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January 29, 2003

I love my country, pt. 2
Posted by Teresa at 10:07 AM *

Here’s another piece in this mosaic whose overall picture I can’t yet see.

It’s Brian Averett’s Triple A Rock Shop website, where, amidst his the businesslike listings of cabs and rough and equipment, Averett has written a page of “people stories” about his two sets of rockhound adoptive parents.

The first set, John and Marge Little were an elderly white couple who did lapidary work. Brian Averett was a 6’3” 255-pound half-Indian construction worker who came to them with his first two thunder eggs. Somehow they became inseparable. Averett later got to know some friends of theirs, George and Anita von Brandt, who also wound up adopting him. I can’t explain why I find this affecting without sounding stupid.


I’m thinking about this stuff right now because George Herbert Walker Bush’s idiot son is scaring the bejeezus out of the rest of the world, and trying to start a war of aggression we don’t have any right to be pursuing. Didn’t we use to believe we were the good guys? What kind of heroes will we raise up among ourselves if we start doing things like this?:

800 missiles to hit Iraq in first 48 hours

The US intends to shatter Iraq “physically, emotionally and psychologically” by raining down on its people as many as 800 cruise missiles in two days.

The Pentagon battle plan aims not only to crush Iraqi troops, but also wipe out power and water supplies in the capital, Baghdad.

It is based on a strategy known as “Shock and Awe”, conceived at the National Defense University in Washington, in which between 300 and 400 cruise missiles would fall on Iraq each day for two consecutive days. It would be more than twice the number of missiles launched during the entire 40 days of the 1991 Gulf War.

“There will not be a safe place in Baghdad,” a Pentagon official told America’s CBS News after a briefing on the plan. “The sheer size of this has never been seen before, never been contemplated before.”

… George Bush has been displaying increasing impatience with the pace of inspections and is eager to start the bombing. But according to UN sources he has resigned himself to the fact that the US lacks enough votes on the Security Council to wage a military campaign.

That’s not the style of bombing you use when you’re specifically going after Saddam Hussein, or industrial facilities that might produce weapons of middling destruction, or the Iraqi military. If US planners expect to leave no safe places in Baghdad, they’re planning to hit the civilian population.

No one should ever be eager to start a bombing campaign like that, no matter what the cause or circumstances.

What the devil is that man eager for? What is he getting out of it? These are strange doings for a draft-dodger, a deserter during time of war, who’s still such a physical coward that his security apparatus shuts down everything for miles around when he makes one of his infrequent and carefully staged “public” appearances.

(Maybe he wants to start the bombing because, thanks to the UN inspectors, he can now be sure that Iraq can’t hit back. That is more his style.)

We can’t do this. Militarily we may be the strongest country in the world, but we’re not stronger than the rest of the world put together; and we don’t have legitimate cause to go to war.

The UN inspectors haven’t found much of any significance, and they haven’t even gotten to finish their inspection. The United Nations hasn’t passed a resolution in favor of war. We haven’t got the votes in the Security Council. Iraq hasn’t attacked us. Meanwhile, Dubya & Co. have been squandering our international credibility. The Afghan conflict is still a mess and needs huge amounts of cleanup. We’ve got egg all over our face from that business with North Korea. We’re alienating our allies at an appalling rate, and publicly announcing that we intend to bomb Iraq to flinders can only speed up that process.

I find the proposed method of attack profoundly disturbing.

It sounds to me—especially with a name like “Shock and Awe”—like they’re essentially planning to use cruise missiles as morale weapons. That’s a style of use, not a class of weapons. By way of illustration, daisy cutter bombs are good for clearing the vegetation off a big patch of jungle floor without blowing a crater in it, so you can land a helicopter there. However, it is also true that if you drop them on troop concentrations, other troops nearby will suffer a massive loss of morale. At that point, a daisy cutter becomes a morale weapon.

I’m no expert in these matters, but to the best of my understanding, the virtue of morale weapons is that they motivate the opposing troops to drop their gear and head for home. That means you don’t have to fight them, and they don’t have to stick around and fight you and get shot up in the process. Too bad about the guys who were nearby when the daisy cutter touched down, but in terms of overall numbers it beats doing a live-ammo reenactment of Verdun.

I could be wrong, but that’s my understanding.

The trouble with using morale weapons against the general population is that they’re already at home. This creates a very different effect. Maybe you get a scenario like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where they’re so horrified that they stop fighting. On the other hand, maybe you get something more like the London Blitz, or the Siege of Leningrad.

This is bad. This is so not like us.

I don’t want this to become like us.

Comments on I love my country, pt. 2:
#1 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2003, 05:56 PM:

Can I point out that a long war, punctuated by clearly victorious battles, suits the domestic policy objectives of this administration much better than an actual victory?

If they were in favour of prosperity and democracy *at all*, they'd have conducted themselves differently to date; they'd certainly not treated the Constitution which they are sworn to uphold as an obstruction. This makes it utterly, hopelessly implausible that they intend to enact meaningful democratic reforms or institute prosperity *anywhere*.

It is infuriatingly difficult to tell if the plan whose timetable they're apparently following requires a state of emergency in the US, if there's some bizarre form of quid-pro-quo going on, or if Saddam knows something he doesn't know he knows, and they have to get rid of him before he publicizes it. (If he had the sense God gave a gannet, that 8000 page list of firms would be showing up in many newsrooms.)

The other alternative, that this is all driven by a desire for a world, for everyone who isn't them, to exist in a permament state of cowed submission, is neither less plausible nor more palatable.

Nor at these things necessarily distinct, either; I think the least hypothesis is some combination of the two, and find myself hoping that Ken MacLeod was right.

#2 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2003, 06:22 PM:

Bloody fucking monsters. OATHBREAKERS. Bad leaders, bad rulers, bad men. Also bad Christians, but so what.

I keep having to remind myself that the Lords of Karma will take care of it, and that in any case MY oaths won't allow me to soak a little doll of W in vodka for seven days, then snip it into little pieces and stomp on them and burn them and then stomp on the ashes and make another doll and poke its eyes out with hot pins and impale it on a spike and roast it in an oven and stomp on it and stomp on it and stomp on it.

*pant, pant*

NOT going to do that. But the guy's destroying my beloved country, making me (as an American) hated in places where I didn't use to be, and increasing the likelihood of terrorist attacks against us and our ever-diminishing list of friends. He must be opposed by every peaceful means.

#3 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2003, 06:23 PM:

"We can't do this."

Sure we *can!* And so we are.

The word you're looking for is "shouldn't." But I suspect, for this administration, and their cheerleaders, "shouldn't" is something for other people.

I like my cousin's take on things:

"Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans, this time armed by Saddam Hussein."

- Now imagine they have big scary fangs and ray guns and they're looking at your sister funny.

#4 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2003, 06:23 PM:

Any comment I could make on this plan would make me lose the argument under Godwin's Law.

"French President Jacques Chirac and Russia's Vladimir Putin have agreed "their positions [on a US strike] are very close", a French spokeswoman said."

Of course the French and the Russians are opposed. They saw this kind of stuff in 1940/41.

#5 ::: Catie Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2003, 07:22 PM:

Hm. I haven't made any oaths not to do that sort of thing, Xopher. Want me to throw in an extra stomp for you?

#6 ::: aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2003, 08:07 PM:

Thank you for finding words to express this; words failed me, and it's comforting to hear it come from someone else. :)

#7 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2003, 09:32 PM:

It terrifies me and it breaks my heart. It make me, much as I love my country, seriously think a living elsewhere. But where? No place is safe with those thugs in power.

Christopher: I've got a voodoo doll kit the NESFANs gave me after I called someone on SMOFS a lying, self-aggrandizing troublemaker. I don't have any vodka in the house, but..

#8 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2003, 10:00 PM:

It would, under the circumstances, be rather more thematically appropriate to use gasoline.

#9 ::: Paul Hoffman ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2003, 11:02 PM:

It is sick, and it is likely to happen. And the likely aftermath of it happening is that the majority of people in this country will feel OK, if not good, about it.

A few months ago, Bush assured us that he had nothing against the Iraqi people, only their leadership. This is not how you show that, George.

#10 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2003, 11:04 PM:

I read this yesterday, and my first thought was: I have to go home. I have to. If this happens... I can't live in a country that could do this.

And yet... ohh, cognitive dissonance!

Stop them, someone, please.

#11 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 12:14 AM:

Leaving aside the morality of it, it's also a militarily bankrupt strategy.
Hitler tried it against the British. It didn't stop their will to fight.
"Bomber" Harris tried it against the Germans. It didn't stop their will to fight.
Nixon and ex-commission-chairman Kissinger tried it against the North Vietnamese. It didn't stop their will to fight.
One can make a certain case for Curtis LeMay's bombing campaign against the Japanese, but even there it seems that it was more the atomic bomb, an extraordinary and mystifying new weapon, that did the trick.
No doubt the overwhelming might of the U.S. and British forces will prevail against Iraq in any kind of conventional warfare. This strategy is slaughter, plain and simple.
What Iraqis who survive and witness this slaughter--not to mention anyone in the rest of the world--will be motivated to do is anyone's guess.
God help us all.

#12 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 12:37 AM:

I've been thinking, recently, that what's really motivating Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld to have this war is an inverted sense of guilt over past transactions with Iraq.

They don't see themselves as monsters, but they must be acutely aware that their cohort is responsible for any nasty weapons that Hussein _does_ possess.

As tempting as it is, sometimes, to believe they're deliberately orchestrating a plan to reduce the U.S. to a state of chaos, I don't think that's it. This administration is their chance to "make amends" for past mistakes and be remembered as "heros." No future historians will write about the nasty things they shipped to Hussein in the '80s if they can destroy them all, now. The Telltale Heart.

((I'm listening to David Gans playing Steppenwolf's "Monster" right now, on his KPFA Deadhead Hour.))

#13 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 02:43 AM:

Let me point out that--unless there is information not given here--the source isn't verified.

I agree that the attack as set out would be both cruel and straegically foolish,'s also how large-scale wars have been fought since 1940. It just took a bit longer in German and the UK back when, that's all. Infrastructure attacks do serve a strategic purpose; it isn't simply a matter of trying to demoralize the enemy. It seems to me that, slow or fast, a war on Iraq would come to this.

Personally, I lack General Sherman's resolve. I do not believe such a strategy is yet necessary, if indeed it ever was. Perhaps a bit more from that letter is an appropriate reminder: "Now that war comes to you, you feel very different. You deprecate its horrors, but did not feel them when you sent car-loads of soldiers and ammunition, [...]" I suppose President W. Bush is certain that the USA will win not just the mooted war in Iraq, which seems likely to me, but all the wars that will follow on it. Perhaps so, but I think W. Bush and his strategists lack the imagination to conceive defeat, or even battle within the borders of the USA.

And all the while the greenhouse gasses increase.


#14 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 04:52 AM:

Here's a little more from CBS News' website:

"We want them to quit. We want them not to fight," says Harlan Ullman, one of the authors of the Shock and Awe concept which relies on large numbers of precision guided weapons.

"So that you have this simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but in minutes," says Ullman.


Not everybody in the Bush Administration thinks Shock and Awe will work. One senior official called it a bunch of bull, but confirmed it is the concept on which the war plan is based.

This is so damnably immoral. wrong. evil.

#15 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 07:34 AM:

Catie: "Hm. I haven't made any oaths not to do that sort of thing, Xopher. Want me to throw in an extra stomp for you?"

No, please don't. I can't do it by proxy either. And trust me, no matter how bad the person is to whom you do such things, the backwash karma will be worse than anything you do to them...three times worse, I am persuaded.

Graydon: "It would, under the circumstances, be rather more thematically appropriate to use gasoline."

With a somewhat different significance. The vodka soaking was a magical dirty trick aimed at his sobriety. But once again, the karma is nasty.

#16 ::: Tony Cullen ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 07:56 AM:

Here in the UK, at the age of 40, I'm planning to go on my very first anti-war rally (London 15 Feb). And I'm not alone, a number of fans here are also suddenly politicised by this and will be marching.

(And just to make sure my stance is not misinterpreted on the day, I intend to be wearing a badge saying: [Heart symbol] USA [Heart symbol with cross through it] Bush.

#17 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 08:36 AM:

It is possible that all 800 are being designated for military targets. These are precision-guided munitions, after all. They're more likely to be designated for the operations room of the air defense ministry than for Honest Achmed's Vegetable Stand.

This isn't WWII, when targeting anything smaller than a city was likely to miss.

#18 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 08:39 AM:

It will be easier to get to the oil without all those annoying people in the way.

#19 ::: Kip ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 09:36 AM:


"We can't do this."

Sure we *can!* And so we are.

That's not "we" -- that's the illegal thugs who are holding "us" hostage. As the idiot said the other day, "The enemy isn't surrounding your country; the enemy is ruling your country, and when they're deposed, you can be free." It's a paraphrase, but I was surprised to hear W come that close to the truth, even by accident. Irony's not dead, just radioactive.

"We" didn't vote him into office, "we" don't approve what he does, and "we" are sick at heart with what the lying creep is doing in our names.

Q: How many Republicans does it take to screw in a light bulb?
W: Tax cuts!

#20 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 10:14 AM:

"Shock and Awe" is plan released before a war. As such, it's very likely to be a lie or a bluff.

It will also be a war crime and an atrocity if it's done, and it's quite appropriate to tell the government not to do it in the strongest language and with whatever political clout can be mustered.

Furthermore, even using such plans as lies or bluffs is arguably a bad precedent--it implies that there are no effective norms forbidding such behavior, it may make it more likely for a country to be backed into a situation where it does that sort of thing, and it makes other pre-emptive strikes more tempting if it can prevent one's own cities from being destroyed. (I have a feeling I haven't covered the ground on why even threatening to start by destroying a city is a bad idea--more arguments on the subject are welcome.)

Still, it hasn't happened, and it may not happen, and some of you guys are reacting as though it already has happened.

Here's a source about it: The plan is being pushed by a defense intellectual named Harlan Ullman, and Rumsfeld likes it. The article also has military arguments against it.

So far as voodoo dolls are concerned, I don't mind if Bush dies (if only for loosing Ashcroft on the American public), but I hope that whoever does that sort of thing fine-tunes it so the death doesn't even look like assassination or terrorism. A death which can be blamed on someone will not make matters better.

#21 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 11:00 AM:

Here's more, some interesting and very poignant insights by Boston Phoenix writer Dan Kennedy. This could pick up steam if more pass it around.

#22 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 11:01 AM:

On reflection, Nancy, I think you may be right.

The Pentagon undoubtedly has a number of plans on the table, six or seven at least, and this could indeed be one of them; they have the obligation to explore the possibilities in even what look at first sight like really bad ideas. (Of course, nearly all of these turn out to be really bad ideas on second and nth consideration, too.)

I can think of two reasons why this story could have come out at this time, one a lot less reassuring than the other. One is the reason you suggest, Nancy: they have decided NOT to go with this one, and someone said, "Well, let's at least get some demoralizing of the enemy out of it." It may be intended as a bit of additional bad-cop pressure to get Saddam to go with an exile offer being put together by Saudi Arabia.

The other is that there is contention behind the scenes, and someone is hoping to prevent Rumsfelt from using this, by releasing it and showing him how much public outrage it would generate. All accounts suggest he is exactly the kind of Hollywood general who would like this option just because it is more dramatic than the others; in Afghanistan, I hear he wanted a force to "parachute behind enemy lines".

I was going to say guess we'll find out. Maybe we won't ever know which it was, but... I am more hopeful than I was, that just because this is being described as the basis for the war plan, that doesn't necessarily mean it will be carried out.

Just in case the second reason is right, though: please don't let hope mute your outrage!

#23 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 12:18 PM:

Scary thought. The Boston Phoenix article John Farrell links to tells us that "Shock and Awe" was developed at the National Defense University. Could they be thinking of using it in Baghdad just to see how it works?

#24 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 12:21 PM:

'That's not "we"'

Kip, I debated putting "we" in quotes myself, but that's a cop-out. We're still responsible. Not for the mess that's about to occur, but for opposing it and making sure it doesn't happen again.

#25 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 01:15 PM:

Here's one for you, Kip, though you may have seen it already; it's been going around.

George's Song

(Tune: "If You're Happy And You Know It, Clap Your Hands")

If we cannot find Osama, bomb Iraq.
If the market's hurt your Mama, bomb Iraq.
If the terrorists are Saudi
And the bank takes back your Audi
And the TV shows are bawdy,
Bomb Iraq.

While the globe is slowly warming, bomb Iraq.
Yay! the clouds of war are storming, bomb Iraq.
If the ozone hole is growing,
Some things we prefer not knowing.
(Though our ignorance is showing),
Bomb Iraq.

If the corporate scandal's growing, bomb Iraq.
And your ties to them are showing, bomb Iraq.
If the smoking gun ain't smoking
We don't care, and we're not joking.
That Saddam will soon be croaking,
Bomb Iraq.

Even if we have no allies, bomb Iraq.
From the sand dunes to the valleys, bomb Iraq.
So to hell with the inspections;
Let's look tough for the elections,
Close your mind and take directions,
Bomb Iraq.

So here's one for dear old daddy, bomb Iraq,
From his favorite little laddy, bomb Iraq.
Saying no would look like treason.
It's the Hussein hunting season.
Even if we have no reason,
Bomb Iraq.

#26 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 01:15 PM:

So, then, it looks real, though it may not be a plan actually slated for implementation.

Apparently the original NDU report is available on-line. The term "shock and awe" appears to have originated with Sun Tzu. Further than that I don't plan to read, today.

Beyond that, the idea that one can win a war by scaring the enemy into surrender--essentially, terrorism on a very large scale--has, so far as I know, historically been a failure; in the end the war must actually be fought. What strikes me about this plan is that, unless it is followed by troops on the ground, it is likely to fail.

We've been telling ourselves we're the good guys for a long time, but few Arabs and few Latin Americans have reason to believe that--mostly the ones the USA has raised up as rulers. I think we are seeing a collision between the justification of our foreign policy at home and the actuality of our foreign policy abroad.

#27 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 01:19 PM:

Jim, I think you're right that all the precision-guided munitions would be aimed at military targets, but these apparently include water and power supplies. While those are used by the military, I'm pretty sure the military will have reserve water and power generators, which the civilian population will not. Listing those civilian systems as targets, as opposed to communication systems, military buildings, presidential palaces, and so forth, pushes the "feel" of this attack over to (somewhat hyperbolically) state-sponsored terrorism on a massive scale.

That aside, our human imperfections make it inevitable that some number of those precision-guided munitions will hit non-military targets (failures of intelligence, dyslexic specialists keying in target coordinates, "something in the Silicon," etc.), and with this scale of attack the number of those errors and the number of unintended killings of civilians are both likely to be quite high. And of course nothing can be done for the bystanders until troops show up in Baghdad, which could be some time after the water and power go out and armed deserters start roaming the streets.

I agree with your basic point that Honest Achmed's Vegetable Stand won't be on the target list and that the attack will make more efficient use of munitions and produce fewer civilian casualties per pound of explosive than WW II attacks. Comparing this to the bombing of Dresden or Coventry, or even London or Berlin, seems to me to weaken arguments against this kind of attack and make them more vulnerable to being dismissed as "hysterical" or "shrill."

I'm not at all sure why the more conventional approach to warfare exhibited during the liberation of Kuwait and the last invasion of Iraq would not be used. I find those almost equally repugnant and horrible -- especially considering that most of those killed on the Iraqi side were cannon fodder, not Republican Guard -- but the way "Shock & Awe" would reduce US casualties in Iraq would be by keeping US troops more completely out of the way of friendly fire. I doubt that its use would be grounds for war crimes charges (also seems hyperbolic to me), but I also doubt that the first George W. would have approved of it. I have to think that neither Jefferson nor Franklin would have seen it as morally right.

#28 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 01:24 PM:

"I love my Country, but Oh, You Smart Bomb!"

#29 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 03:05 PM:

Graydon, if they cared about the outcome, they'd have been more thoughtful and consistent in Afghanistan. I can't see giving Dubya a new war for his birthday, no matter how much he says he'd love it, if he didn't feed and water and take care of the one he already had.

It's known that there are multiple agendas being pursued within this administration. A responsible government would at least try to have coordinated policies and agendas during a war, but Dubya & Co.'s notably undersized sense of responsibility may not stretch that far.

Christopher, that was a spectacular not-cursing, glory upon you. Here's your chrome-plated trophy, your wreath of laurel leaves, and my last pair of dry socks.

I make a regular practice of praying for everyone I'm mad at. I figure it's good for me, good for them, and it might irritate them if they ever happen to hear about it, so it's a win all 'round. Praying for Dubya is hard, though. I haven't really managed it yet. It comes out more like "May God drag Dubya on a nose ring through every bit of highly educational grief and suffering it's going to take to turn him into a good man." But that's not a good prayer, so I'll have to keep working on it.

Stefan, we can start this, but we can't succeed at it. The outcome can't be good.

Jim, I've been thinking that same thing. You know how much I hate feeling scared. This is not like me.

Are you (is one) allowed to suspend Godwin's Law in your own weblog? Would we say anything useful if I did?

You're welcome, Aphrael, and thank you.

Paul Hoffman, I continue to believe (see here and here that in Dubya's universe, people like us don't matter. We're not real. What he says for our consumption is said only for the sake of some hoped-for effect. He doesn't recognize himself or the people who work for him as being under an obligation to speak to us for any other reason.

He frequently contradicts himself. If this starts getting an irritated reaction from the general voting public, he'll have his staff be more careful about letting him contradict himself too openly and within too short a time span. But he still won't be talking to us, not the way you'd talk to a real person.

Lenny, if I didn't already know you were a good guy, I'd know it now. I think that if they were you and were undertaking this puzzling action, they might well be motivated by remorse. But they're not you, and detectable remorse hasn't been a big factor in their careers to date.

Randolph, I see where you're coming from, but in my opinion Sherman ought not be invoked in this instance. He had a great belief in civil order, the Constitution, and the necessary authority of the law.

Tony, you're one of many so moved. One of the most puzzling things about that story is that the announcement has so little perceptible or imaginable benefit, and it was such an expensive thing to say.

#30 ::: Cassandra P-S ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 03:07 PM:

I nearly became physically ill when I read that they wanted something "rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima."

How can anyone say such things without breaking down?
People are dying, and they feel they can afford to be casual about it, because they're not 'our' people. But when our people die...nothing casual about that.

This has stopped making any kind of sense at all, if it ever did.
I never seriously thought about living in another country before; though I have friends who are. I just wonder how much of this country there will be left to live in, and what living will become.

An article in the sidebar of the same article caught my eye: "Scientists uncover how brain percieves colour."

I guess there's still some hope in the world.
But it's getting to be a very small thing.

#31 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 03:41 PM:

Sun Tzu never said anything so stagey as "Shock and Awe". He said things like:

In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them.

Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.

Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy's plans; the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy's forces; the next in order is to attack the enemy's army in the field; and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.

The reference to Sun Tzu in Ullman and Wade's 1996 book is to a probably apocryphal incident mentioned in Ssu-ma Ch'ien's history, concerning royal concubines. They use this as an example of selective and informed targeting.

#32 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 03:45 PM:

Christopher, that was a spectacular not-cursing, glory upon you. Here's your chrome-plated trophy, your wreath of laurel leaves, and my last pair of dry socks.

Thanks very much, especially for the laurels, which I'll be sure not to wear to bed. (Do I get a slave to follow me around whispering "Remember thou art only a man"? Nahh, I remember that pretty well.)

I admire your praying for people you're mad at. In my opinion, it would take more than one lifetime to make W into a good man. There's so little raw material.

#33 ::: Kip ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 04:15 PM:

Stefan: It is our duty to oppose them, but that doesn't make them "us." I see your point, but I won't be identified with those jackals, any more than I would call a rat in the kitchen a roommate, or an intestinal parasite my brother.

Teresa: I've seen a version of that, but the folk process has been at work on it. The one I saw had more verses, but a plainer structure. This one's an improvement in some ways, though the other one seemed more amusing -- I guess it was a simpler, more natural time.

Seeing it reminds me of Gordon Garb singing "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" in 1979-80, which in turn reminds me of the intense bellicosity we showed towards Iran back then, with an Ayatollah effigy hanging on the flagpole in my home town, and the radio making a brief hit of "Message to Khomeini" by Roger Hallmark and the Thrasher Brothers. The song made a lot of threats and boasts, and Khomeini died of old age, years later.

We're gonna take our BB guns,
And blow your buns, to the sun
Just our Boy Scouts could wipe you out!
One day soon, Khomeini,
You'll burn one flag too many;
Uncle Sam's got a mighty long reach,
And you're gonna feel his clout!

#34 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 04:34 PM:

The first time I read the article, I cried. It seemed to me that this was clearly an attack aimed more towards civilians than the militay. Wiping out water and power in any modern city is catastrophic. In a second world city with a limited sense of civic responsibility, it seems to me that it must guarantee deaths from cholera and typhoid, cold and starvation. I'm only guessing, though, and I'd be pleased to be wrong on this point.

Many wars have used the creation of refugees as a way to burden their enemies, but I don't see how that can be a motivation, here. Our country is far across the ocean, and you can be damn sure that the military bases won't be taking in the hungry and homeless. The Bushies are aiming to make Baghdad uninhabitable. Where do they think those people will go? Are we trying to soften up Iran or Pakistan or Turkey for our next invasion? I think that they just don't care.

I was wondering last night if this wasn't some sort of bluff. Were the Bushies puffing up their chests and making scary noises for the benefit of the other apes, or were they seriously considering this course of action? They're so incompetent, I can't tell. In a different administration, I might have a theory about why Pentagon officials were sharing this plan with reporters. Maybe it's just an incompetent leak. Maybe it's one military pro bragging to another, using the press. With this administration, there doesn't seem to be any good way to predict which interest-group is doing what.

Today, I am wondering if this is a put-up job for people like me. If they start dropping bombs, next month, and they restrict themselves to 200, instead of 800, and if they leave many of the civilian water and power installations alone, will I heave a sigh of relief and think less ill of them than I do, now? Are we being softened up to take the lesser of two evils? I don't know.

I don't want to do this. I don't want to do this with all my heart. I don't want Iraq to have nuclear capability, but I'm damned if I can see what this has to do with that. I don't want North Korea to have it, either, and I'm more afraid of North Korea.

What were the Iraqi casualties last time round? I read somewhere 159,000. Could it really have been that high? That's three times the men we lost in Vietnam, isn't it?

I feel like I know less and less every day, and become more and more scared. I'm told there's a relationship between those two states. Maybe that's what the Bushies are really trying to do. If so, it's working.

#35 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 04:52 PM:

"I think that they just don't care."

That about sums it up. The guys doing this sort of planning probably aren't worrying about the clean-up.

Except, as my cousin put it:

"of course, we'll hold your oilfields for you while you dust off."

I predict that the next State of the Union Speech will have an appeal for America's school kids to send dollars to the White House to buy food, warm coats, and prosthetic limbs for the children of Occupied Iraq.

#36 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 05:05 PM:

Re: "military targets" vs. the corner vegetable stand. The population of Baghdad, according to Web. 10, is about 1-1/2 million. That's from a few years back, so let's say 2 million (I'm not sure how much + refugees - casualties has altered this in the last few years.)
That is just not that large a city. Now let's revisit a quote from that article:

"There will not be a safe place in Baghdad," a Pentagon official told America's CBS News after a briefing on the plan. "The sheer size of this has never been seen before, never been contemplated before."

Add to that the many articles I've seen shooting holes in the claims of "precision" by current bombs and missiles. Even if the weapons are accurate, there's just not that much space between targets. You do the math, then tell me: Are you fooling yourself?

#37 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 05:45 PM:

The reason to attempt that sort of attack -- and it does sometimes work on military formations, causing collapse due to shock and dislocation -- is to break morale, which is a necessary precondition to a surrender.

The problem with it is that it needs to be a *surprise*; if it's not a surprise, in the real sense of being something unexpected which cannot readily be fit into the world view of the people it happens to, it doesn't work.

Since the citizens of Bhagdad have been bombed before, such a tactic can't reasonably expect to work.

At that point, there are two scenarios; one is that there's a desire for a rapid occupation of Bhagdad and some twit has convinced themselves that sheer scale will work even though the conditions are wrong for dislocation to work on the morale of the target population, and the other is that a long, bloody seige is desired.

So, really, either way, canning the proposal is probably a good thing; either the twit lost the argment or the plan involving the protracted seige has been deselected.

As a plan, it's really not very different from what's happened before; disruption of infrastructure is one of the things the USAF *can* do, unlike (as in Kosovo) destroyed deployed and camoflaged armies in being.

#38 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 06:23 PM:

I predict that the next State of the Union Speech will have an appeal for America's school kids to send dollars to the White House to buy food, warm coats, and prosthetic limbs for the children of Occupied Iraq.

Unlikely. W doesn't care that much. Plus it would draw attention to the collateral damage fiasco he perpetrated, and give the Dems plenty of ammo for their rebuttal.

FGS, W doesn't care that much about children in THIS country. You think he's going to give (or even pretend to give) a rat's ass about a bunch of kids who, a year earlier, were chanting Saddam's name every morning in school?

#39 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 06:42 PM:

Those who stand on the platform and openly approve the war will stand on the scaffold and weepingly regret it.

#40 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 07:03 PM:

Xopher notes:

"Plus it would draw attention to the collateral damage fiasco he perpetrated."

Nah, the DOD spin machine already anticipated people o'er here getting upset (imagine!) about the dead civilian problem, and have it covered:

Remember the "leaked plans" Saddam has to wreck the country himself just prior to an invasion so the US military takes the blame?

#41 ::: Simon Shoedecker ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 08:38 PM:

Bhagdad? Did Ghandi ever visit Bhagdad? And drink bheer?

#42 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 11:06 PM:

"Randolph, I see where you're coming from, but in my opinion Sherman ought not be invoked in this instance. He had a great belief in civil order, the Constitution, and the necessary authority of the law." That was part of my point; I believe the only time such an attack may be justifiable is in defense of clear law. I was thinking that the Bushies may yet find themselves in the situation of Georgia under Sherman's assault; if the USA undertakes, essentially, a vast terrorist attack, then how can we reasonably complain that terrorist attacks upon our own country are unjustified?

That said--would a plain old ordinary siege be gentler? I don't see how--I don't see that it would differ at all, except that more US troops would die on the ground before the siege got under way.

#43 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2003, 11:52 PM:


My point was that people with blunted emotional affect aren't immune to behavior driven by repressed feelings of guilt.

In the case of Bush, Cheney & Rumsfeld, it may not be remorse as much as a hand-washing/ nation-bombing tic to compensate for their knowledge of what they've already done (and what historians will inevitably record next to their names). Their past complicity may be driving their present zeal to neutralize Hussein. "Out, out, damn spot!"

#44 ::: Iain J Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2003, 03:59 AM:

As a plan, it's really not very different from what's happened before; disruption of infrastructure is one of the things the USAF *can* do, unlike (as in Kosovo) destroyed deployed and camoflaged armies in being.

Speaking of Kosovo, there was a documentary series recently on British TV about the fall of Milosevic, mainly involving interviews with the various military and political figures. One little nugget was that the Americans wanted to bomb Belgrade, but the French dug their heels in and they had to saisfy themselves with knocking out a few bridges instead.

#45 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 06:48 PM:

Iain, I believe it was George Marshall (or MacArthur? no, Marshall, I think) who, when Japanese targets for the A-bomb were being discussed, said firmly that two of the proposed targets -- bombing Kyoto, and knocking the top off Fuji -- were a Very Bad Idea.

#46 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 02:46 AM:

My god. They proposed that?

Then again, the USA is planning to make war in the Garden of Eden.

#47 ::: Bill Woods ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 12:23 AM:

Well, y'all will be relieved to see the latest war plan:

War Plan Calls for Precision Bombing Wave to Break Iraqi Army
The initial bombardment would use 10 times the number of precision-guided weapons fired in the first two days of the Persian Gulf war of 1991, and the targets would be air defenses, political and military headquarters, communications facilities and suspected chemical and biological delivery systems, military and other Pentagon officials say.
The air war would be significant for what the targets will not be as much as for what they will be. Because the United States wants to help rebuild Iraq quickly after any conflict, the air campaign is intended to limit damage to Iraqi infrastructure and to minimize civilian casualties.

"The challenges in this air campaign will be to achieve certain military and psychological effects at the outset, but have as much of the infrastructure existing when it's over," said Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman, a former Air Force chief of staff who is a member of the Defense Policy Board, a panel that advises Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

They've dropped the lurid language about "Shock and Awe". Not that I'd place a lot of credence in any war plan which is made public before the operation begins...

#48 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2003, 02:06 AM:

I saw an interesting article a couple of days ago about the Pentagon possibly using new EMP (Electromagnetic Impulse) weapons. Apparently some of these were used in Serbia. The aim would be to knock out the Command, Control, and Communciations (C3) between Saddam and his generals, and between the generals and their troops. The thought is that being out of communication with higher authorities, the Iraqi troops would be more prone to surrender or defect. Thus decreasing the casualties on both sides. We are telling the Iraqi army in all kinds of propaganda efforts that we do not want to kill them, that it's only Saddam and his cronies we are after. The types of weapons being talked about would produce damage that can be repaired in just a matter of days, hopefully with a minimum of harm to the Iraqi population. It is in no one's best interest to have a large amount of civilian casualties. The US is already talking with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) about relief efforts in-country during and after the war. We would gain absolute nothing by having the population starve or die of disease.

#49 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2003, 01:39 PM:

Very interesting, Robert. EMPs would take out C3 structures. Have they looked into what else EMPs would take out? I'm under the impression that they'll zap everything from automobile engines and railway switching systems to Tickle Me Elmo. On the one hand, it's less violent than blowing stuff up. On the other hand, some of that fried equipment is going to be used for stuff like medical monitoring, food refrigeration, and water pumping stations.

#50 ::: Jason McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2003, 12:50 AM:

Most interestingly, there's nothing in there about targeting power and water plants. There's nothing wrong with it if it sticks to military targets.

#51 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2003, 03:47 PM:

I'm aware of the shortcomings. I would hope that the thinking is that the war will be so quick that we will be able to get in there and institute repairs and resume emergency services quickly. The damage in Serbia was repaired quickly.

We really are trying to make this as relatively bloodfree for the Iraqi citizenry as possible. Compared with wars of the 20th century, it will be.

Interesting article in the UK Guardian yesterday about how willing Iraqi conscripts are to desert.

Interesting article column today in the New York Times by a leftist columnist who supports the war, not just Bush's agenda.

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