. So there are two ways to increase the thrust of an engine, increase the exit velocity or increase the mass flow rate. Increasing the exit velocity makes the engine much noisier, the exhaust hotter, and the engine less efficient, plus it would require major changes in the engine itself. But by injecting something like say, water, into the exhaust the mass flow rate (and hence thrust) can be increased without causing other deleterious effects or forcing the engine to be changed. The disadvantage of this is that the water that is injected wastes volume and increases the weight of the vehicle, slightly decreasing performance. I'm pretty sure this is how and why the Harrier has a water injection system. It needed more thrust, but only for short periods of time, so it was cost-effective to just tack on a water injection system instead of redesigning the engine. A pretty small part, to be sure, but I thought the accompanying explanations could be helpful. And now you can tell people that you know rocket science!

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Terrorism for Dummies

Is it just me, or are terrorists exceedingly retarded? There are THOUSANDS of terrorists controlling MILLIONS of dollars in money. With access to these kind of resources they should be making alot more than three major attacks over the past three years (9/11, Bali, Madrid), and a bunch of piddly attacks in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc. If I had access to 1000 useful idiots and 10 million bucks (and I lost my conscience) i feel confident I could wreak much havoc.

So, for your amusement and because I don't think any terrorists will read this (ha ha almost no one will read this), I hereby provide "Seven Habits of Highly Effective Terrorism for Dummies."

Habit 1: Make your attacks work for you

You can never have too much money. It's important that attacks serve multiple purposes. For example, before the 9/11 attacks I would have taken as much extra money as possible and used it to sell short on airline and insurance stocks. If Osama had done this, he could have inlaid his cave with gold he would have made so much money. Before any attack, I'd figure out which companies or industries it would help or hurt and make money off it. If I was going to attack nuclear power plants or cause some blackouts I would sell short on energy companies, for instance. More money means more attacks, and it's always good strategy to kill two birds with one stone. In Pentagon-speak this would be called "leveraging resources."

Habit 2: Randomate

Part of what makes terrorism so terrorfying is that it's supposed to be random. But Osama and Friends haven't been that random. They hit the same place twice (WTC) and made an attack on the 2.5 anniversary of 9/11 (the Madrid bombing happened on 3/11). Patterns and predictable start with the same letter for a reason (or something). I would use a random number generator to decide dates for attacks and also to pick targets, after making a large database of potential ones that included a wide variety of types and locations. The other side (i.e. us) can't protect everywhere and if terrorists were truly random a good defence would be virtually impossible without taking a large toll.

Habit 3: Bluster bad, bombing good

Osama has been regularly releasing audio tapes (because he's either dead or so sick that it would be embarrassing to be seen) with threats. At this point, it's a little counterproductive to make threats. If you're going to threaten somebody then follow up on it. Nothing makes you look weaker than bluster you can't back up. If you're going to make empty threats the least you can do is attack someone other than who you threatened, just to keep people off guard.

Habit 4: Even the little ones count

Even if you can only make fairly small-scale attacks, ones on U.S. soil are worth more, psychologically. Osama should have taken notes when a homeless crazy person and a young boy made most of the Northeast terrorfied for weeks. It doesn't even take that much resource-wise, just a few crackpots with marksman training, to have a real psychological effect. If I was in charge there would be a new sniper in a different area (chosen with a random number generator of course) every few months. That would keep those Americans on their toes. And the resources could come by having the jihadis stop their stupid frontal attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Habit 5: Preserve resources

Obviously wacko extremists willing to die for no good reason are going to be in fairly short supply. Make 'em count. Don't waste them against highly-trained U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Habit 6: Follow the leader

The whole Blackhawk Down thing was a nice try in Iraq, but clearly it ain't gonna work. Read up on some Vietnam war history if you want to see some good strategy. The Vietnamese had no hope of beating the U.S. on the battlefield so they let dumbass Americans (cough) do their work for them. Encourage this sort of foolishness in your enemy; lie and say that if only the "root causes of terrorism" (ie globalization, poverty and whatever other crap leftists always cite) really ARE the reason you want to kill. It might even work, but it would be sure to muddy the waters enough to confuse the heck out of Americans lacking in the abililty to think.

Habit 7: No state sponsorship

It's tempting as a terrorist to align yourself with like-minded states like Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan back in the day. Bad news. States are too good a targets and have no chance of standing up to the U.S. If terrorists are like fish, a friendly state is like a barrel, not the place to be when the shark (U.S.) comes knocking. Stay in Western countries that are too politically correct to screen people based on race. The closer you are to your enemies the more difficult it is for them to find you.

If Osama would take the above advice he might even live long enough to die of kidney failure (if he's even still alive of course).

Mind-read some of this

Reading this article at the Weekly Standard when I come across this:

"Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is campaigning for Kerry while secretly hoping he loses so as to clear the way for her own presidential bid in 2008, says" ...

What? Give me a break. When exactly did Mr. Stelzer gain the ability to read minds? This was an entirely unnecessary aside; the least he could do is qualify it with a "probably" so he doesn't sound like such a jack-ass. This comment had basically nothing to do with the rest of the article. Mr. Editor should have cut it, it makes the author sound like a jerk and adds nothing.

In the completely unrelated department, I had previously mentioned the fact that the z on my keyboard stopped working after I spilled some water on my keyboard. Well, yesterday I was demonstrating to someone at work that it didn't work and it suddenly started working again. yay.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

The hardest of the hard-liners

Read an article in Slate about how Bush is distorting Kerry's views on the War on Terror (blaa blaa blaa, same old), and came upon this quote:

"Not even the hardest of the hard-liners today proposes additional land invasions as part of the war on terror."

Ummmm. I do. I think we should militarily depose the mullahs in Iran, hopefully before they get nukes. Because Iran has elements of democracy already (the mullahs have a parallel government that has veto power) we could take out the mullahs without having to occupy the country. There would be a government all but in place; though it would require much assistance.

And on top of this, I think we need to do a little housecleaning in the Bekaa Valley region of Lebanon where the Iranian-backed Hebollah calls home, though it is also infested (with all implications use of this word entails) with other terrorist groups.

So apparently I am the hardest of the hard-liners. Maybe I should add that quote to my sidebar.

UFO's and the Soviet Union

I saw this at One Hand Clapping, which linked to this, leading me to this original article (a convoluted path to be sure). I never thought about how the Soviet Union would handle UFO's before. Their response, try to shoot them down, is unsurprising; it's amusing to see how often they tried and failed to get them, however. I wonder if they thought they were part of some capitalist conspiracy?

"All that remains is the proper application of overwhelming force"

The title is a quote from a jubilant Churchill after hearing that the U.S. was joining WWII after Pearl Harbor. Many thought Churchill was being over-the-top, after all, it was 1941; Germany had conquered almost all of continental Europe and was at the gates of Moscow, and the Japanese had taken much of China and were about to go on a rampage throughout the Pacific. But the quote was correct; the size and strength of the United States virtually assured an Allied victory. It would have taken ineptitude of the first-order (or a Nazi nuclear bomb) for us to have lost WWII; our strength in men and material dwarfed that of the Axis powers. The only way we could have lost is if we beat ourselves.

Unfortunately we have something of a history of doing so. Obviously we had to beat ourselves in the Civil War (by definition). And more recently we defeated ourselves in Vietnam. It is the conventional wisdom that the Vietnam War was fundamentally unwinnable, at least politically. I've always believed that the political limitations placed on our forces caused our defeat. Not entirely true, according to an article in NRO today. In it, the author argues that in the period 1968-72 we switched tactics and virtually defeated North Vietnam, and if we had continued to help them they might be in the same position as South Korea, prosperous and free. But what we won on the battlefield we gave up on the negotiating table.

Recently many have compared our current situation in Iraq to Vietnam (including a certain senator from Taxachusetts with a propensity for missing bridges, ahem). This is perhaps not that far from the truth. In Vietnam we won militarily but lost politically. We are in danger of the same in Iraq, if we persist in making foreign policy a bitterly partisan issue. We are the only ones who can defeat us. That is the political lesson of Vietnam. Let's not do it again; let's keep Vietnam as the only mark on our otherwise perfect record in war. Recent polls show a drop in support for the war. Our ultimate victory cannot be in question, it merely requires us to stay the course.

Militarily, it is clear that we've learned the lesson of Vietnam. We aren't suffering large numbers of casualties; we've figured out how to use our superior technology to our advantage. We are much more powerful than any of our enemies. For us to win, all we have to do properly apply our power; which is, of course, more difficult than it sounds.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Plane Crazy Article

Saw an interesting article in the WaPo (Washington Post) today. Some of the points he makes are good, but much is crap. I will therefore unleash the Fisk of Fury to enlighten you.

The subject of the article is the F-22 Raptor; the Air Forces newest and most expensive fighter. The article begins:

Imagine paying $300 million for just one fighter plane. That's enough to build a 300-bed hospital or 10 new high schools, or pay for the national school lunch programs in the District, Maryland and Virginia for more than a year. Yet, the way things are going, now $300 million is what one Air Force F-22 fighter plane is going to cost us taxpayers.

Yawn. Thanks for the meaningless comparison. It is trivially easy to take some high dollar item, like a fighter jet or an aircraft carrier, and try to point out what else could be done for this money. It's not the federal government's job to build hospitals or schools, but it is up to the Government (with a capital G) to provide for defense. It would be valid to point out how many thousands of infantry could be paid for and sent to help in Iraq with $300 million, but the examples he provides are crap. It is a different question to say that this money could be used for non-defense needs; we've already decided that this money will go towards defense.

The Pentagon's figures show that it intends to buy 278 F-22 fighters for $72 billion, or $258 million a plane, counting research and development costs already spent to bring it into being. But the General Accounting Office has just told Congress this will not be enough. The GAO says it will take an additional $8 billion-plus to finance the planned upgrades to make the F-22 a high-tech ground attack aircraft as well as air superiority fighter. This improvement would push the F-22's price tag up to $300 million.

The reason the thing is so damn expensive is in the first line of this paragraph. At one point, we were planning on building 442 F-22's, and so Lockheed-Martin (who's building it) planned for 442 aircraft and chose the manufacturing methods and materials to match. When you cut the number built in half, of COURSE the cost is going to go up. Not only would they potentially be using different methods, but the development costs would be amortized over fewer vehicles. This is what happened to the B-2 and why it cost $1.2 billion (yes BILLION), because they only built 22 when they (Northrop-Grumman in this case) had been planning on hundreds. It's elementary economics but unmentioned in the article.

The $80 billion to buy a fleet of F-22's is one-third higher than this year's Education Department budget and about eight times as much as the State Department's current annual budget. The top priority the F-22 is getting as the president and Congress apportion tax dollars suggests this is a must-have airplane. But in fact changes in the world and other developments argue against buying this plane in the numbers being contemplated. President Bush is scheduled to decide whether to put the F-22 in full-scale production this December. Here are some reasons he should say no:

Welcome back to meaningless comparison land. Having the world's best military, by far, is expensive. If we're already going to be spending this money on defense then comparing it to other spending is ridiculous. If you look here you'll see that the U.S. spends ~3.2% of GDP on defense, or number 47 in the world in this index. This is still smaller than was spent during most of the Cold War (about 5% of GDP). To reiterate again, don't compare spending money on ONE defense program to non-defense related items; it is meaningless. After this first point the author digs himself a deeper hole. He says that we shouldn't build "this plane in the numbers being contemplated". That's a good idea. Let's build less of them so that they'll cost more per plane and he can write another article about how the costs have grown (see above). Maybe he's thinking of his job security. Let's go through some of his reasons the plane shouldn't be built.

The threat that the plane was designed to combat no longer exists. Back in 1986, when the F-22's gestation began, the Cold War was on. Air Force leaders successfully argued that they needed a super fighter plane that could down, at long range, the swarms of warplanes the Soviets were expected to put over Europe in a shooting war. The Pentagon is not worried about that kind of war today.

By this guy's logic after the Cold War we should have scrapped the whole military because it was designed for a threat that no longer existed. The military is flexible, as was proved in Iraq and Afghanistan it is capable of using vehicles in ways to counter whatever particular threat exists. And what's this about not expecting swarms of warplanes? Has he not heard of China? They have hordes of obsolete aircraft, and a significant number of Su-27s equal to the best of what we currently have, that we may someday have to fight. Much better to be prepared than caught with your pants down, especially when it takes such a long time to develop a new aircraft.

The United States has less expensive fighter bombers flying and others in development that could shoot down any enemy's warplanes. For example, the updated F-16 fighter bomber, which is still in production, remains a deadly killing machine. One thing I learned in auditing the Navy's 11-month test pilot training course at Patuxent River was that today's air battles are usually won by the side that has the best "systems" -- the high-tech radar, communications and missiles -- and crews. The metal airplane itself, the platform, has become so secondary that pilots often complain they have been reduced to office managers running the systems. The United States has a huge lead in systems and air crews.

"Others in development" must be referring to the Joint Strike Fighter (the F-22's little brother), which is the only other fighter aircraft in development. The JSF is a great airplane but not nearly as capable as the F-22; it is designed to replace a wide variety of aircraft in a wide variety of missions and is therefore a compromise design when it comes to air-to-air combat. The F-22 is the point of the sword and the JSF is the edge of the sword, so to speak, to be most effective you need both. Also the F-16 is no longer in production for the U.S.; Lockheed is building them for Israel and Singapore, I believe. And when these orders are done the manufacturing facility will be converted for use in building JSF's, so it is unrealistic to build more of these. Finally, the author talks about how the airframe is so much less important than the innards of an airplane in making it more effective. This is true, but the stealthiness of the F-22 is still a big edge. Also, the systems on the F-22 are more advanced than anything we have, so it would be, by his own logic, more effective. The clincher is that the systems are also the most expensive part of an airplane. So his bitching about the cost of the F-22 would apply to upgrading any other aircraft, except that the maintenance costs for the F-22 would be much less for a new aircraft compared to our current '70s era fleet.

The Navy has to worry about the same threats that have driven the Air Force to keep building the F-22 even though the Cold War is long over. Former defense secretary and now vice president Dick Cheney decided that Navy pilots could safely go to war in a lesser and cheaper plane than the F-22. He canceled the A-12 flying wing fighter, which had many of the same expensive stealth characteristics as the F-22 and which the Navy had planned to base on aircraft carriers. Cheney said the A-12 was costing too much. The Navy settled for the $92 million-a-copy F/A-18 E and F to combat enemy planes and penetrate air defenses on the ground. If this Chevrolet is good enough for the Navy, why do we need to buy almost 300 of the Air Force's F-22 Cadillacs?

Let's repeat, it is primarily the internal systems (more specifically the software to run the thing, not stealth) that make it so expensive. The author also clearly does not understand why the F-18E/F was developed. The F-18E/F is supposedly just an upgrade to the existing F-18s but is in fact essentially a completely new design. Why did the Navy try to pass it off as an upgrade? Because it was an easier sell to Congress, a lesson learned from the A-12 program. This is not a good example.

For the threats beyond what the F-16 and F/A-18 E and F can handle, the Pentagon is already far along in building a new fighter bomber, the Joint Strike Fighter. It is expected to cost less than a third of what the F-22 does, $80 million vs. $300 million. Some of the Joint Strike Fighters will be able to do something the F-22 cannot: take off and land from a short runway or carrier deck. This is a highly desired capability in many global hot spots where long runways are scarce.

As mentioned above, the JSF was built for a different reason. It is a smaller, cheaper airplane because it is less capable. The Air Force philosophy is to have a high-quality aircraft in fewer numbers (currently the F-15) to do the primary air-to-air and a lower-quality aircraft in higher numbers (currently the F-16) to be primarily air-to-ground. It is unrealistic to expect the JSF to be able to replace the F-22; it will not be as capable for air-to-air. Period. And when he says the JSF can take over vertically he's only half telling the truth. The vast majority of JSF's will be built for the Air Force and Navy and will NOT be able to take off vertically. A small number will be built for the Marines and the British that can (at a cost in performance), but it is not an advantage shared by the whole fleet.

Although the F-22's ability to foil enemy ground defenses is indeed impressive, there is a bloodless way to destroy them in the works. It takes the form of unmanned bombers that can fly low and hit antiaircraft sites while manned aircraft direct the drones from a safe distance above.

Here he shifts gears in his attack to something completely new. This two sentence throw-away paragaph suggests that manned aircraft period are obsolete. If he seriously wants to present this as an alternative he needs to back it up. But I'll consider it anyway. The Air Force is envisioning the use of unmanned vehicles to take out anti-aircraft sites, but this is not the mission the F-22 would be used for anyway. It is an air-to-air vehicle that will have a secondary role as a bomber after the enemy defenses are swept away. This is a related mission, but significantly different; an unmanned vehicle could take out the enemy's air defenses while the F-22 destroyed its air defenses. They are complimentary, not contradictory, which could be why this is barely mentioned.

Buying the expensive F-22 would worsen the Pentagon's death spiral in procurement. Even within today's huge Pentagon budget there isn't the money to buy enough expensive planes to modernize the military's aging air fleets. Only a few flying Cadillacs can be purchased in any one year. Yet the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps need to keep hundreds of aircraft flying to patrol their global police beats. So the armed services spend billions to keep old crates flying to cover the hot spots. These gigantic maintenance costs eat up money needed to buy new planes, meaning our aircraft fleets keep getting older and more dangerous to fly despite the billions being spent on them.

To repeat myself, the defense budget is large in absolute terms, but not that big in relative terms. The reason it is so much bigger in absolute terms is because our economy has grown so much since the Cold War. After this first line, this guy proceeds to destroy his own argument. He says that we spend massive amounts to keep our ancient airfleet flying. OK. Doesn't this make the argument for buying new aircraft stronger? We need to build new planes to replace our old and expensive-to-maintain current ones, not cancel one of our very few airplane development programs.

We don't need the F-22 no matter what it costs. President Bush and Congress owe it to the taxpayers to ask themselves whether this trip into the wild blue yonder is necessary.

Wait a minute. In the previous paragraph did he not say that we need to replace our current aircraft. Now he's saying "we don't need the F-22 no matter what it costs." Well, which is it? Do we need to replace our aircraft or don't we? A little consistency please. I say we need to replace our airplanes (though in the interests of full disclosure some of the paid research I'm working on is for Lockheed on the JSF program, so I AM biased).

A Simple Question

If every terrorist the U.S. kills is a shahid (martyr) and will go to heaven, then aren't we doing them a favor by sending them there sooner? By killing terrorists aren't we just respecting their culture? They have defined us as the enemy, so aren't we just playing the part they want us to? Shouldn't the multiculturalists be FOR killing more terrorists?


I don't want to turn this into a link blog as there are plenty of those out there (see sidebar), but there are a few things I want to point out today. This will not be a frequent feature, I've just got some free time while running some aerodynamic analysis in the background.

First, in National Review there was a funny article with some satirical commercials for the NCAA tournament. I think the Chevy Obliviator commercial would make a good real commercial since that's the whole point of getting a gigantoid SUV.

Second, Jason Van Steenwyk of IraqNow, has a possible explanation for why I tend towards the realpolitik school of thought, since I've enjoyed European history since I was kid.

Third, the NY Times reports that an arrest warrant has been issued for Moktada al-Sadr, whose followers have been clashing with our troops recently. According to Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) [warning: some profanity] Sadr has NO clerical training and is basically an Iranian stooge. Let's be rid of him.

Fourth, the military is evidently having no problems reaching its recruiting goals. Turns out that Iraq is not causing an exodus of soldiers out of the millitary, contrary to much speculation by anti-war pansies.

Fifth, here's some motivation for me to add comments or my e-mail address. Frank J has had on ongoing conversation with a wacky leftist he calls The Limey. This is the latest chapter, with links to the previous ones. If you need some humor just start at the beginning and enjoy Frank at his best.

And lastly, from Frankie J's archives, is this essay about how to achieve world peace. You have to love any paper that has "Peace can only be achieved through excessive acts of seemingly mindless violence" in its first paragraph.

My aero code is almost done so now I must depart. That should keep y'all busy.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

The X-43, Hypersonic flight, and Scramjets

Recently, NASA's X-43 research plane flew successfully. I have noticed some misconceptions regarding the significance of the flight and I want to clear some of them up.

The X-43 was the first airbreathing vehicle to fly at hypersonic speeds. The transition from supersonic to hypersonic flight speed is not nearly as well-defined as from subsonic to supersonic; there is no hypersonic barrier. The hypersonic flight regime is typically regarded as speeds beyond Mach 3 or three times the speed of sound. By this definition the Mach 3.2 achieved by the SR-71 (first flown in the '60s!!!) qualifies, but just barely. The X-43 on the other hand, flew at Mach 7, undeniably hypersonic.

The propulsion system used by the X-43 to achieve this speed was two-staged. First a booster rocket accelerated the vehicle to high-speed and then something called a scramjet was used. This was the first time a scramjet was operated generating enough thrust to accelerate the vehicle (the Aussies have got one to work, but it didn't actually accelerate the vehicle).

The most important element of any transportation vehicle is its propulsion system. For flying vehicles there are numerous engine types that are particularly well-suited to certain flight regimes. I'll talk about the following six types:

1. Internal combustion
2. Turbo-prop
3. Turbofan
4. Turbojet
5. Ramjet
6. Scramjet

The order of these is important. There are listed in order from slowest to fastest.

The internal combustion engine (like a car engine) is the most efficient system to use for very low speed flight but becomes less efficient the faster you fly. So low-speed general aviation aircraft use this engine.

The turbo-prop uses a jet engine to generate power to turn a propeller like the internal combustion engine, but it is more efficient for moderately fast flight. These are generally on commuter type airplane which fly short distances and hence don't need to be very fast.

The turbofan has a jet engine which develops thrust and also provides power to turn a fan at the front of the engine. The fan acts like a propeller in that it accelerates the air and provides thrust. This is the most efficient engine for high-subsonic flight and even for moderate supersonic flight, although an engine designed for supersonic flight will be different than for subsonic in that it will rely less on the fan to provide thrust and more on the turbojet portion.

The turbojet is what is typically called a jet engine. It provides thrust by burning fuel to add energy to the airflow and expels it out the back. The turbofan was developed as a derivative of this engine to be more efficient. For supersonic flight this is generally the most efficient, though it drops off as the Mach number increases.

The ramjet is basically the same as the jet engine, but more simple. It uses the inlet design to compress the incoming air before adding fuel and burning it for thrust. The jet engine uses a compressor, which is a highly complicated fan to increase the pressure so that the fuel can be burned more efficiently. By getting rid of the compressor the ramjet is more simple and more efficient for higher Mach numbers. The ramjet, however, cannot operate subsonically because it needs to be flying fast such that the inlet can compress the air. So a ramjet-powered vehicle needs another system, be it a rocket or turbojet or whatever, to accelerate it fast enough that it can operate. A big disadvantage.

The scramjet is almost identical to the ramjet except that combustion occurs inside the engine with the air moving at supersonic speeds (scramjet means supersonic combustion ramjet). The ramjet uses the inlet to compress the air and slow it to about Mach 0.5 so that it can ignite the fuel, but the scramjet burns its fuel at supersonic speeds. This has been compared to lighting a candle in the middle of a hurricane; it's a difficult engineering problem, but it allows higher speeds. Like the ramjet it needs something else to bring it up to speed.

The last type is the rocket, which most people are familiar with. It burns its fuel and pushes it out the back to generate thrust. Rockets can go almost any speed but they are horribly inefficient.

It is hoped that a scramjet, combined with a rocket or turbojet or something else for low speeds, could be used to replace rockets to get to space and be much more efficient (and hence cheaper). This technology is a long way for being ready for something like that, but the flight of the X-43 is a step in that direction.

From what I hear, NASA's hypersonics research program is being lost in the shuffle of the reorganization following Bush's space plan announcement. NASA is being organized into a space group working on getting to the moon and Mars and an aeronautics group. Hypersonics doesn't clearly belong in either, but it was assigned to the aeronautics group without any funding. And the aero guys don't want to pay for it so it sounds like hypersonics will go back the backburner.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Democracy = No War

This post is just a good excuse for the following quote:

"for you know as well as we that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must."

Who do you think said this?



Julius Caesar?

I'll give you a hint: they're Greek.

Alexander the Great?

Someone from Sparta perhaps?
Wrong again.

Then who?
That paradigm of bloodthirstiness and warmongering: Athens, during the Pelopennisian War.

Wha-wha-what? But they were a democracy and democracy is all about peace and justice and love and no war, man.

Umm, no. The Athenians were speaking to the island of Melos, which they pre-emptively conquered to threaten a minor power on the coast of modern-day Turkey to keep them from allying with the Spartans (during a lull in the War). Those good-old democratic Athenians lost the war because of the hubris so eminently displayed in the above quotation. Their big mistake was an expedition to Syracuse to conquer the island of Sicily that was virtually annihilated. This started the long, slow slide to defeat.

Just goes to show that it's just a big honking pile of horse manure that democracies only engage in defensive wars. And it's a cool quote.


I've been more than a tad delinquet in updating for the past week. I've been busy with school and wasting time in other ways. For example, I've finished Civilization and Its Enemies and it's very different than what I expected. It will take a little more time to organize a cogent critique. In the meantime, might I suggest perusing these two chapters by Bill Whittle of Eject Eject Eject (link also in the sidebar). Good stuff. I would also recommend reading all his essays linked in the main page. They are long but interesting reads. Whittle almost has me believing that most people aren't complete morons, pretty impressive.