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April 14, 2006

Digby: scary tinfoil hat and a secret war
Posted by Teresa at 10:30 PM * 138 comments

Digby thinks it’s possible that Bush and Rumsfeld have already started a secret war in Iran, and that these calls from generals for Rumsfeld to resign are an attempt to stop the Iran operation. Which is scary, because Digby is a knowledgeable and insightful blogger.

I have no trouble believing the part that’s about the guy who says he’s found more than 50 demonstrably false stories planted in the press during the run-up to the Iraq war.

The rest of the world can’t afford to let us go on this way.

Comments on Digby: scary tinfoil hat and a secret war:
#1 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 11:45 PM:

I read Digby's post. It's hard for me to believe that the Iranians would not be shouting from the housetops if there were any American Special Forces guys in Tehran or elsewhere. And surely there must be some journalists in the Middle East who are actually talking to the troops...

#2 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 12:07 AM:

There are times when the US military, generally, seems a bit too talkative, but I can't imagine journalists getting anything from people who actually know. And, based on some of the reporting I've seen, I'm not sure the journalists with US forces would notice a sudden silence from some sources.

Now, what distractions might be arranged by the press officers?

#3 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 12:16 AM:

You know what will be a fun thing to watch for?

The moment when the peanut gallery goes from calling Hersh a paranoid loony for his article predicting an attack on Iran and use of nuclear weapons . . . to cheering Bush for his attack Iran and use nuclear weapons.

#4 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 12:29 AM:

This whole thing worries me. This assministration feels it needs to prove something in the world, perhaps leading to Armageddon. They're insane, and everyone who could make a change seems to want to go along with them. To avoid being trashed politically and personally and ousted out of their comfy jobs in Washington.

#5 ::: Michael Falcon-Gates ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 12:37 AM:

The Wall Street Journal ran an editorial today saying that appeasing the evil mullahs in Iran can never work, so we shouldn't bother with any sort of diplomacy.

Of course, one column over to the right, they ran a *huge* LTE from Pat Robertson, nearly a linear foot of it, describing how he does not "shake his fist" and is not "jowly."

One of the real long-range consequence of this administration is that come 2008, and for a long long time thereafter, there will be no credible voices for conservatism. Not a single one.

#6 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 12:48 AM:

there will be no credible voices for conservatism. Not a single one.

For some definitions of "conservativism"...

It seems that some folks have redefined "conservative" to mean "damn the economy and full speed ahead to forever war"

Either that, or they've redefined it to mean "we are invincible as long as we are strong and continue to attack our enemies."

Then there are those who seem to make it mean "to think about something is to question its validity and to question the validity of anything we've done is to love america's enemies."

#7 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 02:11 AM:

Lizzy, here's what Colonel Sam Gardiner (retired colonel who taught at the National War College, the Air War College and the Naval Warfare College) said about that on CNN:

"The...point is, the Iranians have been saying American military troops are in there, have been saying it for almost a year. I was in Berlin two weeks ago, sat next to the ambassador, the Iranian ambassador to the IAEA. And I said, "Hey, I hear you're accusing Americans of being in there operating with some of the units that have shot up revolution guard units."

He said, quite frankly, "Yes, we know they are. We've captured some of the units, and they've confessed to working with the Americans."

So, why aren't the Iranians shouting about this from the rooftops?

Possibly because they're trying to defuse the situation sub rosa. Or possibly because they think shouting it from the rooftops won't accomplish anything, whereas quietly mobilizing a response will.

Also, Iran might want a war with the US. The more Iranian President Ahmadinejad talks, the more he sounds eerily like Bush: an egoist who thinks God speaks to him, and who longs for an apocalypse.

They ... are goading each other.

We... (Americans, Iranians, humanity in general) are screwed.

#8 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 02:17 AM:

They ... are goading each other.

I heard this assessment on the news recently and it definitely clicked for me. Two nutcases who use fear of the enemy to cow the populace and military strength to show their people that they are the solution to the problem (as opposed to their political opponents).

It isn't like the US has a monopoly on nationalist, fundamentalist, sabre rattling to stay in power.

#9 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 04:45 AM:

I think one of the critical points in this situation is what happens when Iran captures US military personnel who are clearly engaging in acts of war.

There's all sorts of ways it could turn, depending on what Iran chooses to do. They could do something sneaky, like hand them over to the custody of the International War Crimes Court, or they could do something dumb like a firing squad on live TV.

If there are covert military operations already going on, it's only a question of when this happens.

#10 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 08:27 AM:

I'd guess that any Americans operating sub rosa in Iraq are likely to be former special forces/marines employed as private contractors by an entity with no direct connection to the United States government. Ye olde plausible deniability.

#11 ::: William Lexner ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 09:18 AM:

1. There are no troops in Iran. Yet.

2. "The rest of the world can't afford to let us go on this way."

Bullshit. It is not for the rest of the world to fix the problems that the United States has caused by fighting a war against a nation that has never committed and act of war or terrorism against us. We must take responsibility for our own actions; it is not for others to clean up our mess.

#12 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 09:43 AM:

There was a piece in TalkLeft that said we (as in the US Government) hired people from the MeK (an 'insurgent' group) to go into Iran and, um, look around. (I suspect that 'causing touble' is a better description than 'look around' but it wasn't entirely clear what they're being paid to do.)

I really didn't want to find out the hard way what happens when two lunatics in charge of governments get onto a collision course with each other.

#13 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 10:18 AM:

I really didn't want to find out the hard way what happens when two lunatics in charge of governments get onto a collision course with each other.

Hitler, Stalin.

Moscow, Stalingrad, Kursk, Berlin.

#14 ::: windypoint ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 11:30 AM:

You are calling for the mice to bell the cat. Great idea, fabulous idea, OK, who is going to do it?

#15 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 11:59 AM:

William Lexner: I don't think the US can clean up the mess we've made. For that to happen, people would have to trust us.

But nobody trusts us, anymore. Why should they?

When someone breaks something of yours, you might have it fixed, but not necessarily by their hand. By their wallet, yes, but not by their hand. You hire a builder, or an art-restorer, or whatever - and make them pay for it.

If we can hand someone else the cash to fix it, that's what we should do. But we shouldn't even suggest that anyone trust us to fix it.

#16 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 11:59 AM:

William, I think Teresa's point is not that the rest of the world SHOULD clean up after us, but that eventually, if we don't stop ourselves, they WILL.

If our allies become convinced that we're a rogue state that can't be trusted to follow international rules and generally accepted moral standards, superpower or not, we are screwed. And that's the path that bushco is skipping blindly down.

-l.

#17 ::: William Lexner ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 12:27 PM:

My point is that it's not for us to just complain, we need to take action. We need to force wholesale change.

Our allies will never turn against us, they are in too deep financially, and they have just as many problems as we do.

It is our responsibility to get rid of Cheney and Rumsfeld and their ilk.

Teresa, you and your husband are editors at a major publishing house. Get behind a 'Common Sense' for our time. There are dozens of brilliant minds in speculative fiction, and you know most of them.

Do....SOMETHING. Waiting on others to do it for you only makes you part of the problem.

#18 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 12:32 PM:

The longer this administation lasts, the more I keep seeing visions of Martin Sheen in The Dead Zone, pushing the button...

#19 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 12:50 PM:

Our allies wouldn't have to turn against us per se; all they would have to do is not throw all their weight behind us when our enemies move against us. That's what we are begging for by acting so unilaterally, breaking international treaties and accords.

((1) To be clear, by "move against us" I'm speaking in a larger geopolitical/ economic sense; not necessarily in a military sense. (2) To be even more clear, I recognize this is a utilitarian argument. I believe we should adhere to international accords against torture and aggression against existing states on moral grounds. But there are also very negative real-world consequences for not doing so, and I think that may be what Teresa was alluding to.)

But you and I are very much in agreement that this is our mess to clean up.

Laurie, *shudder*

-l.

#20 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 01:28 PM:

Teresa, you and your husband are editors at a major publishing house. Get behind a 'Common Sense' for our time. There are dozens of brilliant minds in speculative fiction, and you know most of them. [...] Do....SOMETHING. Waiting on others to do it for you only makes you part of the problem.

I have the highest admiration for not only the field of speculative fiction, but also for several individual examples of it. I also have the highest regard for the work product of both Teresa and Patrick, not to mention the house they work for -- I own a number of instances of it, books I paid actual cash money for.

Even so, I don't think their finding and backing a "Common Sense" for our times, whatever such a thing might be, is going save our asses. I bet they'd even agreed with me about that, though for all I know this Monday may be the official pub date for A 'Common Sense' for Our Times.

In any case, in my view, there is a ton of common sense on the web, along with a lot of hoo-haw. We may be past the age when fervant pamphletry can save us (if it ever could).

Nevertheless, I sympathize with your impulse to urge people to act. I get a little worn-out, myself, when the talk turns too horrifyingly bleak. The problem is figuring out what exactly constitutes a useful act in this regard. Sometimes the best you can do, maybe even the best you can hope for, is to keep struggling forward, expressing yourself, trying to get others to see what you see, making the best arguments you can, working for candidates who share your vision of how things should be, give money... you know, that sort of thing.

#21 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 03:51 PM:

Maanwhile the WaPo trivializes and marginalizes the left by printing articles like the one today about My Left Wing, in which it is suggested that all the left has remaining to it is rage and insult.

With regard to the rest of the world stopping us from attacking Iran -- we can agree that no military force can stop us, and Bushco seems disinclined to listen to anyone else, so diplomacy is out. The next approach will be economic. China stops carrying our debt, and all the places we get oil from, including Saudi Arabia, stop selling to us. The American economy nosedives.

Crash.

#22 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 03:56 PM:

1. There are no troops in Iran. Yet.

I would be willing to put money that this is wrong. There are officially no troops over there but, as CaseyL pointed out above, that's not the saem thing at all.

#23 ::: William Lexner ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 05:07 PM:

Anarch, talk like that is what makes some people on the left sound like blithering nutjobs.

There is simply too much attention being paid to Iran for anything but spook work. Certainly we have spies there. Without a shred of doubt.

We do not, however, have military members. It would be public in half a heartbeat. This is not the late 60's with US forces crossing into Cambodia. Iran is not a backwards nation; they are the cradle of civilization and they do indeed have high speed internet.

Believing there are military members in Iran is no different than believing in any run-of-the-mill conspiracy theory. It's foolish.

Ignoring that, don't we have bigger problems to worry about? We *know* there are troops in Iraq fighting a war based on lies and greed and bigotry.

We need to worry about real problems before we go inventing semi-preposterous new ones.

#24 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 05:16 PM:

"The rest of the world can't afford to let us go on this way."

From all I've seen, from all I've read, it's been way too late for anyone in or out of America to stop it for some years now. Let's put it this way: if I'm right about this, global warming is not going to be a problem for us. Or at least, not for very long.

I hope to the gods I'm wrong. I believe we can be a good thing if we can survive ourselves. I just find it harder each day to believe that we can.

#25 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 05:57 PM:

Willima Lexner: There were special forces in Afghanistan before 'the military' actually went in. I'd bet they were in Iraq before we invaded. Because an army hasn't gone in yet doesn't mean there aren't boots on the ground.

The difference right now between the US government and the Iranian government is that the Iranian government doesn't have nukes. Both are apparently being run by what amounts to religious lunatics capable of ignoring everything that doesn't agree with their worldview, including the advice of their own military.

#26 ::: Raw Data ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 07:59 PM:

".....The problem is figuring out what exactly constitutes a useful act in this regard...."

Interesting how that seems to be a sentiment shared both left and right.

I've been reading a bunch of the more intelligent right-wing blogs recently -- and yes, there are quite a few and no, no matter what you may want to imagine I am not a right-wing wacko -- and the picture that I get is that the Right doesn't know what to do either about what it considers to be the major issue -- Islamofascism. And they are slowly becoming aware that the Iraq war has nothing to do with fighting Islamofascism and, as well, that GW Bush is somewhat of a dunce when it comes to effective action.

I am not sure if that is good news or not from the point of view of people here but I think it's interesting.

#27 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 08:09 PM:

Anarch, talk like that is what makes some people on the left sound like blithering nutjobs.

With respect, that's crap.

* The Iranians, or at least some of them, are proclaiming that they've caught US troops inside Iranian borders (cf CaseyL above), contrary to your subsequent point about Iranian silence.

* The Iraq-Iran border is a) nebulous, b) largely unpopulated and c) contested, and has been since at least 1978. In that sense it very much is like Cambodia in the 1960s to anyone who lacks our satellite network.

* There's certainly tactical potential to be gained from incursions in Iran. [Disrupting supply chains, etc.] I think it would be colossally stupid from a strategic standpoint but that doesn't at all mitigate against possibility.

* CentCom (and the US military as a whole) has no incentive whatsoever to propagate this story, should it be true; and while it's true that a mass incursion/actual invasion couldn't be kept silent, it's relative trivial to find examples of smaller incursions that have been kept out of the public eye for arbitrary lengths of time.

* This goes double given the Bush Adminsitration's renowned efforts at a) prizing loyalty, b) loosening the "bonds" of responsibility towards external authorities (cf Abu Ghraib and the Geneva Conventions being "quaint"), and c) covering damn near anything up unless it "sells the product".

* This goes triple given the press' complacency, and even complicity, when it comes to the Iraq war -- and we can quadruple up given the total lack of press representatives in that area.

We do not, however, have military members. It would be public in half a heartbeat.

I know for a fact that as far as certain military matters are concerned, that's false. [And no, I'm not going to clarify this. You may either accept it or not at your leisure.] Whether it's specifically true as it pertains to possible US troop movements in Iranian territory -- and I should clarify that I'm including members of all branches of the Armed Forces as "troops" here, including special ops, but not spies as traditionally regarded -- is something I don't know for certain but which I'm willing to wager is false.

If you've got sufficiently good information as to prove me wrong, I'm all ears, but a simple say-so -- let alone one which dismisses my position as a "blithering nutjob" -- is miles away from convincing.

#28 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 08:21 PM:

We have troops in Iran. Not a lot of them, but if we're actively engaged in warplanning, you can be sure that they're there, mapping out targets, approach routes, and drop/landing zones.

We had troops operating inside Iraq prior to the Gulf War as well as our current misadventure; we had troops operating inside Afghanistan before the shooting started; we've had special ops troops inside Syria... Why would Iran be different?

This is not blithering left wing lunacy - this is the reality of modern warfare.

#29 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 09:51 PM:

The Iranians, or at least some of them, are proclaiming that they've caught US troops inside Iranian borders (cf CaseyL above), contrary to your subsequent point about Iranian silence.

The way I read it, they were claiming that they'd caught people who said that they were working with US troops. Not the same thing as catching those US troops themselves.

#30 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 10:16 PM:

William Lexner: As Laura Mixon said, the point is not that other nations are responsible for cleaning up our messes; it's that they will not continue to give their tacit consent to our operating as a rogue state. Granted, we can beat any nation in the world. We can't beat a coalition of other nations.

If you think "getting behind" a publication is enough to move this situation in a new direction, how much more powerful ought it be to "get behind" a weblog, week after month after year? That's what Patrick and I (and Jim Macdonald and Mike Ford) do. You see the mighty power we wield.

As moderator of Making Light, I don't often explain my policies, so this is a bit of a special occasion: the maximum allowed incidence of comments saying "Not doing [something or other the speaker advocates] only makes you part of the problem" is once per individual per 24-36 months. You just used yours up.

#31 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 11:31 PM:

From the point of view of hard evidence regarding US troops in Iran, there is none.

There is testimony by Iranians that US troops are in Iran.

There is testimony by US higher ups that there is no US troops in Iran.

There is certainly no direct evidence either way, so ruling it true or false with any level of certainty is, in my opinion, highly suspect to the motivations of the person doing the posting.

I don't know with any certainty either way whether there are US troops in Iran.

History says that the US certainly has the capacity to put troops in Iran and has the command presence to make that sort of decision.

The risks would certainly be great, but no greater than, say, the risks taken by military personel at various times during the cold war, and the Soviets had a nuclear arsenal similar in size to ours.

Putting special ops in Iran is not something that is outside the history of the types of operations that the military has done in the past.

The US might decide to help Israel target various nuclear sites. Send in a special ops team with an air force air controller with some GPS equipment and a laser range finder, and have them relay target info back to the pentagon, who passes it to the israelis, who bomb the shite out of anything remotely nuclear in Iran.

It seems like a possible scenario. Whether it is happening now or not, I can't know with any objective certainty. I can't say I know it is happening, and I can't say I know it is not happening. So I'll just have to keep the options open and wait and see. And we may never know.

#32 ::: Hotchpotch Blue ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 12:48 AM:

Like Australia I believe America is spreading it's resources (Military) too thinly. There is no doubt in my mind that America, and a lot of other countries, has agents in nearly every country of the world. There is also no doubt in my mind that the war in the middle east will escalate to a full conflict, possibily nuclear. We may never know who started it, we can only hope the west comes out on top. It doesn't matter how much the average Joe protests, gives his opinion, or is right or wrong--the polititions will do what they want to do regardless.

#33 ::: William Lexner ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 02:02 AM:

-Teresa, getting mad at someone who agrees with you in principle is not solving anything.

I do not think a blog is consequental in any way, shape, or form. There is only a small community of people who read these things. A weblog has never changed the world, never even made a dent. Pamphlets and novels have made nations.


-Anarch, You purport to have some 'secret information' about the U.S. military and some sort of tacit understanding of the workings of special operations.

Well, I am using my real name. SSgt William J. Lexner, USMC. (I'm long since out) I've served in every Clinton war save Kosovo, though I spent quite a bit of time in the former Yugoslavia years prior to that. As a UH-1N Crew Chief, I flew dozens of insertions for Force Recon, Navy SeALs, and even spooks into multiple nations. I submit that I have a basic understanding of how such things are accomplished.

Furthermore, I submit that we have no need to 'cut off' supply trains or anything relating to such. GPS tracking satelites have made it unneccessary. We know exactly when and where they pass into Iraq. When they get by us, it is because we let them. Do not make the mistake of underestimating our armed forces capabilities.

I say again, we do not have troops on the ground in Iran. Undoubtedly we have CIA and informants, but not troops. There is nothing to be gained by it. Nothing whatsoever. There is certainly nothing troops can do that spies can not at this stage.

So is there a secret war going on? Sure. We have people there.

But we do NOT have members of the Armed Forces there. It's a conspiracy theory, quite a silly and uninformed one, and AGAIN I state that it detracts from an argument of merit; that we have no business in Iraq.

Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush are plagues upon our nation. They have done enough worthy of our contempt without jumping at shadows.

and another thing:

-Our military is not stretched too thin. Not even close. What *is* stretched too thin is their budget. This is not the same thing. Marines, for instance, are not deployed for any longer or any more often than they have in over a decade.

#34 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 06:12 AM:

Hey William, maybe you should consider politics. Run for a local office first, get involved in the local Democratic party and see how you do. We need more ex-Marines, not to mention speculative fiction fans, with your knowledge and fervor in political opposition to the likes of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.

Although you'd probably have to swap out that picture on your blog. :)

#35 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 11:30 AM:

William Lexner:

I do not think a blog is consequental in any way, shape, or form. There is only a small community of people who read these things. A weblog has never changed the world, never even made a dent. Pamphlets and novels have made nations.

Tell that to the Howard Dean campaign (and compare Dean to the \first/ pamphleteer, or anyone within the first let's-be-generous fifty years of the Western adoption of movable type). I don't know whether it's worse to be someone who learns nothing from history, or someone who concludes from history that nothing that hasn't already happened ever will happen.

wrt "not stretched too thin": I figure that even in your retirement you know the USMC situation much better than I do. (This is especially true given the number of USMC who are so convinced that there's no such thing as ex-USMC that they'll argue it with a friend who got out almost 50 years ago. But the USMC aren't the military, or even a majority of it (despite mythos -- whether they're the majority of effect is an argument for elsewhere); if the military isn't overstretched, why are the reserves being tapped so heavily? Why has my home state had to pass a law requiring ]fair[ treatment of reservists called up for exceedingly long service?

IMO, some of the Abu Ghraib mess is a symptom of that overstretch; rural reservist prison guards were thrown into a situation they were completely unqualified for, because there wasn't anyone better available. See also comments in another thread concerning the effects of being too long in place and how those effects are showing up in U.S. troops. Granted, some of this is the creeping realization that they're not The Good Guys, but some of it is being too long in a stress situation.

#36 ::: William Lexner ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 12:24 PM:

-Ok, I will admit that I know next to nothing of the Reservist situation. This is speculation.

But my basic understanding suggests that Reservists are actually being called up to do the duty they signed up for. If one enlists in the military -- be it reserves or no -- and then is shocked to be called upon, isn't that a bit absurd? Isn't that what reservists are for?

It appears to me that the talk of the military being overused is signifigantly premature. I do understand that they are having grave budgetary shortcomings, and the administration is not helping.

Maybe Reservists are being called upon to do more than they envisioned, but certainly not more than they signed up for.

----------------

Running for office is something I've considered. However, it's only been recently that I have gone through a disillusionment; I've been a republican most of my life. (though socially liberal)

I don't know exactly where I fit in.

----------------

CHip, I don't really know how to feel about the Dean campaign. While there was some effect, it seems to only have swayed the already converted.

Maybe a blog can have a major impact. Maybe if there some sort of incentive for millions to check it every day. God knows, the guys from Penny Arcade could start a revolution with their readership.

#37 ::: Jesurgislac ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 12:37 PM:

The rest of the world can't afford to let us go on this way.

The rest of the world hasn't been able to afford the way the US goes on for sixty years or so. Hasn't made any difference.

#38 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 12:39 PM:

Stretched too thin: out of curiosity, how many nations can we wage war against at the same time? We're in force in Afghanistan and Iraq. Can we maintain the same force levels there while starting a third war in Iran? Is the US military so powerful that it is immune to the problems normally associated with a two-front, or even three-front, war?

And the budget IS part of being stretched too thin. Rome fell because it's economy was based on conquering neighbors, plundering their treasures, and sending it back to the capital. When they could no longer sustain that, they fractured.

anyone have some quick numbers as to what the US economy looked like when Bush first came into office versus today?

#39 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 12:44 PM:

Mr. Lexner:

I'd say they already have.

#40 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 01:45 PM:

Mr. Lexner - thanks for clarifying your statement on why you thought it was absurd that US armed forces was in Iraq. I was a bit perplexed earlier, but the distinction between armed forces and other, covert US government agencies is an important one.

Unfortunately, I believe your information is out of date. Rumsfeld has been migrating CIA covert ops functionality into DoD, so uniformed services are carrying out the sort of actions reserved for the directorate of operations in past years. I've also heard on NPR the State Department complaining about covert operations being carried out without notifying the ambassador until after the fact, which is another case of centralizing power.

Whether or not the reservists signed up for what's going on, I think it's clear the National Guard did not. Occupying Iraq is not guarding the nation, and I believe these units have typically not been deployed overseas since WWII. To my mind, the worst part of what's happening with the Guard is that they're deliberately not being kept on active duty long enough to qualify for lifetime veteran's benefits (22 vs. 24 months, I believe). If we're going to send somebody to Iraq, we should be willing to pick up medical bills ten, twenty, thirty years from now.

#41 ::: Raw Data ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 02:24 PM:

Is there any sort of consensus here about how to respond to Iranian claims that they have (or will very soon have) a nuclear weapon and the ability to deliver it?

#42 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 02:57 PM:

Rome fell because it's economy was based on conquering neighbors, plundering their treasures, and sending it back to the capital. When they could no longer sustain that, they fractured.

As a Roman historian can I just note that any sentence beginning "Rome fell because..." is likely to annoy me. Still, nobody - not even me - wants to have that argument here, when there are more important things to talk about.

#43 ::: William Lexner ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 03:07 PM:

Fungi,

Despite lip service to Veteran's health benefits, I would hazard to say that there are no such things.

It's not a matter of denying benefits to Reservists, such benefits are not readily available for any Vets. You think dealing with an HMO is hard? Try getting money from the government.

People point to veterans hospitals, and that's all well and good. They pay the lowest rates of any hospitals in the country, and as a result, employ the dregs of the medical community.

I've been forced to have three surgeries on my right knee to repair the damage done from a simple surgical procedure to reattach my ACL at a veterans hospital.

As I refused to be worked on again by butchers, I went about the medical procedures like any other American -- I suffered the HMO Blues.

The point I'm trying to make is that like every other purported 'Veteran's Benefit,' it's bullshit. Only as an absolute last resort would I go anywhere near a veterans hospital.


------------------------

As for the mixing of covert ops in the DoD, well yes, that happens. As I explained before, we will fly them in. Sometimes special forces units will go into a nation without identification of any sort and attack a specified target.

My assertion is that these activities take place in countries that are not in the news, and mostly in Central and South America. (and never against any 'official' government agency) In countries with a radical muslim population, SOP has been company men and women only.

Admittedly, I no longer have my finger on the pulse, but I think it's pretty safe to assume that we'd act with more care, not less. Special Operations or not, our troops are not trained to be spies, and there are no signs of any target being destroyed in Iran. As such, there is no reason to believe that our troops are in country. That is what they do, after all; blow shit up.

#44 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 03:13 PM:

Candle --

How about we have the argument that points out that the Anglo thassalocracy, from the Glorious Revolution forward, was a side effect of a particular kind of economic sucess and the social machinery necessary to produce that specific, essentially mercantile, success, and that it is the general fate of empire to progressively substitute force for superiority of innovation and economic mechanism until there's a gods-awful crash, from which the territory of empire can be several-ten centuries recovering.

#45 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 09:10 PM:

Aha, you don't flush me out that easily. In fact, as far as I understand what that says, I don't think I disagree with it.

Or perhaps I'm being obtuse today.

#46 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 10:50 PM:

candle,

thanks for letting me use the broad brushstroke without getting flamed for it. As it happened, I was in mid-edit of my post when I was informed of more urgent matters. I quickly scanned what I read, saw the need for a number of qualifiers, and decided to hell with it, I might get some interesting responses. If there is a law to the internet it is this: posting wrong information almost always get you some kind of response.

I'm just getting back to the computer now and was curious what responses I would get. I was giving myself 50-50 odds that I'd get a stern correction from a history professor who specialized in roman history. I was thinking it would actually be worth it if it turned out to be Peter Weller (I'm a bit of a Peter Weller fan.), or if I learned something about Roman history.

So, you wouldn't happen to have a URL that could teach me something about the roman empire, would you? Or, alternatively, you wouldn't happen to be Peter Weller by any chance?

#47 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 11:09 PM:

That is what they do, after all; blow shit up.

Some special ops went into Afghanistan early on to contact some warlords to organize resistance against the Taliban, and, if I remember correctly, to snoop around for Bin Laden.

The battle in Mogadishu, Somolia, was a snatch and grab operation that, had it not gone horrendously bad, would have resulted in not a single thing being blown up.

So, the lack of shit blowing up is not proof of a lack of military insertion.

#48 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 07:19 AM:

Somebody is in iran looking for nuclear facilities.

Is Rummy going to trust the CIA for that? Is he going to trust kurds, without US supervision?

There might be a possibility we don't have troops in iran. Namely, if Bush doesn't actually intend to attack.

#49 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 01:32 PM:

William Lexner: -Ok, I will admit that I know next to nothing of the Reservist situation. This is speculation.

But my basic understanding suggests that Reservists are actually being called up to do the duty they signed up for. If one enlists in the military -- be it reserves or no -- and then is shocked to be called upon, isn't that a bit absurd? Isn't that what reservists are for?

Well, you are right, you don't know much about the reserve components, and your basic understanding is incorrect.

They are not the back-bench, to be called out when the first team are tired. The Reserves are backstop, meant to be roundout when something is too big for the Regular Army to handle.

The Guard is a completely different beast. The primary mission of the Guard is State related, emergency and militia (think the Japanese in the Pacific, had they been able to make to the shores of Oregon). After that they have a mission to round out something major; e.g. World War 2.

The last major callup was the 40th ID for Korea, which happened because the drawdown after WW2 had us stretched thin.

Vietnam had no major call-up of the Reseves or Guard, despite something like half a million troops in-country at peak hostiltities.

Having been on the ground, knowing a lot of guys who are still on the ground, and knowing them in all aspects of the "Total Army", I can say (IMO) we are stretced thin. There are reservists on their third deployment. There are active duty guys on there third, and fouth deployment. This is comparable (in terms of time away from home) to WW2. In terms of combat exposure, there is no real comparison to any war the U.S. has ever fought. It's the strain and tension of a guerrilla war (a la Viet-nam) at the time frame of WW2. There's no month in the line, two-weeks in the rear. No Normandy to VE day was a year and a half. No, this is one, two, three years in the grinder. The number of long-service soldiers who are getting out is far out of proportion to expectation. This is across the board, active and reserve.

That isn't the sign of a healthy system.

In short, this isn't what the reserve component signed up for (esp. the Guard) and the Active Army is breaking down. When a felony, or being dumb as a rock, isn't much of a hurdle (and in fact isn't really any bar) to enlistment, when Recruiting Commnand has to stand down for a day because the recruiters, even with a much more liberal policy on whom they can accept are breaking the rules in such a way as to either be; or seem to be, endemic, that's not the sign of a healthy system.

In short, you are right, it's not even close: we are stretced too thin.


#50 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 03:02 PM:

Greg: no, sadly I'm not Peter Weller. And I'm sorry if I've cut off the more interesting or flaming responses you might have received. :) I was actually reacting to two different things: one, the idea that the Roman empire fell at all; and two, the idea that if it did, we could find the ultimate cause. I actually study the later Roman empire - fourth and fifth centuries AD - which is about 300 years after a lot of people would place the fall (and is certainly 300 years after it stopped expanding) - but it is still recognisably the same place. If there was decline and fall, it needs to be defined very carefully. I tend to teach my students that they are far too vague to be useful in studying the actual history.

But I can't do all of that now, and I don't know of anywhere on the internet (outside of specialist journals) where the case for continuity is made. I'll think about it.

In the meantime, two useful sites are this one and this one, although I'd only vouch for the accuracy of the first (which is mainly imperial biographies). Note that what the second site calls "the decline" is what a lot of historians call "the third-century crisis", and what it calls "the fall" is what I consider the high point of the empire. But history is about these arguments.

I hope that's enough to be going on with. Back to the main topic, I guess.


#51 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 03:11 PM:

Candle: I took a course in medieval history where the professor basically said that the Empire didn't fall, it just broke into pieces and shaded into what we call the early medieval period. I will admit that he started the classwork around 250CE (with an excursion into the 'Life of Brian' for the background). [I've described Rome as collapsing under its own weight. "Fall" doesn't really seem to describe what happened.]

#52 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 04:41 PM:

PJ Evans: I suppose it depends on how you define "fall". Something called the Roman empire survived in east and west until the late middle ages; it wasn't as complex, and it wasn't as extensive or as united in administrative and cultural terms; but a change in political organisation isn't necessarily a decline or a fall. So to whom was it a bad thing? (Not so much cui bono? as quibus malo?)

Instead of "decline and fall" I was taught about "the Transformation of the Roman World" and I now teach something similar. Obviously *some* change happened between the 2nd and 5th centuries, and not all of it was for the better. On the other hand, "decline" seems to imply that Rome was a very nice place in the second century and ought to have stayed like that, which doesn't seem especially useful as a historical thesis. As Jim O'Donnell says in this review, it is a fundamental tenet of history that stuff happens.

Probably if there was a decline it was only in the west and mainly urban: a decline in the living standards of people in the west who were not ordinary workers nor the super-rich. This is likely to have been a relatively small group (of mainly bishops and bureaucrats); the others would perhaps not even notice.

So the fall of the Roman empire was, maybe, a crisis of the western middle-classes. That would certainly explain why it has such resonance today.

(I am still reluctant to see this thread taken over with Roman history, though.)

#53 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 06:01 PM:

candle, the first link is bookmarked. the second link wouldn't work for me. As for "fall" and "cause", I wasn't thinking of something quite so sudden as, say, Napolean's Waterloo, but more along the lines of a feedback loop that ran out of fuel over the course of a couple of centuries. But I think "fall" is at least somewhat appropriate, since I would consider the high point of the Roman Empire to be quite a lot higher than the highest point of the Dark Ages, which I would put as significantly lower. If it didn't "fall", then I'd say at the very least that it "went down against the empire's will".

#54 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 07:56 PM:

I can imagine that with Rome getting sacked and the attackers getting away with it some people might have the idea that Rome had fallen. That sort of thing made a big difference to the people who happened to be in the cities that were being destroyed, but I guess it didn't matter much in the long run.

#55 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 09:05 PM:

I just wrote a long comment and deleted it, as I'm not sure it is really relevant. I don't really want to argue that there was no such thing as "decline" or "fall", but only that it is important to note what exactly is supposed to have declined when you use them. Urban amenities in the western empire - yes. Latin culture - maybe in the fifth or sixth century, although Boethius and Cassiodorus and Gregory the Great are not a bad line-up even then. Administrative complexity or pan-Mediterranean trade - probably, although its presence in the Roman empire can be overstated. Life as a peasant - may well have got better, although I'm not sure I understand the arguments. Slavery - ended, pretty much.

So all I really wanted to say that it was complicated, and that (as we evidently agree) starting a sentence with "Rome fell because..." is just to invite someone to complicate the issue for you. I like to keep the complexity in mind; but that also means I don't really have any clear answers. Oh well.

Still, the review link ought to work, and that's a better and more considered discussion than anything I'm likely to produce here; and here's a go at the first two links again.

#56 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 10:16 PM:

Candle: My question: Did it matter that much to some rural dweller (a villanus or villein, I suppose) whether s/he was a slave or a serf?

#57 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 10:46 PM:

Re - decline of Rome - my memory is that farm productivity declined substantially in the sense of return to land - less wheat from the same acreage and also in terms of return to labor - more labor to grow the same amount of wheat. A substantial impact on the standard of living at least outside the cities was it not?

On the secret armies bit - I have no idea what the facts on the ground might be. On the other hand I'd expect any American forces in Iraq whose flank is the Iranian border to take a strong interest in what's over there quite possibly to include soil conditions and playing lawn darts from helicopter skids or whatever the current technology is. I'd think there should be feet on the ground from time to time and I'd also think that alone implies almost no conclusion.

Notice that AFAIK for Korea a decision was made at the highest levels to maintain reserve units in this country as a global war reserve to the extent possible. The practice was to recall individuals rather than units to minimize the community impact. That is rather than call the organized reserve/guard in a way that might drain a noticeable number of men from a community people who had gone inactive after WWII were called up preferentially. Of course some reserve units were called and suffered excess losses for lack of training as did the Army in Japan for having gone soft under an American Caesar.

I'd guess the willingness to grind the Army/Marines in Iraq implies no thought for a major expansion elsewhere. Anybody know whether tracks have been refurbished and rotorhead hours restricted to make things available for a surge?

#58 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 01:17 AM:

William Lexner writes:

Teresa, you and your husband are editors at a major publishing house. Get behind a 'Common Sense' for our time. There are dozens of brilliant minds in speculative fiction, and you know most of them.

Do....SOMETHING. Waiting on others to do it for you only makes you part of the problem.

Teresa writes:
As Laura Mixon said, the point is not that other nations are responsible for cleaning up our messes; it's that they will not continue to give their tacit consent to our operating as a rogue state. Granted, we can beat any nation in the world. We can't beat a coalition of other nations.

If you think "getting behind" a publication is enough to move this situation in a new direction, how much more powerful ought it be to "get behind" a weblog, week after month after year? That's what Patrick and I (and Jim Macdonald and Mike Ford) do. You see the mighty power we wield.

As moderator of Making Light, I don't often explain my policies, so this is a bit of a special occasion: the maximum allowed incidence of comments saying "Not doing [something or other the speaker advocates] only makes you part of the problem" is once per individual per 24-36 months. You just used yours up.

William Lexner responds:
-Teresa, getting mad at someone who agrees with you in principle is not solving anything.
William Lexner, who wants to enjoy the cheap glow of bossing people around without the work of listening to what they actually say, can kiss my ass.

He is no longer welcome here, nor is anyone else who wants to assert some special obligation on my or Teresa's part because they've decided we "work for a major publishing house."

Think well-connected, empowered First World individuals have a special obligation? Great! Set an example by doing. Want to guilt-trip Nielsen Haydens--or anyone else--based on your fantasy about our extra-terrific cultural power? Fuck off that way.

#59 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 03:08 AM:

I knew I recognized that name from somewhere-- he started the thread in which Dan Simmons just posted a followup note about his April message.

#60 ::: William Lexner ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 12:47 PM:

Say that to my face at Worldcon, Patrick. I'll be sure to give you the opportunity.

#61 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 01:08 PM:

> The rest of the world can't afford to let us go on this way.

We can't afford to declare war on you, even if you do have a dubiously-elected leader and weapons of mass destruction. I don't think the people in control are going to care if we sternly tell you you're a bad nation (though in the UK's case it might help a little if we didn't vote for a Prime Minister happy to support Bush). What else can we do?

#62 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 01:27 PM:

Alan --

Pull the plug on the US Dollar as the global reserve currency.

No one wants to do that; it leads to massive uncertainty. But the nearly certain thing about it would be the substantial collapse of US economic power.

#63 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 01:54 PM:

Seems to me that given a we capable of acting in concert the need to act would disappear.

It has been true since the highriding Eurodollar overhang that a global movement to another reserve would diminish the United States - just possibly in the absence of a unified movement the world would see something like the collapse of the Asian tigers of a few years ago. Notice that many European powers have chosen to promise one thing and to do another in managing their own national money supplies/inflation rates in the movement to the Euro. And of course though gold will not always get you good soldiers, good soldiers will always get you gold.

#64 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 02:08 PM:

William Lexner: Say that to my face at Worldcon, Patrick. I'll be sure to give you the opportunity.

Alternatively, you could consider things you might want to say to his face at Worldcon -- for example, "Sorry, I guess I was a bit wound up. That sometimes happens when people who care passionately about various things crash up against each other."

It really isn't worth turning this thing into anything more than that. It really isn't.

#65 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 02:23 PM:

Re - decline of Rome - my memory is that farm productivity declined substantially in the sense of return to land - less wheat from the same acreage and also in terms of return to labor - more labor to grow the same amount of wheat. A substantial impact on the standard of living at least outside the cities was it not?

I don't know whether that was the case or not - I'm not an economic historian - but it is certainly still being disputed. Trade was far more affected than was basic agriculture, as far as I'm aware. Even then, though, it is possible that the drop in productivity only meant less of a surplus - a surplus which had previously gone in taxes to the central Roman government, for example - and that the standard of living even for the landowners stayed much the same. Much of this would depend on where you were in the empire. Africa and Egypt always produced a large surplus and subsidised the Italian cities; so when trade was made more difficult Italy will have suffered a drop in (mainly urban) population. But North Africa - although it became a lot more politically unstable - is unlikely to have suffered in the same way.

As ever, the problem with explaining the later Roman empire is the sheer scale and the variety of local conditions.

Fragano: I'm not really sure whether it would be better to be a slave or a serf. The line is quite difficult to draw, and in terms of living conditions or economic role the difference has always seemed minimal to me. My usual answer is that slavery is defined as a social relationship, so it *feels* worse to be a slave. Serfs were still unfree labourers, but they weren't generally reminded of it all the time. And they were at least admitted to be persons with their own identities, which slaves were not.

But again, this is a disputed issue in the scholarship. Isn't everything? What you are all getting here is my own opinion, and I don't want to give the impression that *this* is the truth and every other position is obviously flawed. In history you pick the position that makes most sense to you (and which you feel you can best defend).

#66 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 02:28 PM:

candle, both links worked this time. THe second one, it turns out, I have seen some time ago, but had forgotten. I've book marked it for safe keeping. Thanks.

#67 ::: William Lexner ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 02:37 PM:

I'm not in the habit of being told to kiss someone's ass or to fuck off. It's infantile and patently absurd over the internet.

I'd be happy to forgive him, it seems as if I unknowingly struck a nerve. I've been known to bluster about, myself.

#68 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 02:47 PM:

Candle: I raised the question because while slavery withered away with the weakening of centralised Roman authority in the 5th and 6th centuries, it seems to have been replaced by serfdom (and isn't a serf simply a slave renamed?). Since both involve unfreedom, it makes me wonder how it looks to the person at the servile end of the relationship.

Slaves are certainly persons, and have in all societies been able to have possessions (including, in some cases, slaves), and slavery is a complex set of statuses, not just one status.

It could be that I've been reading too much Patterson, though.

#69 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 02:50 PM:

William Lexner: I'd be happy to forgive him, it seems as if I unknowingly struck a nerve.

Hmm. Somehow I'll bet your forgiving him won't do the trick. You may make more progress by considering whether you were wrong in the first place, in the ways both Teresa and Patrick described.

In my view, you were in fact pretty wound up, suggesting that Teresa and Patrick "get off the pot", and such.

I don't think there's anything wrong in acknowledging you were wound up. I get wound up myself. It's something that those of us who give a damn do sometimes.

#70 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 03:04 PM:

Fragano: Serfdom in the Middle Ages came in many different varieties, just as slavery did. You can't generalize about it any more than you can generalize about weights and measures.

#71 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 03:08 PM:

Top 'o the news this morning:

Bush won't rule out nuclear strike on Iran

By Edmund Blair

TEHRAN (Reuters) - President Bush refused on Tuesday to rule out nuclear strikes against Iran if diplomacy fails to curb the Islamic Republic's atomic ambitions.

Iran, which says its nuclear program is purely peaceful, told world powers it would pursue atomic technology, whatever they decide at a meeting in Moscow later in the day.

Bush said in Washington he would discuss Iran's nuclear activities with China's President Hu Jintao this week and avoided ruling out nuclear retaliation if diplomatic efforts fail.

Asked if options included planning for a nuclear strike, Bush replied: "All options are on the table. We want to solve this issue diplomatically and we're working hard to do so."

My word, that makes me feel so much better.

With that as preface, let's look at one important piece of background to the current situation. It looks like most here understand that much of the urgency for striking first and hard comes from some specific causes:

  • the very real severity of the threat (apparently without consideration of the imminence of such threat -- but that didn't stop this bunch before)
  • the neocon desire to try to Restructure the Middle East, but this time Get It Right
  • the political need to somehow divert attention from the clusterfsck in Iraq.
There is another motivating factor (implied by Hersh) behind the possible rush to nuke the Iranian nukes -- the need to find some use for nuclear weapons in the post-Cold War era. With the disappearance of the Soviet Union as a superpower adversary, and the apparent reluctance of the Chinese to step into that role (very smart on their part) the real need for most of the strategic nukes (land and sea based ICBM's and the big bombers other than the B-52) shrinks considerably. Also, since we don't expect the Russians to overrun Western Europe, except on shopping trips, and the Russian Navy is a threat mostly to itself, most of the tactical nukes in the inventory are hard to justify. It should not be a bright future for upcoming nuclear weapons designers.

The one hope for some advocates was to employ nuclear weapons on deeply buried facilities, such as the Lybian facility at Tarhuna that seemed to be such a threat, but actually never existed. A number of B61-11 earth penetrating weapons have been produced and stockpiled, and are presumed to be effective to pretty much destroy any underground emplacement within a couple of hundred meters of ground zero. (The bomb only penetrates a couple of meters, but this allows amost complete energy transfer to earth shock.) Of course you do have a variety of environmental and political consequences that proponents of these weapons seem to dismiss easily.

The problem is that we don't need nukes to do this job, and in the case of Iran, may already have the conventional weapons to do the job. The GBU-28 5,000 lb. precision guided earth penetrating weapon with an unclassified capacity of penetrating 100 ft. of earth or 20 ft. of hardened concrete is in the inventory, and was used sucessfully in the first Iraq War and since. (It was used, according to rumor, to take out a command bunker in Yugolsavia rated to ride out close nuclear hits.) We have an even bigger one, the 30,000 lb MOP, currently under development by Boeing, with a penetrating power 3-10 times that of the GBU-28. It is sceduled to come on line next year, but experience with similar weapons indicate that this could be speeded up considerably. Also, it is good to remember that the cost of underground facilities grows rapidly with increasing depth and hardening. Conventional bombs, even huge ones, are cheap, and we have delivery systems for them already (B-52H/B-2). And once you bury a facility, it isn't going anywhere. With very large weapons with a 3m CEP, if you can see it, or at least locate it, you can pretty much kill it. A major factor is how to suppress air defenses, of course. The big push to find a new use for nukes is not coming from the military, at least not most of the military. The big proponents over the past 15 years are, not surprisingly, some of the

The facility that is getting all the attention is the underground uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. As you can see from the commercial satellite pics at that site, we have a rather good idea of what is there -- we watched it being built. It includes heavy concrete buildings set into the ground with 8 meters (~25 ft) of layers of earth and concrete piled on top. The devil is definitely in the details, but IMHUMO this looks like a good candidate for the GBU-28, not a nuke - particularly on the access tunnel. (Incidentially, it's not a simple as flying over and letting a bomb drop -- Natanz is quite obviously protected by multiple antiaircraft systems in the area.) This would require multiple air strikes, including defense suppresion missions. But you would have to do that whether you wanted to use nukes or conventional weapons.

Why the long post? Since the fall of the Soviet Union the attention of most Americans has moved away from the risk of nuclear warfare. The one exception has been, more recently, the threat of proliferation and the possible use by terrorists. But it would be foolish to ingore the possibility that a significant threat for the first use of nukes since Nagasaki comes not from some rogue state or terrorist group, but from some folks far closer to home.

#72 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 03:10 PM:

Whoops -- hit in the middle of an edit. The last sentence of the longest paragraph should be:

"The big proponents over the past 15 years are, not surprisingly, some of those friendly folks who brought you our current situation in Iraq."

#73 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 03:21 PM:

I find myself wondering if there is any way under the great big sky to get neocons to absorb the notion that this is not all as consequence-free as a game of Risk.

Games--they're just not the same as reality. Just in case, you know, you hadn't noticed.

#74 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 03:22 PM:

Michael, hear hear.

William: you unknowingly struck a nerve. At first. Then Teresa explained exactly what about your statement was unacceptable, and you told her it was no good getting mad at you when you just disagree. Patrick then reacted with less restraint, but in my view equal justice, to your attempt to impose Special Obligation on him and Teresa.

Your response after that...well, in my experience "Say that to my face" is generally a veiled threat of physical violence. If you actually intend to go up to Patrick at WorldCon and get in his face about this, then respond physically if he tells you to fuck off...you will find him far from alone on his side. If not, you need to take that one back.

"Common Sense" was a great pamphlet in an age when pamphlets made a tremendous difference. Lincoln considered his speech at Gettysburg a failure at the time, because it was short, and at the time people listened to political speeches as a form of entertainment. (Others, even then, disagreed.) We live in a different age.

Still, if you think what's needed is a pamphlet, I have a suggestion: write it. Self-publishing is good for some things, and that's one. Moreover your status as a former Marine will lend it a degree of credibility, as will your status as a lifelong Republican who believes that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld are a blight upon the land.

I will, of course, stop short of telling you that you have an obligation to do so. That would be doing precisely what Patrick and Teresa have complained of your doing. You see how annoying it would be, though, to be told "You're a disgruntled Republican and former Marine, therefore you have to do thus-and-so"?

I think you owe them each an apology, frankly. Make the apologies gracious, and make them soon. This is only advice, of course. Unlike our hosts, I have no right to require any certain behavior of you, or prohibit you from doing anything. But if I were you at this point I certainly would be apologizing, rather than getting belligerent and then offering to forgive an offended party.

I'll end by saying that if you think the N Hs wield awesome power by virtue of their jobs, you know less about working in a "major publishing house" than I know about, say, being a Marine.

#75 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 03:24 PM:

some rogue state or terrorist group

It sounds like a good description of the @#$%^&*s who are running the show in DC. As far as I can tell, everything they've said about Iraq, Iran, and North Korea can be applied to them without doing more than changing the names in the story. They look in the mirror and think it's a window, or at least not a reflection.

#76 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 04:22 PM:

Claude: Nice post.

I think it's worth noting that, as the facility at Natanz is currently operational, even a conventional bombing will necessarily entail some radioactive contamination of the surrounding environs. I've no idea what the extent of the contamination would be--miles? national? regional--I doubt anyone outside Iran really knows.

#77 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 04:40 PM:

TexAnne: I expect you're absolutely right. I've spent time studying slavery, rather than serfdom (except in some of its more recent forms like huasipungo), and my knowledge of the subject of serfdom is limited to the concept of serfs being bound not to an owner but to an estate, demesne, vill, fiefdom &c.

#78 ::: William Lexner ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 04:49 PM:

Xopher,

At no point did I make any sort of threat. Do not interpret my words to mean anything but what they stated. Can one not call someone onto the carpet for such behaviour without it becoming violent?

He cussed me out. There was no need for it, but he resorted to such churlishness anyway.

The argument itself is no longer an issue. One does not argue with someone who can not attack points of view rather than people.

#79 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 04:53 PM:

some rogue state or terrorist group

It sounds like a good description of the @#$%^&*s who are running the show in DC.

Which to some extent returns us to Teresa's point. How long until the US begins to be regarded as a rogue state? The rest of the world may not be able to do very much in terms of military restraint, but I get the feeling that most ordinary Americans don't enjoy being hated. Moral pressure might actually work - albeit slowly, and not helping anyone killed in the meantime.

Sorry, I felt obliged to post on topic for a change.

Meanwhile, Fragano: well, TexAnne is right that serfdom was pretty various and is not well understood even now. (All the more true of the Roman colonate, which AFAIR no-one understands.) As for when I said that slaves were not persons, I suppose I meant they were not considered natural persons. In Rome they could administer property like a corporation can, but they couldn't own it in the full legal sense. So in strict terms they were 'fictional persons' or 'artificial persons'. In Ulpian's law-code - famously, if perhaps as a legal fiction - they were defined as "tools with voices". But just because it was a fiction doesn't mean it didn't matter. After all, slaves were often given new names, couldn't legally marry or buy or sell, and were generally separated from any natural family they had. They weren't all treated badly, and some of them behaved exactly like free people, but they had no *right* to do so. I think that must have mattered. But the implications of slavery remains, I think, the biggest unsolved problem in Roman social history.

My impression is that serfs were in general unfree as *labourers* - they didn't have the right to sell their own labour - whereas slaves were unfree as *people*. That may not stand up to proper scrutiny.

Oddly enough, most of this on my part is coming from Orlando Patterson, too: but from Slavery and Social Death, which I think is a much better account than the one in Freedom. Still, he's the expert.

#80 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 04:59 PM:

Well, William, I think you are making a very foolish choice here, but clearly it's your choice to make so... [shrug].

#81 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 05:04 PM:

Scott -- too true.

There are some limiting conditions here that might make this less of a problem than, say Chernobyl but more than TMI. (Oh, boy, is that not saying much.) The primary contaminant is uranium, which is much less radioactive than many of its fission products, and uranium is a natually occuring, though somewhat toxic, substance. (As some here already know quite well, it is is/was the source for some lovely yellow and green ceramic glazes -- Fiestaware used UO2 glazes IIRC.) The intent would be to visibly collapse the structures at Natanz, but that collapse would involve the catastrophic and complete expelling of most of the air in the facility -- if things went right. Think of the dust kicked up by a controlled implosion. Weather would be a major factor, as well as how long the facility had been in operation. YMMV.

What that means, as you indicate, is that there are no good military options here, just some that may not be as disastrous as others.

#82 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 05:10 PM:

Candle, it is my impression that such treatment has started, at least from some countries. It's just that as the biggest rogue, everyone will be very circumspect around us.

For the time being, at least.

#83 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 05:29 PM:

William Lexner: Xopher is not alone in taking your comment as a less than veiled threat.

Challenging someone to say something to one's face, or to "step outside and say that" is a threat. The threat may be vague, but the implication is that doing so will have negative consequences.

You may not have meant that way, but that's certainly the way it read to me, and to Xopher. It seems it read that way to Patrick as well.

There's an adage in communications theory, "The meaning of the message is the message that's received", so you may not have meant to convey a threat to Patrick, but you did.

As an aside, offering to forgive him for being offended when you were rude (implying an obligation which doesn't exist, and a moral failing in them not carrying it out to your satisfaction; followed with being sanctimonious to Teresa, and; by intent or misadventure, threatening Patrick) well... that's insult to injury.

Just my two cents.

#84 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 05:40 PM:

Candle: It's been 12 years since I read , I'll have to re-read it. You make some interesting distinctions. However, nagging at my memory is the matter of the peculium.

On topic: The US will not be top dog forever. The Shrub administration is making sure that the day that the US ceases to be the dominant power in the world gets closer faster.

#85 ::: William Lexner ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 06:01 PM:

Ok, fair enough.

I apologize for how I was taken in my first post. I did not mean it as an attack... it was the first idea I had upon considering who the Neilsen-Hayden's are. If it was not well-thought out -- I apologize.

I did not make a personal attack on anyone and honestly meant nothing I stated as venomous. I was a bit put off at what I considered to be overzealous and hateful replies to something I had not intended to be read as any sort of attack.

As I stated, more than once, I agree in principle to the feelings espoused in the original post.

I apologize, also, if my intent to confront Patrick was taken as some sort of physical threat. It was not meant as such, then or now.

However, the fact remains, I will not be talked to in such a manner, and would (and indeed will) confront anyone who speaks to me so.

#86 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 06:15 PM:

William, what you don't get is that you did something our hostess objected to very strenuously, which was directing her and Patrick to take specific action, and implying she was obliged to do so because of her job.

That wasn't your point of view. That was something rude that you did.

Then you accused her of attacking you because she disagreed with you, which was not the point at all; she was letting you know that your behavior was unacceptable, which is not the same. This accusation was insulting. Patrick took offense on her behalf.

It's true that you didn't directly threaten Patrick. But I'm hard pressed to come up with anything else you could have meant when you said "Say that to my face at Worldcon." What difference does online or in-person make, if no physical confrontation or intimidation is intended? I'm really asking. What's the value in Patrick saying it to your face? How do you see that as different?

#87 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 06:16 PM:

Challenging someone to say something to one's face, or to "step outside and say that" is a threat.

I agree - and I don't see what else it could imply. Patrick has not said anything anonymously and he has said it in a public forum (which you were invited into and can be disinvited from). As people are saying, this is your cue to apologise.

Fragano: peculium is awkward. My now outdated copy of the Oxford Classical Dictionary calls it "the private property of the slave" but goes on to say that "In law, the peculium was the property of the master, but was often regarded as the slave's; it enabled a third party to deal with the slave, for it guaranteed his good faith. ... The slave could neither 'donate' his peculium nor dispose of it by will ... On the sale of a slave the peculium was not included. On manumission in the lifetime of the master the slave retained his peculium (unless expressly reserved), but not on manumission by will unless the will so enjoined."

So again it was a kind of legal fiction, like endowing a corporation with assets; or, rather, more like a kind of trust fund. But it was never the legal property of a slave until the slave became a free citizen - one of the strange things in Roman slavery being that slaves were at least potential free persons. But talk of slaves "buying" their freedom is misleading, at least in strict legal terms.

(I hadn't really thought very hard about these close links between corporations and slaves. I wonder if there are deeper implications there.)

#88 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 06:17 PM:

Arrrrggh. William, ignore my last post! I wrote it before seeing yours! Arrrgggh.

#89 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 06:27 PM:

Candle: AFAIR, the peculium as an institution has existed in every slave system (even systems as harsh as those in the eighteeth and nineteenth century Americas), I can understand the complexity of the peculium, and its existence as a legal fiction (but then, the law seems to have an uncomfortable relationshhip with slavery).

I suspect there are deeper implications in the relationship between corporations and slaves. I can't think of a literature on the subject, but that merely indicates the limits of my knowledge.

#90 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 06:32 PM:

the peculium as an institution has existed in every slave system

Now that I didn't know. I shall keep thinking!

I realise that a lot of what I'm saying depends on legal fictions having some kind of social influence, which may not be the case if they are roundly ignored. But again, corporations seem like they might be a good test case for that.

#91 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 06:57 PM:

Candle: I think they would be. I'd certainly like to see where your thinking on that subject goes.

#92 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 07:45 PM:

The nuking-Iran thing brought up very strongly the world of KSR's The Wild Shore. Not sure on spoiler policy here, but:

SPOILER

Japan (& I think the EU?) attack the US as a rogue state are and are keeping it at a 19th century technology level.

Obviously that is not an imminent threat for the US today, but it's the route we'd be headed for if we keep doing what appear to be naked military aggressions in support of obvious (if stupid) geopolitical goals. And if I recall the book correctly, the idea of the US as a rogue-ish state was quite well-established in 1984.

#93 ::: Barry ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 08:13 PM:

William Lexner ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 02:02 AM:

"-Our military is not stretched too thin. Not even close. What *is* stretched too thin is their budget. This is not the same thing. Marines, for instance, are not deployed for any longer or any more often than they have in over a decade. "

Counting time in combat? I don't know what the ratio is for stress, but I'm guessing it takes a great many months of deployment to stress equivalently to a month of combat.

#94 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 08:20 PM:

William Lexner: I also posted without seeing your apology. Sorry.

#95 ::: Barry ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 08:21 PM:

(another)
> The rest of the world can't afford to let us go on this way.

Alan Braggins :
"We can't afford to declare war on you, even if you do have a dubiously-elected leader and weapons of mass destruction. I don't think the people in control are going to care if we sternly tell you you're a bad nation (though in the UK's case it might help a little if we didn't vote for a Prime Minister happy to support Bush). What else can we do?"

Graydon : "Alan --

Pull the plug on the US Dollar as the global reserve currency.

No one wants to do that; it leads to massive uncertainty. But the nearly certain thing about it would be the substantial collapse of US economic power."


And it doesn't have to be deliberate. If the leaders of most of the countries in the world deeply distrust the gov't of the USA, if they feel that those who cooperate with it as just as likely to get hurt as those who flip him the bird, if they feel that it's so corrupt and incompetant that at many times it's like dealing with a psychotic, then there's far more opportunity for trouble to happen. And for small troubles to become large troubles, and large troubles to become world-shaking.

#96 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 08:35 PM:

Pull the plug on the US Dollar as the global reserve currency

There are already signs of that happening.

I'm away from my specific references on this today, but since the first of the year, I have heard of both a new stock market and an oil trading market using the Euro as the base currency. Both in the Middle East as I recall.

#97 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 08:36 PM:

Xopher: Slack where slack is due: You and I (from years of acquaintance) know that Teresa was well and truly annoyed, Mr. Lexner cannot be assumed to have the same level of sensitivty to her turns of phrase.


#98 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 09:22 PM:

Have y'all seen Adam Felber's inspired recitation of US-Iran relations post 9/11?

#100 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 09:47 PM:

Terry: quite right. That's why I kept explaining. His reactions made it clear that it was a matter of not getting it rather than not caring. No one roots harder than me for someone to be hanged and burned like Savanarola if s/he's really trolling; it was clear that wasn't the case here.

#101 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 10:08 PM:

Linkmeister, that's a pretty funny link. thanks.

#102 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 10:09 PM:

Why do I feel like I just witnessed a friendly-fire incident between some canadians and australians or something?

#103 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 11:07 PM:

Greg London: Why do I feel like I just witnessed a friendly-fire incident between some canadians and australians or something?

This is a question only a trained professional can answer.

#104 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 11:35 PM:

In the discussion of generals, a few people commented that Rumsfeld was trying to do a good thing by making the military more ]flexible[. Is this actually a good thing, or is it simply making unleashing excessive Shock and Awe(tm) easier than it ought to be? The thought that Rummy wanted a force that he could crack like a whip is an interesting aspect of Digby's remarks; we've already seen in Iraq how useless such a force is for improving the long-term safety of the U.S.

#105 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 01:58 AM:

Mr. London, glad you liked it. Adam's got a pretty sharp wit, as we "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" fans know.

#106 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 08:43 AM:

That link was funny.

#107 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 10:59 AM:

From the inside: Rummy was trying to make the Army into the Marine Corps (a gross oversimplification). A task force based structure meant to win quick battles and leave.

That's not what we do. We fight wars. The present model is for wars of capitulation. This may not be the best model (Iraq and Afganistan, as well as Vietnam show that low intensity actors can screw up a war plan like no one's business, sort of).

For tactical combat, this is a fine thing. We have the heavy hitters, and the numbers and the practice to make beating us unlikely, in force on force encounters (I am not addressing soldiering, nor actual combat methods, there are some very interesting, from a professional standpoint, arguments about who has the "best" army, none of that is relevant unless two of the contenders are fighting each other, and with comparable systems in place, but I digress).

When the problems in this remake (and the accelerated shift from people to gadgets started in earnest; which threatened a number of things, some of which were purely political) Rummy said, "So what?", and proceeded to tell guys who'd spent lifetimes learning about this. Who'd studied at the War College, travelled abroad, exchanged with othe armies, fought in wars, known guys who fought in the wars before those wars, and buried people they knew from past mistakes.

It irked them.

It doesn't mean all of the complaints they had were right, but neither does it mean that Rummy was some sort of savant who, unblinkered by tradition, and history, could see the "new face of war" in way they couldn't for the blinkers of their experience.

#108 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 12:08 PM:

Could it be that Rummy has read too much Tom Clancy, and believes it?

Lori

#109 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 12:13 PM:

Lori:

No, because in the Clancyverse(TM), warfighting generals are, IIRC, Always Right. I'm not sure about the others, but Swannack and Batiste definitely fall into that category.

JBWoodford

#110 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 07:35 PM:

Rummy was trying to make the Army into the Marine Corps (a gross oversimplification). A task force based structure meant to win quick battles and leave.

If that's really what he's thinking, then he's more an idiot than I give him credit for. Cripes, the first Iraq war we pushed Saddam's military out of Kuwait in, what was it, a weekend of ground war??? How much friggen faster can you get?

When we invaded Iraq itself in 2003, we were in Bagdad in three gorram weeks. And that was in part limited by how fast the supply lines could get fuel and ammo to the armored divisions.

The thing that is kicking our arse is the occupation, because we don't know how to occupy a country for its own benefit. We're still of the Vietnam mindset of destroying villages to "save" them. But then, Rumbo served on Nixon's administration, and Nixon's the guy who gave us the term "quaqmire".

And Nixon, as much of a bastard that he was, said of Rumbo, "At least Rummy is tough enough" and "Hes a ruthless little bastard. You can be sure of that." which is basically saying that we've got the Marquis De Sade as one of the puppetmasters.

Also, given what it took to get Nixon out of office, it's probably going to take a lot more than just a few generals complaining. Until he's forced out, Rumbo is the kind of guy that'll just flip you off and keep doing what he wants to do.

In short, we are so screwed.

#111 ::: eyelessgame ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 08:32 PM:

Terry - From the inside: Rummy was trying to make the Army into the Marine Corps (a gross oversimplification). A task force based structure meant to win quick battles and leave.

Ok, that makes sense. After all, the Navy has a marines (SEALS). And the Marines have a navy, and the Navy has an air force, and the Coast Guard has a navy and an air force, and the Army has an air force, and the Navy has a coast guard, and the Marines have an army... (does the Air Force have a navy?)

So of course we should make a new set of marines for the Army, since having just two sets of any of our armed forces isn't enough, obviously.

(I never understood why the Navy has its own air force and marines, when we already have an Air Force and a Marines. But I'm a peacenik.)

#112 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 12:42 AM:

The Marines are not independent, so we only have one, and they belong to the Navy (never mind that they predate the Navy, sort of). The Navy has planes because they have need of them, and the Air Force 1: didn't want to land on carriers and 2: the missions are differet, and the Air Force mindset isn't one which meshes with the Navy's culture and mission.

The Marines have their own planes for some of the same reasons (mostly having to do with the way close air support works, and with how the Marines want the people who do it trained).

The real question is why we have an Air Force, instead of a branch of the Army for the support role, and a nuclear/rocket corps for the atomic stuff (which would have put most of this Iraq nonsense out of play, because the culture of those holding the keys wouldn't be as agressive).

TK

#113 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 12:44 AM:

Churchill, I think it was, pointed out that the RAF Regiment was the largest regiment ever heard of, at about 30,000 strong. It was an army, he remarked, and should be called it, except that "Royal Air Force Army" sounded silly.

On the other hand, Goering's "if it flies, I command it" attitude to the use of carrier-borne aircraft (one of the many currents that scuppered Graf von Zeppelin, the Kriegsmarine's only carrier, is even sillier.

#114 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 03:38 AM:

Terry: Iran nonsense, do you not mean?

It is rather scary that Bush seems to be going through the same motions again, just not down to the last letter.

Honestly, I swear he's done a search-and-replace on `q's following `Ira', and replaced them with `n's.

#115 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 07:59 AM:

I have yet to find a better description of Rumsfeld's plans for the army than that given by the Medium Lobster:

"turning it from a large, cumbersome force slowly bogging itself down in one war after another, to a lighter, faster, smaller, more flammable army capable of losing numerous conflicts simultaneously."

#116 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 09:41 AM:

While it may matter a great deal to Americans--or at least some Americans, emphatically including parts of the U.S. government--whether the armed U.S. agents in Iran are Army, Marines, CIA, or "private" contractors, I suspect that the Iranian government doesn't see these distinctions as fundamental. Turn it around--if armed agents of a hostile foreign power were invading your country, would you care whether the person they got their orders from was called a general, a spy, or a CEO, when all three of those leaders were getting their orders and funding from the same place? Or even seemed to be coming from the same place--it's possible that the CIA and the Marines are working not only independently but with unrelated goals, but I wouldn't expect the Iranian government to bet on that.

#117 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 10:23 AM:

"turning it from a large, cumbersome force slowly bogging itself down in one war after another, to a lighter, faster, smaller, more flammable army capable of losing numerous conflicts simultaneously."

That reminds me of a slogan we had at one defense company I used to work for: "Yesterdays technology at today's prices on tomorrow's schedule." Or something to that effect. Mind, this wasn't the official slogan, just what the engineers liked to tell each other.

#118 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 10:31 AM:

Kier: Yes, I meant Iran.

Vicki: I would care who it was. A spy, for instance, is harmless, in the big picture. Any nation not trying to spy on the US is silly, at best, and that has been the situation for decades.

In terms of actual relations it has always been the case that proxies don't really count as hostile action. Folks like the MEK have an agenda, it seems we share parts of that agenda (the same was true of the Iraqi National Congress, and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revoltion in Iraq; but we thought their aims too divergent to help them much... the merits of choosing the IRC over SCIRI I leave as an excercise for the reader).

So we give them support, and encourag them to do things we hope will help us. But we can deny them, which means Iran can ignore (officially) that we are mucking about.

If a CEO goes in, and manages to make a deal with gets us a position to glean (or outright steal, can you say Boeing and China, I knew you could) that's something which may, or may not, have gov't sanction at all. If that CEO happened to sell Iran some piece of info which they thought led to something they needed, and turned out to be a dead end, and expensive waste of time, well that's the risks you take.

If we have a company of SF guys running about in NW Iraq, "advising" some Iranian pesh-merga, well Iran can raise holy hell (and be right, and get support from much of the world) for us meddling in her internal affairs.

If we send them into the southwest and have them placing charges on support infrastructure to aid an invasion, well that's an act of war.

So who the actors are, and what they do matters a great deal.

#119 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 11:17 AM:

Terry Karney:

The United States Air Force originally was part of the U.S. Army -- at that time it was called the Army Air Corp.

The original words to "Off we go into the wild, blue yonder" included the line, "Nothing can stop the Army Air Corp," the later version changed to "U S Air Force" which still scans.

I think the change to USAF happened after WWII...

#120 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 12:09 PM:

The Royal Air Force did have its own navy in WW2, partly the small craft needed to support flying boats, partly the Air-Sea Rescue Service which now uses helicopters (and the USAF equivalent includes ground combat elements). One of the RAF personnel involved in maritime operations was better known as T.E. Lawrence.

Also in the inter-war period the RAF was operating armoured car units, policing countries such as Iraq (and keeping raiders from Saudi Arabia out). These units (and the earlier RNAS armoured cars in Belgium in 1914) are precursors of the RAF Regiment, which also took over anti-aircraft guns defending airfields, and units formed to sieze Axis air bases in North Africa during the various runs of the Benghazi Handicap in 1941-43,

But don't forget the Royal Regiment of Artillery, which is not only older than most, but also is the main challenger to the RAF Regiment for size.

I suppose the biggest example of an alternative to the classic three-way would be the Soviet Union, which had the Strategic Rocket Forces, two Air Forces, and at least three armies. But how do you count such things as the French Gendarmerie?

#121 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 12:13 PM:

Regarding the discussion upthread as to whether American soldiers are actually in Iran, the first graf of Sy Hersh's article in the April 17 edition of The New Yorker states "teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups." Another graf later in the article mentions that "American combat troops now in Iran would be in position to mark the critical targets with laser beams, to insure bombing accuracy and to minimize civilian casualties....The troops 'are studying the terrain, and giving away walking-around money to ethnic tribes, and recruiting scouts from local tribes and shepherds' [said a government consultant with close ties to civilians in the Pentagon]."

Obviously, one can't take a statement from a secondary or lesser source as fact, but both Hersh and The New Yorker are usually considered credible in their reportage.

#122 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 01:07 PM:

teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran

Then we can have two quagmires for the price of one. Squee!

#123 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 01:13 PM:

Ya know, given that Rumbo cut his teeth in Nixon's administration, maybe it isn't purely coincidence that this stuff about US troops in Iran sounds an aweful lot like the prelude to Nixon's Christmas Bombing to force the vietnamese back to the negotiating table.

#124 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 05:57 PM:

Kevin Drum on Iraq and some events from three years ago.

I can't think of any reason to refuse to even consider talking with Iran unless starting a war with them is long-term policy.

#125 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 06:26 PM:

But what possible reason can there be to refuse to even discuss things with Iran unless you're trying to leave no alternative to war?

Well, there would be that. Dubya's foreign policy seems to be to remove all other alternatives so they can say "see, we had to go to war, we had no choice."

Not that I'm a fan of Sun-Tsu's brutality, but he did have a point when he said something to the effect of "do not corner your opponent. leave your opponent a retreat". This applies to diplomatic and military operations in my opinion.

#126 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 09:36 PM:

Lori: I have no doubt whatsoever that Terry knows the USAF used to be US Army Air Corps. Actually, it started out as the American Expeditionary Force Air Forces in The War That Did Not Quite End All Wars, and became the USAAC in 1927. It changed to the USAAF (Forces) in '41, and became an independent branch of service, with the current name, in '47.

But then, I'm a military-history geek, who knows way too much about this sort of stuff, which leads to jokes like --

RUMSFELD RESIGNS AS SECDEF
Asked Somewhat Less Than Politely To Step Down After Proposing New Armed Service Modeled On "Theban Sacred Band"

Evangelical Leader Who Initially Backed Move Says "I thought he was talking about, you know, singing hymns and stuff."

#127 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 09:42 PM:

Brings a new meaning to "I've got your back".

#128 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 12:18 AM:

"A lover of armies can never be defeated."

#129 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 04:28 AM:

Remember the Theban Ranger's Creed: "Never leave your buddy's behind."

Sorry.

And yes, the first armoured fighting vehicles in the world were operated by the Royal Navy: which is why tanks still have decks, hulls etc.

#130 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 10:37 AM:

John M. Ford:

Thanks for the info Re: USAF name changes. I figured there had to be more than one, and it's been over 40 years since my Dad was an USAF NCO.
Stuff I *should* know has become a little hazy.

When Rickenbacker was still a USAF base, I used to amaze friends by telling them when there were fighter jets approaching and which direction they'd come from...

After seeing me do this, a friend with a degree in Physics said I was picking up the subsonics, and observed that I must have been very small when first exposed to the sounds. (No fake, I was born in the base hospital at Langley and we lived in base quarters until I was in first grade.)

ROFLMAO -> Theban Band... (My co-workers are going to think I've lost my mind.)

#131 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 11:50 AM:

I'd've sworn my dad (who was there) told me the name change happened in '43 and his re-enlistment was in '47.

I guess he was right--I really don't listen.

#132 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 01:12 PM:

John m. Ford: Thanks. I had a post covering most of that (absent the earlier name, and leaving out their inclusion in the Signal Corps), but it seems the internet ate it.

I was amused to see a Jenny in the Denver Airport, which was labled as the training aircraft for the pilots of WW1, given that it wasn't in production until mid-1918.

I still think making the Air Force an independent service was a mistake.

I like the Theban Sacred Band joke.

#133 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 02:47 PM:

The original words to "Off we go into the wild, blue yonder" included the line, "Nothing can stop the Army Air Corp"

Hmm. The first words I learned to that were

Off we go into the wild, blue yonder,
Blotting out the light of the sun;
Known to Men only by our number,
We the Nine, in search of the One!
Minas Tirith will fall before us
When we gather there in force;
We live in shame, go down in flame—
Ha! Nothing can stop the Nazgûl Air Corps!
Can't help thinking that every time I hear the tune, or the first line.

#134 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 03:23 PM:

Xopher, when my folks were stationed at Langley one of the local TV stations would sign on with USAF public service annoouncements.

Some mornings it would be "Off we go..." but more often, "They took the blue from the skies and the pretty girl's eyes, and a touch of Old Glory's hue, and gave it to the men who proudly wear the US Air Force blue..."

When we moved to Ohio, one of the TV stations here would sign off with a PSA of _High Flight_ right before they played the national anthem.

Always gave me chills, since I have at least one memory of seeing a fighter jet auger in near the base.

Lori

#135 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 03:25 PM:

Terry, my father trained in Jennys when he signed up in ... 43 or 44--his one big disappointment was that his unit was to muster out to England, they were ready to leave and the armistice was signed, so they didn't. He flew B-17(? - I'm really bad with numbers so forgive me if I'm wrong), and flew B-29s in Korea. The sad thing is he didn't tell us kids about it until he was dying.

OMG, Xopher, I've never heard that. And Theban Sacred Band .... MMMMPH.

(I will not read making light at work as it makes my cube-neighbors think I'm choking on occasion. Yeah, right.)

#136 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2006, 03:23 AM:

Ah, yes, the first tanks. At least, the British ones. I'm not sure just how parallel the French designs were. But the British designs were the offspring of Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, before his political career augered in over Gallipoli. And so they were officially known as "landships", and tanks comes from the cover story of "water carriers for Mesopotamia".

The place they built them is a supermarket now.

Anywat, some of the first practical track-laying-vehicles were built at Grantham, and that tech went to the Holt Tractor Co. in the USA, which is the ancestor of Caterpillar. The French seemed to stick too closely to the Holt system for their first tanks, which led to problems.

Meanwhile, Fosters of Lincoln had a contract for petrol artillery tractors, rigged one to carry its own bridge to cross trenches, and got in on the Landship business. Fosters, in those days, were one of the big names in the farm machinery business. And, to keep things secret, a lot of the design work was done in a room at the White Hart Hotel in Lincoln.

Fosters solved the problems there were with the Holt track, and built two prototypes. "Little Willie", a testbed design, and then "Big Willie" or "Mother", which established the classic lozenge shape as the British tank, with a pair of guns in side sponsons.

Some of the engineers who worked on the WW1 tanks were involved in the design of the Chieftain, particularly its transmission, that 120mm-armed tank which entered British service in the 1960s.

Winnie ended up commanding an infantry battalion on the Western Front, back as an Army Officer again, and went back to writing. Twenty years later Britain declared war on Germany, Winnie became First Lord of the Admiralty again, and the rest is history.

But I suppose you can thank Winston Churchill for the nautical vocabulary surrounding tanks. And he did have an ear for language.

#137 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2006, 02:41 PM:

I was afraid that ear for language had died out until I read a quote from his grandson that the member's of Sloane's Rangers specialized in going out Saturday nights and getting "hog-whimpering drunk." A Useful Phrase.

#138 ::: Robert Robinson ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2006, 10:08 AM:

Ted Karny wrote
I was amused to see a Jenny in the Denver Airport, which was labled as the training aircraft for the pilots of WW1, given that it wasn't in production until mid-1918.

The Curtis JN-3 (Jenny) entered service with the Royal Naval Air Service in March 1915. The Curtis JN-4A (also known as Jenny) entered service with the Royal Flying Corps in June 1916

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