ElGordillo
Friday, June 21, 2002
 

I also took one of those 'which X are you?' tests. I did the firearms one. The results are below:


Which Firearm are you?
brought to you byStan Ryker



I want one of these. Apparently they're only about $11,000 - $12,000, compared to $40,000 for a fully tricked-out M16-A4. The 20mm grenades run about $25 a pop though. This is definitely the ultimate home defence weapon. Ah well, there's always Christmas.

 
 

Eric Raymond at Armed and Dangerous has the results of a mini poltical-orientation quiz. My results look like this:



From the looks of it, the only question I answered differently was the one about free movement across borders to live and work. As an aspiration, fine - couldn't agree more. Today, that's just too utopian. Of course, if we can beat the Islamists, then my views go right to the apex of this thing.

 
Wednesday, June 19, 2002
 

OK, Winds of Change is back up again. His guest columnist M. Simon says in part of his post pretty much what I said below. The rest is a very cogent explanation of why our diversified technological edge allows us to do an end-run round the IslamoNazis.

Winds of Change is an absolutely outstanding blog. This article from the 18th is a good example of why it's on my daily 'must-read' list along with people like James Lileks and Glenn Reynolds (where do you find the time, Joe?). Joe discusses a plausible Israeli response to a 'mega-attack', one that leaves thousands of Israelis dead, possibly with the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction. To summarise, it results in the deaths of several hundred thousand people in Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. There's only one quibble I have with it - the idea that Israel would respond to the use of chemical weapons in a Syrian-sponsored attack by using nerve gas on Damascus. I don't think this is plausible, for a number of reasons. Primarily, chemical weapons are useful against targets that one wishes to take relatively intact (in this sense, they are much more like the popular notion of a 'neutron bomb' - they kill people but leave buildings untouched). Even persistent agents remain dangerous for a much shorter time than nuclear fallout, and properly equipped troops can operate in areas subject to chemical attack very soon afterwards. However, if Israel merely wishes to punish Syria then it does not need to keep Damascus standing. Secondly, adequate dispersal over an area target is very costly in terms of munitions delivered. Prevailing weather conditions can also wreak havoc on the efficacy of the attack. Thirdly, chemical weapons, to be effective, really require aerial delivery. It is wasteful in the extreme to put a chemical warhead on a multi-million dollar ballistic missile. Downtown Damascus has got to be a pretty hostile air defence environment. So in order for your chemical attack to succeed with acceptable losses, you have to fly a lot of SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defences) missions. A typical attack package during the Gulf War involved up to a hundred aircraft, of which fewer than two dozen were the actual strike force putting iron on the target. The rest were AWACS, Electronic Warfare planes, tankers, air-superiority fighters, Search and Rescue choppers, and of course the SEAD force.

Me, I think Israel would simply drop a couple of buckets of instant sunshine on Syria. The Air Force would be needed to pre-emptively destroy any Syrian armour formations that might otherwise retaliate through the Golan Heights, and possibly to guard against an Egyptian backdoor attack through the Sinai. There is of course the symbolic, tit-for-tat side of things to be taken into account - you gas us, we gas you - but I don't think this outweighs the tactical considerations. 

 

Has the Jerusalem bus bombing really led to a reversal of the failed DIDO (dash in, dash out) policy? I do hope so. DIDO is the wasteful and pusillanimous strategy whereby every time a terrorist commits an atrocity, the IDF scampers into some Palestinian-held territory, arrests a few suspects, perhaps shoots a couple of people, maybe bulldozes a police station, and then skedaddles out again. It doesn't work. The new policy of annexation on the installment plan is much more likely to succeed. Of course it will enrage the Palestinians. But mere anger is insufficient. If the infrastructure of terror can be destroyed, then their anger is impotent. And impotent anger is much more likely to lead to despair. As has been pointed out by numerous commentators both in the Blogosphere and the mainstream press, the Palestinian problem stems from a surfeit of hope, not its lack. Only when the Palestinians have been cowed, crushed in spirit as well as in body, can a real negotiated settlement be possible. Israel has a much better chance of achieving this goal if it is in full control of the territories from whence attacks have been launched. Its intelligence agencies have a much closer handle on the situation; its armed forces have the vital advantage of defence in depth meaning that attacks are much more likely to be interdicted. As I wrote in an earlier post, peace is not won. It is imposed. Land for peace is an eminently sensible approach. Give Israel peace, and then maybe we'll start talking about some land. Making concessions from a position of power is stupid. The surrenders of Japan and Germany in World War II were unconditional. Only after their abject and total defeat was there to be reconstruction. A partially defeated Axis power would have been an horrendously dangerous thing.

Coupled with this has to be a new policy on the treatment of terrorists. Terrorists are not soldiers. They most certainly are not covered by any of the various conventions on the rules of war. Israel is within its rights to summarily execute any terrorist it finds. That does not mean shot on the spot. It does mean prompt execution after a properly convened military court (say, for example, a battalion commander plus his 2 i/c*). The Palestinian populace (especially its so-called 'police force') should be disarmed. Any person seen carrying a weapon should be shot on sight. Possession of a weapon should be taken as prima facie evidence of terrorism, leading to immediate military trial and death.

The Israelis are likely to be in this for a long time. I just hope they can weather the criticism from the 'international community.' This one could be make or break.

* 2 i/c = Second in Command. Usually (British Army) the CO's Adjutant; in the U.S. Army, the XO or Executive Officer. 

 

I was going to post some comments on a piece on Joe Katzman's Winds of Change blog, but his server looks to be down bigtime. His machine at www.pathcom.com has disappeared from DNS on both sides of the Atlantic (Costa Rica and the UK). That's not generally a good thing. 

 

Eric Raymond at Armed and Dangerous has this comment on Glenn InstaReynolds' TCS column on "version fatigue". As always, ESR is on the money. I use Linux both at home and at work. Emacs is my text editor. OpenOffice is my word processor and spreadsheet. Opera and Mozilla are my browsers. I've been using various flavours of Unix since 1986 (I started to learn C on a Torch minicomputer at school) and I've actually got quite good at it. I cannot physically bring myself to use Windows for anything other than the most cursory tasks. The GUI is a horror, it is slooooow, counter-intuitive and above all, unstable. It is expensive. It breaks Internet standards (part of the Microsoft embrace and extend strategy q.v. Kerberos, C#, .NET etc ad nauseam). Did I mention it is slow? Mandrake 8.0 on a 350 MHz Pentium II runs like the wind. Windows 2000 on a 350 MHz Pentium II is like molasses in Antarctica. API's are far too mutable (by comparison, I am still using, in production software, code that I wrote over ten years ago). If I want to do fancy shmancy graphic design work, then I'll use a Mac (which, of course, is to all intents and purposes running Unix anyway). To paraphrase a comment a colleague of mine made nearly fifteen years ago: I don't know what operating system serious computer users will be using in ten years' time. But I know it will be called Unix.

Eric Raymond has been kind of a hero to me for a while. Although he's never met me, and no doubt has never even heard of me, he has been an influence on my career track. For a while, I was working for an organisation here in Costa Rica writing software with an explicitly libertarian ethic. What is libertarian software? Well, it looks and smells a lot like Open Source software, but with the added proviso that it should enhance personal freedom as well. I was working on encryption technology for web-based email. Other facets under development were things like PKI and secure digital banking systems. A lot of the ethos I brought to my work drew on ESR's 'The Cathedral and the Bazaar'. Nobody who experienced the growth of the Internet in the 80's/early 90's could fail to have encountered Eric Raymond. The fact I can do all that I want without having to befoul myself with that hideous piece of crap that is Windows is in no small way due to Eric Raymond. It's just really cool that he has a blog, especially one with an outlook so close to mine. 

Musings from Costa Rica

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