Assume the Position
Saturday, October 05, 2002
Strikes in the No-Fly Zones. Bill Quick disagrees with one example I used in describing people giving too much significance to events because they don't realize how routine those events are. His argument and my initial response are in over on his blog. Since I've got the data, I put up a table containing each strike day 2001 and 2002.
I tried to find good information on 1999 and 2000 strike days to compare to what I've gathered for 2001 and 2002. I haven't yet, but I ran across this AP piece (emphasis added).
* Over the last three years, Iraqi forces have fired anti-aircraft artillery more than 1,000 times, launched 600 rockets and fired nearly 60 surface-to-air missiles.The reason "they flew on 406 days" in 2001 is that Operation Southern Watch (OSW) patrol days are counted separately from Operation Northern Watch's (ONW). OSW is larger and patrols much more often than ONW.
The story also mentioned something I suspected (emphasis added).
The Pentagon did not say what other countries [besides the US & UK] are involved in the south, apparently because of political sensitivities. But some of the flights have been flown off of U.S. aircraft carriers when they were stationed in the Persian Gulf. At other times, they have been flown from Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, officials have said privately. This happened during much of the last year, when the carrier group in the region was tied up with the war in Afghanistan.What I said over on Daily Pundit was "I've no way to judge the Oct-Dec 2001 strike rate since I can't find numbers for 2000, but I suspect the post-Sep 11 2001 strike rates in Iraq where affected by the Afghan operations." Bombing in Afghanistan started in October 7, 2001.
Anyway, I put together a table of all the 2001 and 2002 strike days I could account for from the CENTCOM and EUCOM press releases. It's laid out so the months can be compared and the clustering within months is easier to see.
There are two things to note about items in the table and the way they were derived from the press releases.
10 sM 9 sM 8 s sM 7 MM sM 6 M s sM s sMs 5 ss s sM ssMss 4 MM s s ss Mssss 3 ss s s sMs s Mssss 2 ss ssssMMM ss sssMMM 1 sMsssssssss ss ssssss --------------------- jfmamjjasondJFMAMJJAS AAAAAAA
If the AP article was correct about 80 strike days in 2000, and 2001 had been similar, then there was probably a very big shortfall in OSW patrols during the final quarter of 2001 after Operation Enduring Freedom started in Afghanistan. I've not found anything to support the number of 80 strike days in article, nor have I found anything I trust to rule it out. Nevertheless, for more than 7 months (October 7, 2001, through mid-May 2002), OSW had only 6 strike days in the Southern No-Fly Zone.
The battlefield preparation idea might also be supported by considering that air defense C2 and Comm sites seem to be more frequently targeted than previously, but the use of the catch-all "IAD" makes determining that rather difficult.
Finally, the leaflet drop is interesting if an elevated response to Iraqi provocations is being used as an excuse to do some battlefield preparation. Were the Iraqis to greatly reduce or stop targeting and firing at coalition aircraft, that would reduce the opportunities for justified strikes against the air defense network.
In all, I'll stick with my original contention that the August 2002 strikes weren't something to get all excited about, and I'll add the same for the September 2002 strikes. (The most significant thing about the monthly pattern was the lack of strikes in the Southern No-Fly Zone, but operations in Afghanistan seem to account for that.) Still, attrition and systems degradation now would help later whether it's the current objective or not, so long as it's not too much later.
Thursday, October 03, 2002
There's a good reason many libertarians and libertarian-leaning folks avoid the Libertarian Party: the people the LP puts forward as candidates too often appear to be crackpots.
Montana's Libertarian candidate for Senate has turned blue from drinking a silver solution that he believed would protect him from disease.If he loses…oh, let's not kid around…after he loses this election, maybe he'll have sucker-tipped antennae mounted to his head and run as an Andorian next time.
Wednesday, October 02, 2002
Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho; EO12333 Has Got To Go; or maybe not. From The Washington Post (link via Bill Quick):
"The cost of one bullet, if the Iraqi people take it on themselves, is substantially less" than going to war, President Bush's press secretary, Ari Fleischer, said when asked at a televised briefing about the cost of military action against Iraq. Asked whether the administration was advocating the assassination of Hussein, Fleischer repeatedly replied: "Regime change is welcome in whatever form that it takes."EO12333 is Executive Order 12333 - United States Intelligence Activities, signed by Ronald Reagan December 4, 1981. This is the executive order generally prohibiting assassination. I was going to write about this, but the folks at the Council on Foreign Relations have a very good piece on the subject. Here are just the pro/con sections:
Why do some experts argue that the United States should not use assassinations?One point the CFR doesn't address is that however much we might talk about the Bush regime or the Clinton regime, it's just rhetoric. Under normal circumstances, the US changes its presidents every 4 or 8 years; and even under the extraordinary circumstances of resignation or death the system is resilient. If somebody assassinates a US president, the system of government will not change. The same can hardly be said for dictatorships like Iraq.
Tuesday, October 01, 2002
Cinderella Bloggerfeller has posted "Idiotarian Metaphor #2: The Third World As Safari Park" where various atrocious regimes can be preserved and nurtured.
Chomsky is the classic statement of this metaphor. Here he is advising foreign correspondents and 'dissidents' that it is their moral duty not to say bad and spiteful things about Third World hellholesJungles and swamps must be preserved because 'who knows, maybe they'll find a cure for cancer there;' likewise, the idiotarians support the vilest regimes on the planet because 'who knows, maybe Mugabe will create a utopia.'American dissidents ... have to face the fact that they are living in a state with enormous power, used for murderous and destructive ends. Honest people will have to face the fact that they are morally responsible for the predictable human consequences of their acts. One of these acts is accurate criticism, accurate critical analysis of authoritarian state socialism in North Vietnam or in Cuba or in other countries that the United States is trying to subvert. The consequences of accurate critical analysis will be to buttress these efforts, thus contributing to suffering and oppression.So by criticizing human rights in Cuba you are actively oppressing the Cubans. Would Chomsky himself like to live in Castro's Cuba? Hell, no. Most environmentalists wouldn't want to be savaged by a man-eating tiger either. In a conversation with Ronald Radosh in the late 1970s Chomsky reportedly confided:You notice I never said anything about what I saw in Vietnam when I went there during the war. My responsibility was to address myself only to the U.S. war against Vietnam. That's why I never went to Cuba. I knew Cuba would be horrible — a real Stalinist nightmare — but because there was no war like in Vietnam I wouldn't have the excuse not to say what I thought.For Chomsky the situation is clear. The only thing that counts is that Third World regimes are free from American influence. Without American influence, there is still a minuscule chance that his 'communitarian' fantasies might come true.
The invisible hand waves a tinfoil hat. When the US bombed Iraqi air defense systems in August, some folks practically wet themselves in their excitement that this proved the US was softening up Iraq for an imminent invasion of Iraq in mere days, or a few weeks, or possibly a month or two. In September, when Turkish police seized some smuggled uranium, the tinfoil hat crowd conjectured it as some kind of CIA plant to justify a war to topple Hussein.
Well, not really. Because the bombing I refer to occurred in August 2001 (10th, 14th, 25th, 28th, and 30th under Operation Southern Watch; 7th, 17th, and 27th under Operation Northern Watch). Likewise, the Turkish uranium smuggling I refer to occurred in September 1998.
Bombing Iraqi air defenses practically every week or month has been pretty routine for the past 11 years. By my count there were 41 strike days in the 9-months from January - September 2001, for the same 9-month period in 2002 there have been 44 strike days. And with very few exceptions for the entire 11 years, the airstrikes got 2 inches in the International Briefs section of page A4 if they were reported at all. [For those in the "no military force against Iraq without a United Nations Security Council Resolution and an international coalition" crowd, I'll remind you that the No-Fly Zones were imposed unilaterally by the US/UK and are maintained by US/UK military force alone, without any international coalition and in the complete absence of any UNSCR authorization.]
Likewise, nabbing folks smuggling radioactive material has become fairly common. The International Atomic Energy Association maintains data on trafficking:
Initial press reports of seizures of "weapons-usable material" often turn out to be inaccurate, however, and none of these reported cases have been confirmed. Nuclear materials confiscated in Turkey were in most instances taken to the Cekmece Nuclear Research and Training Center in Istanbul for analysis.What the report doesn't say, however, is that these have normally been one-day stories in the international press, so after the initial misreporting as "weapons-grade" material there probably aren't any follow-up articles saying what the material really turned out to be after analysis.
Something similar to the workings of the invisible hand in the economic marketplace also takes place in the marketplace for news. The Daypop Top News list can be considered fairly analogous to the Markets Most Actives lists. (I'm going to pretty much glide over the effect of news on the marketplace, this is more about considering the overall interest in a particular news item as similar to the overall interest in buying or selling a particular stock.) Just like a stock's value may be bid up or down for reasons having nothing to do with the particular company, the interest level and importance attached to a news item may have little to do with the intrinsic importance of the incident or event reported. Of course, the same way company PR or analysts can tout a stock, editors and publishers can push a story, and they probably have a bit more influence over the news marketplace than their counterparts have over the stock market. Also, the authorities may play up a story if it suits their purposes or keep quiet and hope it will go away. (And, yes, on some occasions there is direct government pressure on the media; but that seems to backfire as often as not.) At some level, however, the general public's interest and the importance it places in a story is determined by where that story fits into their current understanding of the world, and the same can often be said for the editors and publishers. Even though people's current world view is heavily influenced by the news media, the media players are also people and they aren't all that more well-informed than anybody else (though they would probably disagree with that assessment).
Had the press routinely spent two or three days reporting every time some grifter got nailed trying to palm off red-mercury as "weapons-grade uranium" along with all the rest of the nuclear trafficking incidents, the September 2002 seizure of 100 grams of uranium with a yet to be announced U235 content, originally reported as "15kg of weapons-grade uranium," would have been more of the same. No the timing is suspicious, or they can't get their story straight so it must be a plot, or all the other oddball conjectures; it would have just been business as usual. The same goes for the August 2002 airstrikes in Iraq had the press been consistently reporting on every airstrike over the past 11 years.
Some events are important indicators of larger things, others aren't. The invisible hand of public interest tends to place the routine, distant events (No-Fly Zones, uranium smuggling) ever lower on the scale of importance and newsworthiness until they slip almost completely out of the public consciousness. When something else, such as the ongoing discussion of war with Iraq, suddenly brings them to the fore the next time they occur, it is all too common for people to think they represent something extraordinary and to give them more importance than they warrant. (Or, in some cases, they finally begin receiving the importance they actually deserved all along.)
The news media does a lousy job of putting things in context because, like this post, context is often boring. It's much more exciting to link the 35th airstrike of the year to the administration's push for regime change in Iraq than to try and explain where it really fits in; besides, that way you don't have to bother trying to explain why you didn't report on the previous 34.
UPDATE: Apparently the U235 percentage of the seized "weapons-grade uranium" has been announced after careful analysis: ZERO. Percentage of any uranium isotope in the material seized: ZERO. The stuff the scam artists had in the container "was harmless, containing zinc, iron, zirconium and manganese." (link via LGF)
Sunday, September 29, 2002
It's a secret. Frank J doesn't think it was an accident that Zacarias Moussaoui was given classified documents. The reason is so obvious you'll smack yourself in the forehead and say "Why didn't I think of that."
Fish Fry. Postmodernism's Patriarch got tossed into the FIRE on Chris Matthew's Hardball; and when he was done to a turn, Erin O'Conner cut him into bitesize pieces in what she calls, "Fisking Fish; or, Mr. T Pities a Fool." This is a Cant Watch you can't miss.