Bush’s Advantage

The President was on TV the other morning. I pretty much pegged whatever it was he was blabbing about as either lies or stupidity or both, and promptly turned him off. Turns out I was right:

Addressing the largest audience he’s had since launching a series of speeches two weeks ago to discuss progress in Iraq, Bush told the nation that “to retreat before victory would be an act of recklessness and dishonor and I will not allow it.”

“Now there are only two options before our country — victory or defeat. And the need for victory is larger than any president or political party because the security of our people is in the balance.”

Remember “Mission Accomplished“? I mean, “major combat operations” were over a long Goddamn time ago, according to the Prez, and now he’s claiming that “retreating before victory is a dishonor”?

Didn’t he say he won, already?

You’d think that Bush would be making more of an effort to tell consistent lies, but as it turns out he really doesn’t have to. He could come out tomorrow and say that Iraqi rebels were sacrificing Christian babies and not too many of his supporters would raise an eyebrow, because he isn’t a Democrat.

This is yet another example of the problem with majoritarian politics – you don’t get a better President even if you vote against all of the liars (hint: that involves finding something better to do on election day), so most people adopt the candidate who tells the most pleasant lies. In this case, Bush is saying that winning the war in Iraq is necessary for “security”.

“Security” of course is deliberately left undefined, so that folks can plug whatever fuzzy concept they have into it. Almost everybody agrees that they want “security”, especially when the alternative is admitting to themselves that the government can’t do much except extort their money, waste most of it, and use the rest to kill people who mostly don’t deserve it.

That’s Bush’s advantage. Like a carnival barker (“See the World’s Smallest Horse!”) he’s telling the rubes what they want to hear, taking their money, and then letting them tell themselves that they’re getting what they wanted.

The Problem With Majoritarian Politics: A Case Study

A commenter at Uncommon Sense, giving unintentional support for that site’s title:

Why would Bush knowingly promote the WMD aspect when the success of that argument would cause him to send the military to uncover the fact he lied in the first place?

So the utter lack of “WMDs” (in scare quotes because the term is rife with dishonesty) is somehow proof that Bush & co. acted in good faith by insisting, over and over again, that there were such items in Iraq?

Let’s apply a little bit of Occam’s Razor here. Which is the simpler explanation for the conspicuous lack of Weapons of Mass Destruction (so-called) in Iraq?

A) The President of the United States acted forthrightly and honestly and presented the most accurate case established by American and allied intelligence, which as it turned was totally wrong, or

B) The whole “WMD” scheme was a cynical ploy to help sell this stupid war to conservatives, who blindly cheerlead this nonsense even after it’s been exposed for what it is.

You’d think that if a mistake of this caliber was made, the Republican end of the political spectrum would be just a tad outraged. I mean, let’s suppose that their dreams all come true and they get the war they want with Syria, or Iran, or whoever. If an ememy’s capabilities could be honestly overestimated to this degree, couldn’t they be underestimated as well? “Well, Mr. President, you know how we determined that the Iranians didn’t have nuclear weapons? That turns out to not be the case…”

The overwhelming silence on this matter is instructive. What that silence indicates is that not even the most true-blue O’Reilly Factor conservative out there thinks that this WMD fiasco was even one quarter based on reality. They wanted a war to avenge September 11th, never mind on who, and they got it. Now they can feel better about things.

So why rock the boat about dumb ol’ facts?

This one drop of stupidity serves as a lesson on the problem with mass politics. The reality of the situation is that facts don’t matter in mass politics, because the participants don’t pay a price for their own mistakes. This is in stark contrast to markets. A driver who holds on to the idea that his car can run just as well on water as on gasoline pays a signifigant price for his folly, and so his goofy notion is soon corrected. A voter who holds on to the idea that there are WMDs in Iraq is never corrected, because he gets the exact same government as everyone else does.

This is also why rational argumentation is usually futile at changing people’s political opinions. People are generally comfortable with their routine habits and thoughts. Changing that routine, even if it means dropping incorrect ideas in favor of correct ones, comes at a price of some discomfort. So why would the average person pay that price when there is no direct benefit to them?

Answer is that they won’t.

They’ll continue, despite reason or logic to the contrary, to hold wrong ideas. Again this is because they suffer no consequences for doing so: Bush voters got the same government that Kerry voters got, which happens to be the same government that nonvoters such as myself got.

The Primary Problem With The War On Terror

What should we expect from The War Against Terror? Consider this:

Writers jailed in 2002 for political satire
After three years at Guantanamo, Afghan writers found to be no threat to United States

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Badr Zaman Badr and his brother Abdurrahim Muslim Dost relish writing a good joke that jabs a corrupt politician or distills the sufferings of fellow Afghans. Badr admires the political satires in “The Canterbury Tales” and “Gulliver’s Travels,” and Dost wrote some wicked lampoons in the 1990s, accusing Afghan mullahs of growing rich while preaching and organizing jihad. So in 2002, when the U.S. military shackled the writers and flew them to Guantanamo among prisoners whom Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared “the worst of the worst” violent terrorists, the brothers found life imitating farce.

For months, grim interrogators grilled them over a satirical article Dost had written in 1998, when the Clinton administration offered a $5-million reward for Osama bin Laden. Dost responded that Afghans put up 5 million Afghanis — equivalent to $113 — for the arrest of President Bill Clinton.

Given this, and scores of similar items, given the demonstrated failure of central planning in general, how can this government be expected to conduct a War On Terror any better than it conducts any other affair? Supporters of the Terror War need to answer this, or ignore it, in order to proceed.

Nobody’s answered it yet. And why not?

Because the honest, rational answer is that there’s no reason at all to expect the government to handle the Terror War any better than it handles any other matter. That’s an awkward admission to make if you’re a supporter of the War On Terror:

Yes, this government’s going to fuck the matter at hand up in a spectacular fashion, and likely enough will actually make whatever problem it supposedly started out to solve worse. Instead of fixing things, which it can’t do, it will create a self-perpetuating crisis managed by career bureaucrats whose primary motivations will be ensuring their continued employment and the steady growth of their mini-empires. Everything remotely connected with this will be deemed a national necessity and naysayers will be branded as unpatriotic. Dire pronouncements of doom will be forthcoming, based on rumors at best, at regular intervals or whenever the public starts to grow weary of the whole mess. Every election cycle, various candidates will make noises about “fixing” the matter, but their fixes will to a man involve increasing the budgets of the government agencies involved.

But you should support it anyway, because it’s all we’ve got.

I could be describing support for AmTrack. In fact it’s a pretty fair comparison, since to make either of them work right, you need to do one thing:

Solve the socialist calculation problem.

Except, oops, you can’t. How does it get decided where trains run or who gets bombed? Not a price system, with near-instant feedback of market demand, but central planning overlaid with political patronage. Socialized trains don’t work any better than socialized Terror Wars, which is why you get what we have now: the Afghani Jonathan Smith in jail for three years, and a rail organization that loses money on three dollar hot dogs.

Thus the primary problem with the War On Terror: socialism.

Half Right At Best

I’ve said for years now that we need to take an analogy to David Ben Gurion’s position on WWII as our motto. His position was: fight the war against the Nazis as if there was no White Paper (British restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine) and fight the White Paper as if there no war against the Nazis. We need to fight the Islamo-Fascists as if there were no State (or any more than a minarchist state), and fight the State as if there were no Islamo-Fascists.

That’s Billy Beck quoting former No-Treason’er Tim Starr. Beck agrees with Starr’s analysis, calling it “Exactly right”.

Thing is, it ain’t.

You can’t conduct a war against the Islamo-Fascists as if there were no State, because there is a State. Your behavior, your options, your whole course of life is directly affected by the government’s policies.

Think not? Imagine what you might do to help in The War Against Terror if there wasn’t a government. Maybe you’d hire people — superbly trained killers, you bet — to get there first with the most and just smash ’em on the spot, like bugs. Except that it turns out that trying to get a private military up and running violates about ten-jillion Federal statutes, so getting involved in a free-market jihadi hunt is a good way to end up in the slam.

So are you really going to “fight the Islamo-Fascists as if there were no State”? Of course not, you’re going to recognize that the government can bring overwhelming force to bear on you, and you’re going to act accordingly.

Starr’s analogy is half right at best: conduct your affairs towards government as if there weren’t any Islamic terrorists. Matter of fact, that’s what I do. But that’s because compared to the State, Islamic terrorists have effectively no impact on my life. I judge that that’s the case for the vast majority of individuals as well. More to the point, Islamo-Fascists aren’t able to do anything to force me to change my behavior in regards to the government.

And as we’ve seen before, that doesn’t work the other way.

An Open Sentence to My Libertarian Friends Who Don’t Understand My Opposition to the War in Iraq

Don Boudreaux posts his An Open Letter to My Libertarian Friends Who Don’t Understand My Opposition to the War in Iraq. The content is predictable:

Still, the war in Iraq is unjustified. By this I mean that the justifications offered for the war by the Bush administration have proven to be mistaken or empty. Most obviously, Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. Nor is there any credible evidence that the 9/11 attackers were in any material way aided by Saddam Hussein. And while it’s true that Hussein was an evil tyrant, this fact is neither among the chief reasons first offered by the administration for going to war in Iraq, nor is it a sufficient reason for going to war.

The world is full of evil tyrants. But given the nature of government, it’s not the role of government A to sit in judgment of government B. The most legitimate role for any government is to protect its own people from violence.

My personal opposition to the war in Iraq is quite simple. Not an open letter, an open sentence:

The Iraq war is funded in part with tax loot stolen from me, and I would prefer to spend my money on things that I value more than this war.

That’s it.

And here’s the kicker: unlike the Open Letter linked above, the Open Sentence is irrefutable. A libertarian can’t argue against an individual being able to make a free choice about the disposition of his own property without dropping all pretense of being a libertarian.

Voting: Not Good For Your Health

Why? Because an indefinite detention at an undisclosed location isn’t good for your health, either:

CTV.ca | Elections Canada wants right to share voter list

OTTAWA — The chief electoral officer says he might be willing to break the law by sharing the confidential federal voters list if he thought it would help public safety or security.

That’s what you get for voting, suckers: another chance to get your name ran through the famously-accurate Homeland Security Terrorist Database.

Anti-War Stupidity

From (no surprise) Antiwar.com:

According to the Sept. 1 Manufacturing & Technology News, the Government Accounting Office has reported that over the course of the cakewalk war, the U.S. military’s use of small caliber ammunition has risen to 1.8 billion rounds. Think about that number. If there are 20,000 insurgents, it means U.S. troops have fired 90,000 rounds at each insurgent.

Anyone else see some problems there? First item: “Over the course of the cakewalk war”. Hmm. If I recall correctly, not too many insurgents were around when the Iraqi Army was still in place. Think that maybe just a few rounds of ammunition were fired at, say, the Republican Guard?

Second, strange as it may seem to someone who writes for Antiwar.com, the military actually shoots at targets sometimes. In fact, according to this statement to Congress,

We understand that prior to 9/11 the total DOD small caliber ammunition requirement through the 1990s, up until 9/11 was 350 million rounds per year and that this entire production was provided by the Government Owned, Contractor Operated Lake City Plant in Independence, Missouri.

Subsequent to 9/11, the former Army Chief of Staff issued guidance to change the training requirements for the Army and thus the total DOD training requirement increased to 1.1 billion rounds per year.

Now of course the math works out such that something’s missing somewhere – maybe some other data would clarify matters, or maybe the military’s running a tad short on projectiles. Whatever the case, the point is that it serves to demonstrate that the US military burns up a whole bunch of ammo every year even when they aren’t fighting a war in Iraq. Thus the claim that 90,000 rounds are fired at each insurgent is a gross oversimplification (if you’re charitable) or a flat-out lie (if you’re not).

The Antiwar.com piece goes on:

The combination of U.S. government-owned ammo plants and those of U.S. commercial producers together cannot make bullets as fast as US troops are firing them. The Bush administration has had to turn to foreign producers such as Israel Military Industries. Think about that. Hollowed-out U.S. industry cannot produce enough ammunition to defeat a 20,000-man insurgency.

Obviously 1.8 billion rounds (to use the author’s figure) would have been more than enough for Stalin to defeat such an insurgency. He’d have started at one side of the country and had his troops shoot everyone they came across. Sooner or later (likely sooner), the insurgency would have stopped, and far short of a billion rounds of rifle ammo.

So it isn’t “hollowed-out US industry” that’s allowing the Iraqi rebels to run around and shoot back, obviously there are more subtle things going on here, such as the facts that the US government isn’t Stalin’s Russia and that George W. Bush (again, shocking as this might be to an Antiwar.com columnist) isn’t Stalin.

And this isn’t cherry-picking, that column should have been edited with an axe. I mean it’s fine to be anti-war and all, but look: you need to get your bloody facts straight, even the ones that get in the way of making an overwrought point about how terrible (yet incompetent) the bad ol’ US government is. The way this stands, the editorial page of AWC looks about as trustworthy as a CentCom press release.

Casey Sheehan – Just Following Orders

The big anti-war tent outside the Crawford ranch is on its way to surpassing the Winchester Mystery House for blind stairwells and bizarre additions. Today Mother Sheehan added a few more curious wings to Camp Casey, welcoming in Hamas, tax protesters, impeachment advocates, and those who would prosecute American military leaders for war crimes.

It’s inevitable that those who mock and villify Mother Sheehan will be quick to criticize her for corpse dragging. They’ll make statements to the effect that she’s defiling her son’s memory by making him the centerpiece of her roadside freak show, but, as Radley Balko points out, how can they know the mind of Casey Sheehan better than his own mother? How can they know that Army Spc. Sheehan did not feel that he was complicit in war crimes? Certainly he volunteered to participate in Bush’s criminal war, but he was, after all, just following the orders of the architects of war crimes. He was only doing their bidding, albeit quite willingly, when he died in Iraq.

While it’s true that poor Casey’s corpse would have fared better had it been dropped from a helicopter onto the streets of Mogadishu, if Mother Sheehan wants to enlist her own son into a posthumous war against George Bush, who is Michelle Malkin to malign her for it?

note: Yet another weird addition has materialized along the Crawford roadside attraction in the form of David Duke’s stamp of approval. Mother Sheehan’s demand for Israel’s withdrawl from Palestine has met with the former Grand Dragon’s passionate endorsement of the protest.

Government Limited By Law

Stephan Kinsella on the LRC blog:

Thank God! The draft of the Iraqi Bill of Rights just shows America is helping to spawn liberty in the mid-east.

Looks like the Iraqis are going to get limited government just like we have here in the US of A. What’s that, you say? The Iraqis are having a state with effectively unlimited powers imposed on them? But that’s what “limited government” is, folks: government limited only by itself. And how can government limit itself? It can’t, because any government, anywhere, implicitly has the power to dispose of the life, liberty, and property of anyone under its thumb: if it didn’t have that power, it wouldn’t be a government.

Every government has in principle unlimited power under the law. That’s why the de facto conditions in the US pretty much mirror what the Iraqis are spelling out explicitly: you have the freedom to do X, except where X is prohibited by law.

Then you don’t.

And that’s all that there is or ever was to “limits” placed on government by various government documents: a layer of paperwork that needs to be completed before the aforesaid disposal can get started. A layer of paperwork that can be legislated away (or ignored – who’s going to stop it?), should it prove a little too burdensome.

So it’s “Mission Accomplished” for Iraq, I guess. (Honestly: did anyone expect anything more?)

Insult To Injury

The latest:

WASHINGTON, May 18 (Reuters) – President George W. Bush on Wednesday acknowledged problems with the post-war effort in Iraq and said the United States must respond more quickly to help new democracies build stable institutions.

“One of the lessons we learned from our experience in Iraq is that, while military personnel can be rapidly deployed anywhere in the world, the same is not true of U.S. government civilians,” he said in prepared remarks to the International Republican Institute, which aims to promote democracy worldwide.

To remedy this Bush cited an initiative in his budget that would create a corps of trained civilians who could be deployed on short notice to help in crises caused by war or revolution.

Yes: “U.S. government civilians” have worked so well at turning this country into the peaceful paradise that it is, what with all of our freedom and all, let’s just export that same mechanism to every third-world shithole that FedGov decides to plop troops into. What better hope for winning hearts and minds than with prefabricated Child Protective Services, Departments Of Motor Vehicles, and Building Code Enforcement Agents all in place, ready to go at a moment’s notice and spread The American Way?

I’m sure glad that we have a Republican president and Congress, else there’d be all kinds of hare-brained socialist crap coming out of the White House.