Redoing Reconstruction Right (in Iraq)

What the American Civil War can inform us about Iraq,” by David Ignatius, Daily Star, 5 May 2005, (from Informed Comment).

David Ignatius compares the Iraqi insurgency to the post-conflict in the American Civil War.

After the American Civil War, pandering to the old local elite was a disaster

Reconstruction suffered partly because of a mismatch between a transformational strategy and haphazard tactics. Northern radicals like Representative Thaddeus Stevens wanted to break the old slaveholding aristocracy and remake the South into a version of New England, with former slaves and poor whites dividing up the plantations. But only weeks after President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, President Andrew Johnson was moving to protect the privileges of the old regime. Even after Johnson was impeached, the Union balked at enforcing the tough land-reform strategy evoked by the slogan “Forty Acres and a Mule.”

Local pro-Reconstruction forces were too weak to stand on their own

By 1877, says McPherson, the North essentially gave up. Demoralized by the economic depression of 1873, Northern investors pulled back from projects in the South and turned their attention to the West. The troops occupying the South were withdrawn. White Southerners, defeated in war, had won the peace. The South slipped into more than 80 years of racism, isolation and economic backwardness.

So, how to apply this to Iraq? First, recognize the successes

  • It is a success that the Iraqi army was disbanded. In the South we fought plantation power — in Iraq we fight Ba’athi power. The Iraqi Army was a source of Ba’ath power and had to be eliminated.
  • It is a success that the Shia-Kurdish government does not include more Sunnis. The Shia and Kurds will be in Iraq long after we are gone. It is vital that they know the country is theirs, and their oppressors deserve no power out of propotion to their numbers. Attempts to force the Shia-Kurds to include more Sunnis weaken Shia-Kurdish resolve, and give openings ot Ba’athi remnants.

Unlike in Reconstruction, in Iraq are doing it right. We are winning.

Questioning Evolution

New Tactic In Evolution Debate,” by G. Jeffrey MacDonald, CBS News, 3 May 2005, (from Democratic Underground).

Disclaimer: My graduate thesis — A Computer Model of National Behavior — used Darwinian concepts and evolutionary algorithms. As a Catholic, I have no problem with man arising from beasts. My understanding is that the universe in all probability is around 12 billion years old. Of course, I have no memory of anything from before 1985, so everything before that is hearsay and conjecture…

That said, I am very happy Creationist agitators are encouraging schoolchildren to ask these questions to biology teachers. With one exception, they are damn fine points

# The origins of life. Why do textbooks claim that the 1953 Miller-Urey experiment shows how life’s building blocks may have formed on Earth – when conditions on the early Earth were probably nothing like those used in the experiment, and the origin of life remains a mystery?

# Darwin’s tree of life. Why don’t textbooks discuss the “Cambrian explosion,” in which all major animal groups appear together in the fossil record fully formed instead of branching from a common ancestor – thus contradicting the evolutionary tree of life?

# Vertebrate embryos. Why do textbooks use drawings of similarities in vertebrate embryos as evidence for common ancestry – even though biologists have known for over a century that vertebrate embryos are not most similar in their early stages, and the drawings are faked?

# The archaeopteryx. Why do textbooks portray this fossil as the missing link between dinosaurs and modern birds – even though modern birds are probably not descended from it, and its supposed ancestors do not appear until millions of years after it?

# Peppered moths. Why do textbooks use pictures of peppered moths camouflaged on tree trunks as evidence for natural selection – when biologists have known since the 1980s that the moths don’t normally rest on tree trunks, and all the pictures have been staged?

# Darwin’s finches. Why do textbooks claim that beak changes in Galapagos finches during a severe drought can explain the origin of species by natural selection – even though the changes were reversed after the drought ended, and no net evolution occurred?

# Mutant fruit flies. Why do textbooks use fruit flies with an extra pair of wings as evidence that DNA mutations can supply raw materials for evolution – even though the extra wings have no muscles and these disabled mutants cannot survive outside the laboratory?

# Human origins. Why are artists’ drawings of apelike humans used to justify materialistic claims that we are just animals and our existence is a mere accident – when fossil experts cannot even agree on who our supposed ancestors were or what they looked like?

# Evolution as a fact. Why are students told that Darwin’s theory of evolution is a scientific fact – even though many of its claims are based on misrepresentations of the facts?

The exception? “Evolution” (meaning the descent of man) is not a fact because it is not a datum — it is a theory because it explains facts. In the other questions the creationists are rightly attacking Darwinian propaganda.

That this is a fourth generation network attack on evolution, as seen by paragraphs like

These findings confirm the experience of Gerry Wheeler, the group’s executive director, who says that about half the teachers he talks to tell him they feel ideological pressure when they teach evolution.

And according to the survey, while 20 percent of the teachers say the pressure comes from parents, 22 percent say it comes primarily from students.

it ultimately irrelevant. Most public secondary school science classes are trash, and nothing is lost if they are infiltrated by these zealots. (It is very hard for them to get worse.). More important is that science classes are being reclaimed from textbook-authoritarians.

New York Times Likes Savings More Than Consumption

The Thrift Imperative,” New York Times, 5 May 2005,

I realize its in the context of criticizing Bush… but wow. The New York Times agrees that saving is preferable to consumption. No more archiac Keynesianism for the Old Lady!

The stock market has been a scary place lately: new yearly lows followed by big daily gains, then more lows and so on. While no one fully understands these gyrations, we do know that markets become skittish when fundamentals are out of whack. There’s arguably no more fundamental imbalance these days than the United States’ low national savings – the amount Americans save minus the amount the government borrows. But don’t expect to hear our nation’s leaders talk about it.

Not only that, Nyt correctly identifies why money invested in personal real estate is not “savings”

Individuals also do not save enough, as reflected in the widespread inadequacy of retirement savings. Some argue that the amount of personal savings is understated because it does not take into account the increase in housing values, which has many homeowners feeling flush. But elevated home values do not add to national savings.

Such wealth is not converted into cold hard cash until houses are sold, and at that point the money flowing into the sellers’ pockets is simply money that is flowing out of the buyers’ pockets. No new wealth is created unless a seller saves the windfall – which is generally not the case in today’s consumer economy. Instead, sellers increase their purchasing power, while the saving rate declines and the country as a whole becomes poorer. The uncomfortable reality is that saving is possible only by deferring today’s consumption, not by spending freely while one’s house appreciates.

Wow. More economic literacy than I ever gave the Times credit for. Wow.

Iraq Legalizes Prostitution [or Religious Escort Services, Anyway]

‘Pleasure marriages’ regain popularity in Iraq,” by Rick Jervis, USA Today, 4 May 2005, (from Democratic Underground).

When the future Islamic Republic has more personal liberty than the United States… . *insert snappy line*

In the days when it could land him in jail, Rahim Al-Zaidi would whisper details of his muta’a only to his closest confidants and the occasional cousin. Never his wife.

Al-Zaidi hopes to soon finalize his third muta’a, or “pleasure marriage,” with a green-eyed neighbor. This time, he talks about it openly and with obvious relish. Even so, he says, he probably still won’t tell his wife.

Shia allows for “temporary marriages,” a form of religiously regulated prostitution. They are also well-known in the Islamic Republic of Iran, where they are popular with theology students.

Defining it as something similar to an escort service, Ayatollah Sistani writes

Most Shiite scholars today consider it halal, or religiously legal. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest religious authority in Shiite Islam, sets conditions and obligations for muta’a on his Web site. (“A woman with whom temporary marriage is contracted is not entitled to share the conjugal bed of her husband and does not inherit from him …”)

Of course, we wouldn’t have a liberal society if a coalition of fundementalists and feminists didn’t oppose it.

Pleasure marriages were outlawed under Saddam Hussein but have begun to flourish again. The contracts, lasting anywhere from one hour to 10 years, generally stipulate that the man will pay the woman in exchange for sexual intimacy. Now some Iraqi clerics and women’s rights activists are complaining that the contracts have become less a mechanism for taking care of widows than an outlet for male sexual desires.

Sunni scholars fear that giving official sanction to pleasure marriages — many of which are only verbal agreements between the couple — are little more than legalized prostitution that could lead to a collapse of moral values, especially among young people.

Women’s rights activists are concerned. Salama Al-Khafaji, a Shiite lawmaker who supports the concept of sharia law but advocates for women’s rights, calls the re-emergence of muta’a an “unhealthy phenomenon.”

Maybe this will reverse the flow of prostitution from Iraq to Syria? Perhaps these women (sfw)are available?

Update: Chris Bowers at MyDD wonders if this is a “wedge issue.” Suuuuure…..

From Communism to War and Peace

Chirol has written a new post-Communism diagram at Coming Anarchy. I responded to his old diagram with one focusing on politics and economics. Here’s one focusing on connectivity, nationalism, and authoritarianism


As with the last post, the process begins 1989, when functioning Communist Cores existed. The largest of these was the Soviet Union and its satellites, but the Communist Cores extended into China, Korea, and other states. The states in the Cores were tied together through industrial exchange and foreign aid

In this diagram, the first choice a Communist state has after the fall of Communism is further disconnect from the world or not? The only state saying yes to this is North Korea, which has lived with its Juche peace ever since.

For countries that desire to reconnect to the world, the next question is whether to embrace nationalism or not. Many states, such as Serbia and China, chose nationalism. For these nationalists ex-Communists, authoritarianism developed naturally. The next choice is vital: is there a war or insurgency? If there is, like in Serbia, the continues until the government faces strategic despair and the people revolt. Once the will to win is gone, peace and democracy rise.

If there is no war, the authoritarian state grows into the outside world. This is the situation enjoyed by Vietnam and China.

The post-Communist non-nationalist can choose whether or not to be authoritarian. Those states saying no in the early nineties included Poland, Czechia, and Latvia. These places immediately enjoy peace and democracy.

However, some of these non-nationalists chose to embrace authoritarianism. Ukraine, Georgia, and Uzbekistan were classic examples of this. The next choice is made for them: does the state face an Islamic insurgency? Those that do find themselves in a very long struggle. Those that don’t will face populations that try to build liberal networks. When these states have peaceful revolutions, like Ukraine and Georgia, they become peaceful democracies. Others, such as Cuba and Belarus, are not yet at this stage.

You can see full versions of the chart by left-clicking on them. Otherwise, you can download them in Adobe Acrobat or 1.9 beta format.

Fallujah Marine Cleared (Again)

No Court-Martial for Marine,” Associated Press, 5 May 2005,,2933,155540,00.html.

The Army will not Court Martial a marine who shot an insurgent who was playing oppossum. Good, because feigning injury is a war crime, and the marine put a stop to that.

A Marine corporal who was videotaped shooting an apparently injured and unarmed Iraqi in a Fallujah mosque last year will not face court-martial, the Marine Corps announced Wednesday.

A review of the evidence showed the Marine’s actions in the shooting were “consistent with the established rules of engagement and the law of armed conflict,” Maj. Gen. Richard F. Natonski (search), commanding general of the 1st Marine Division (search), said in a statement.

The corporal was not identified in the two-page statement issued by Camp Pendleton, where the division is headquartered, north of San Diego.

Based on all the evidence in the case, and the rules of engagement that were in effect at the time, it is clear the corporal could have reasonably believed that the AIF [anti-Iraq forces] shown in the videotape posed a hostile threat justifying his use of deadly force,” the statement said.

Good, because this same decision was made in February.

Why bring it up again?

Evolution from Communism

Chirol at Coming Anarchy is busying graphing the collapse of Communism. Here’s a different model.

Slide 1:


Slide 2:


What’s happening?

The process begins 1989, when functioning Communist Cores existed. The largest of these was the Soviet Union and its satellites, but the Communist Cores extended into China, Korea, and other states. The states in the Cores were tied together through industrial exchange and foreign aid

After the collapse, every Communist state faced a basic question: stay with Communist economics or not? Answering yes were Cuba and North Korea. These Communist states still needed money, and so the next question was how to acquire capital. Cuba opted for peaceful links with Europe and eroticommunism, while North Korea chose its Army-First Juche Idea “threaten to kill everyone” plan.

If a state ditched Communist economics, they still were faced with a Communist/authoritarian political structure. The next question was whether to liberalize politically or maintain “Communist” politics. Keeping the old ways were “communist” China and Vietnam. Both of these states are going through an unsteady process of liberalization while maintaining the authoritarian regime.

Even if a state ditches Communist politics, the journey is still not over. The necessary reforms are painful, and states may continue or ditch reforms policies. Most eastern European states continued on, becoming functioning democracies.

Those states that ceased reforming had to return to repressing their people. The next question is one of competency and execution: were the states effective or ineffective at repression. Those that weren’t engaged in counter-effective repressions or encouraged wars to unify their people. These regimes fell, and their people (such as in Ukraine and Serbia) are now back at the “Maintain Reforms” stage.

On the other hand, Russia is an effective repressor. States like Russia have backslid into the “Communist politics” stage, becoming authoritarian regimes. Will they maintain authoritarianism and grow like China, or ditch authoritarianism and try again?

The only method known to work for creating a full democracy is No to Communist Economics -> No to Communist Politics -> Maintain Reforms. Any other path is speculative in this context.

The chart I created is also available in >PDF and >ODG [OASIS / OpenOffice 2.0] format.

British Election Blogging

The BBC feed is fascinating (hat-tip Drudge).

Among other thoughts

  • They speak better English than the Brits on The Office
  • Computer animations — actually pretty effective
  • BBC interviewers can be jerks to government officials.

    “Your government did it!”
    “All other parties supported us!”
    “So it’s their fault, not yours, eh?”

  • Making all the candidates for a seat stand in a line while the results are read seems petty
  • The George Bush parody was high-larious. Best quotes: “Tony Blair and Charley Brown are going to sock it to the King’s men!” and “It’s like the United States of Britainland over here!”
  • The Official Monster Raving Loony Party is a real party with real candidates.
  • Lib-Dems are trying to decapitate the entire Conservative Shadow Cabinet. Good luck Lib-Dems!

America’s Buddy Vietnam

Vietnam leader announces plan for visit to U.S.,” Associated Press, 5 May 2005,

Give and take: Vietnam urges sweet deal on summit and trade,” by Craig Skehan, Sydney Morning Herald, 6 May 2005, (from Dawn’s Early Light).

Vietnam helps Australia into ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian Nations)

A former enemy, the communist government of Vietnam, has pledged to press for Australia to be admitted to the East Asia summit.

Vietnam’s Prime Minister, Phan Van Khai, gave the undertaking yesterday after meeting the Prime Minister, John Howard, at Parliament House in Canberra.

But it gets better. Vietnam wants Australia to be in without Australia agreeing to not interfer with its neighbors. In other words, Hanoi wants Canberra in ASEAN to open the door to Australian peacekeepers in ASEAN states. Vietnam encouraging Australia to shrink the Gap!

Mr Khai said Australia should not be forced to sign the regional non-intervention treaty in order to be invited. The summit is intended to link the Association of South-East Asian Nations with other countries – including China, Korea, Japan and India. Mr Howard has criticised the treaty and has said Australia will not sign it.

American Allies, and Mutual Friends, Australia and Vietnam

… while Vietnam and the United States exchange VIPs

Vietnam’s prime minister announced today that he plans to become the country’s highest-ranking leader to visit the United States since the Vietnam War ended 30 years ago.

Khai’s comments came a day before U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick was expected to visit Vietnam to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the former foes.

Just another day of news about our friend, ally, and buddy Vietnam