Sunday, June 18, 2006


Discussions about when and how to pull out of Iraq tend to ignore one very important point:

Iraq has an independent, sovereign, democratic government.

Any talk in our congress of splitting up the country is moot, we have no input anymore.
If we had any interest in ever leaving, then Bush could diffuse this whole issue quite simply by making it clear to both democracies that the US would pull out when either A)the US believed they had fufilled their obligation to stabilize Iraq after the war, or B) the US was asked to leave by the Iraqi government; whichever happened first.
This would put the ball firmly in the court of the Iraqi people. 'Do you want our troops protecting you? or do you want to rely on your own police and military?' We might still be there for years, but frankly I think we would owe them that.
I think it more likely though, that the Iraqis would start pressuring their government that very hour, and the request for a pull-out would come within a week.

My point is that however noble the justification for the war, they have a legitimate government there now, and we have no right to be there if they do not want us.

There are, of course, some problems with this scenario:
Bush will never set any pullout conditions, and will never pull out.
Their 'democracy' is owned by our 'democracy', and 'we' don't want to pull out.
The Iraqi resistance knows this.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Space Colonization

There has been some discussion Here, and more disturbingly Here, and Here.
I wanted to make my case there, but there appears to be many people caught up in their own biases and misinformation.
Some of these people are Environmentalist Wackos to the level of self-parody.
I want to make some points:
  1. The extinction of humanity is not an acceptable outcome.
  2. Whether through our own actions, or by nature, the earth will sooner or later become uninhabitable for humans.
  3. We do not know when, it could be tomorrow.
  4. It will likewise at some point become uninhabitable for all life.
  5. Barring some really amazing advances in launch technology, it will always be impractical to do a planetary evacuation, even if we knew everyone on earth would die.
  6. This is not about saving the people on earth, or giving us a way to escape our own foolishness.The people who 'escape' will be called 'astronauts' and they will probably be numbered in the thousands, not the millions.
  7. At that scale, talking about social representation is a bit silly.
  8. Nothing about space colonization means we don't need to work to solve problems here.
  9. The costs involved to bootstrap this process are negligible compared to global GDP, and what we currently spend on causing problems.
  10. Much of what we learn in the process will be extremely helpful in solving problems on earth.
  11. The earth's biosphere does not have any magical properties required for human life. There is no reason to believe that we cannot create a long term habitat, if we try.
  12. Another threat to humanity is tyranny. One good way for people to free themselves of tyranny is to leave. If there is a large system of colonies in space, and we continue our expansion, then there will always be somewhere else to go.
I am afraid of ecological disasters, but I am more afraid that we will get stuck here with somebody in charge of us.

Friday, June 02, 2006


The ChaliceChick wrote about courage and specifically about 'cowardice' describing the 911 terrorrists. I've been thinking about this topic for a long time, and this is a good excuse to write it out. If it doesn't make any sense, it's because I haven't slept.
Courage is not about a willingness to sacrifice your life, it is about a willingness to sacrifice the success of your goal. Running into a burning building is not brave merely becasue you are risking your life to save somone, it is brave becasue you are risking something, yet you could still fail to save anyone.
In the context of warfare, this means giving your opponent a fighting chance. No sneak attacks, no killing unarmed people.
In the in old days, when muskets weren't worth a damn, they understood this. You both stood up and shot at each other. Not only might you die, but you might not even hit the other guy.
In economic terms, you risk A to get B, you have X% chance of losing A and Y% chance of failing to achieve B. whether or not you choose to take the chance depends on the specific numbers, and how risk-averse you are. (risk-averse=cowardly)
But...if if your chance of losing A (your life, some money) is very high, and the chance of failing at B (destroying a building) is very low, then how brave you are isn't so important, because it's effectively just a trade. You pay A you get B, is it worth it to you? So the terrorists may have been brave, but 911 was not a brave act. It was just a value choice they made weighing their own lives against a certain amout of destruction of their enemy.
These days we have laser-guided push button muskets. Spend a few million dollars, and you can bring down any building in the world. So yeah, it's the same low-risk game.

It's a double edged sword though, these tactics are popular for a reason, there is a fine line between bravery and stupidity. On the other edge, a system that uses a lot of low-risk tactics will tolerate much more risk-averse leaders, and these may not be the people you want leading you.