A speech at John Hopkins by the SECDEF is quoted in the Wall Street Journal today. I continue to like and admire Rumsfeld, in spite of my occasional deep disagreements on particular policies. Nevertheless, it is clear that he is a serious thinker, honest and direct, and possessed of a courtly manner that befits a gentleman and a high official.

This last thing, in the hands of an American Secretary of Defense, is as important to our diplomacy as any diplomat. When Rumsfeld lists among the "difficulties" in Iraq that "Iran and Syria are being notably unhelpful," a firm message is delivered without the need for saber rattling. When he points out what the stakes in Iraq are for all Americans, it is without overstatment.

The speech should be read in full. It is not merely a restatement of confidence in the mission. It is also a direct engagement with the journalists covering the war. The last third of the speech praises them for what they have gotten right, and challenges them on what they have gotten wrong.

He ends with Jefferson, which is a good place for beginnings and endings alike. "But to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, we are all Republicans. We are all Democrats. We are all Americans. We are all in this together." So we are. Whether the war is won by soldiers or surrendered by politicians; whether Iraq rises to stability or falls to chaos, the consequences will lay upon us all together.


This afternoon, I was suddenly reminded that today is the 64th anniversary of a tragic event.

As told by President Roosevelt to Congress a day after the attack:
Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan....

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph -- so help us God.

Many thousands died that day. Hundreds of thousands more would die in the battles against the Empire of Japan and its allies in Germany and Italy.

Today, I would like to remember those who died in Pearl Harbor. I would also like to remember those who died in another surprise attack 4 years ago, and the thousands who have died in the resulting combat action and nation-building.

We are forever in their debt.

More on IO

More on IO:

The military issued a statement on the IO campaign in Iraq that seems to have gotten everyone's dander up. The statement appears to read, 'Thanks for your input, everybody. If we decide we've done anything wrong, we'll stop doing it. As to which, we'll get back to you.'

My favorite piece of criticism of this IO comes from Christopher Hitchens, who was in full voice:

In a situation already dominated by rumor and conspiracy-mongering, and in a country rife with death squads, it exposes every honest Iraqi reporter to the charge that he or she is an agent of a foreign power. Who at the Pentagon could possibly have needed to have this explained to them? ... The prostitute journalist is a familiar and well-understood figure in the Middle East, and Saddam Hussein's regime made lavish use of the buyability of the regional press. Now we, too, have hired that clapped-out old floozy, Miss Rosie Scenario, and sent her wh....g through the streets.
Hitchens is a serious writer, and a good one, but this is just silly. It might be a plausible argument if the US were the only group in Iraq attempting to promote a story line. However, that's not even close to the case. Iran is going at it with both hands, and Iranian-linked groups actually run some of the major news sources in Iraq (such as SCIRI's press). The 'prostitute journalist' is hardly an American export.

Everyone in Iraq knows that foreign powers are trying to influence their thinking. The United States, at least, requires that our attempts to do so involve only truthful information. We may pay folks to print stories for us, but the stories will at least be true. You think Iran restricts itself thus? Syria? Turkey, even?

Yet, as always, the United States is the villian even though it is trying to play the same game as everyone else by more moral rules. Even our Mr. Hitchens forgets that this time, which is a shame. I've come to expect better from him, though I have confidence that this was merely a momentary lapse.

Favorite, Foolish

Favorite Foolish Headline of the Day:

"U.S. Missile, Al-Qaida Death May Be Linked."

You don't say! I wonder what the link could be?


Credit Where Credit Is Due:

I see that InstaPundit points to a P.A. Miller piece asking why there are suddenly calls for withdrawal from Iraq. The fellow posits a theory: that victory is nigh, and political opponents of the White House and the war must derail it if at all possible.

Grim's Hall asked the same question two weeks ago, and credit for having come up with that line of argument may properly belong to commenters "g wood" and Noel. They both articulated forms of it at that time.

Is it true? Howard Dean said that defeat is certain, as did Richard Cohen. John Kerry is expanding the complaint, accusing the military of terrorizing children in Iraq. That sounds like three of the top figures for the Left, all asserting not only that we are going to lose, but in fact that we ought to lose. It would be morally improper for a military force that makes its way by terrorizing kids to win any victory. Any good American should oppose it.

Evidence against that proposition is legion. Consider this graph, or General Abazaid's comments:

[The General] is amazed as he goes around the country and testifies before the Congress how many of our countrymen do not know or understand what we are doing or how we are doing. There are very few members of Congress who have ever worn the uniform (of our armed forces). He said that the questions he gets from some in Congress convince him that they have the idea that we are about to pushed out of Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no relation between this and the reality on the ground.

As he goes around the region and talks to troops and junior officer he is very impressed by their morale and their achievements. They are confident that they are capable of defeating the enemy. You will never see a headline in this country about a school opening or a power station being built and coming on line, or a community doing well. Only the negative things will get coverage in the media. He told the mid-grade/senior officers to go to their local Lions Clubs when they go home and tell the people what they are doing. If they don't get the word out, the American people will not know what is really happening.
You can also consider Bill Roggio's reports from the ground. I've had the pleasure of working with Bill, and while I know him to be devoted to the cause of victory, I also have faith that he would give it to you straight if he thought we weren't winning. Yet his reports, which unlike the media reports actually come from someone who understands strategy and tactics, are quite positive and well informed.

At this point, I think that anyone who asserts that we are being defeated in Iraq falls into one of three categories:

A) Someone ignorant of military science.

B) Someone acting out of a political agenda that benefits from defeat in Iraq.

C) Someone who should be challenged to prove it.

I have never seen a convincing argument based in military science that the war is unwinnable, or even that it isn't being won. Concerns that it could be handled better in certain areas, which I sometimes share, don't amount to an overriding argument that the war is failing overall. Even if every area of the war were being mismanaged, that war could still be won if the enemy is weaker (as ours is), your resources are greater (as ours are), and the dynamics of the war favor you rather than your opponent. I believe that the dynamics favor our side, for reasons explained in these several pieces I have written over the last year and a half.

Anybody who wants to prove me wrong is invited to break lances with me. If they cannot explain why we are supposedly losing, with actual evidence to demonstrate that their trend analyses are correct or at least plausible, I must assert that they fall into category A or B. When I wrote about this topic first some weeks ago, I found it hard to believe that any serious political figure in America could prefer defeat just because it would confer a domestic political advantage. Yet, as Sherlock Holmes said, "When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." Here, then, is a chance to prove that it is possible to believe we are losing, and not fall in camp A or B.


More Military Links:

Strategy Page has more on the Rules of Engagement situation, although I think Joel's post below is still the most informative I've seen. SP is under the impression that the rules have not gone into effect yet, though JHD assures me that they have. The thing to watch is how the rules are applied, and how they are handled by commanders and NCOs in the field. It's a topic that interests me, so I will continue to watch for items on it -- and if any of you learn anything on topic, please email me.

NRO has a very good piece today on Iraqi Army training, and the quality of the recruits.

Mudville has a call from Soldiers' Angels for donations of recreational equipment to wounded servicemen at Brooke Army Medical Center. I think I can probably come up with a couple of old pool cues. See what you can come up with.



Kathleen Parker’s article, “For Instructions On How To Lose War, Consult Flow Chart," inaccurately describes the effect of the recent change to the standing rules of engagement.

Maj Mannle from the Office of the SJA to the Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) provided the following clarification in an information paper on this subject.

Key Points

a. Pertinent text of the (new) rule on the inherent right of self-defense. The rule states that, “unless otherwise directed by a unit commander, military members may exercise individual self-defense in response to a hostile act or demonstrated hostile intent. When individuals are assigned and acting as part of a unit, individual self-defense should be considered a subset of unit self defense.” (Emphasis added.) The rationale for the rule is to maximize and stress the primacy of unit self-defense for commanders- not to limit individual service members. Two points bear mention:

(1). No change regarding commanders’ authority. The rule merely quantifies what has always been ground truth: a commander, in the context of mission accomplishment, may place self-defense of the unit (i.e., all individuals) above that of one individual. Current language states that “unit commanders always retain the inherent right and obligation to exercise unit self-defense.” The previous SROE stated (with regard to individuals) that “their use of force must remain consistent with lawful orders of their superiors, the rules contained in this document, and other applicable rules of engagement promulgated for the mission or AOR.” Under both the previous and current SROE, a commander could decide he’d rather allow an enemy to advance in order to exploit the element of surprise, rather than have a Marine on an OP start shooting when that Marine decides he’s about to be attacked.

(2). Individual right of self-defense remains the default. Despite a commander’s ability to limit the right of individual self-defense, the rule is clear that individual service members have a standing right of individual self-defense. It takes express, unequivocal direction by a unit commander to subjugate this right to unit self-defense.

Both MNF-W and MNC-I received and carefully reviewed the new SROE in August. They concluded that the new SROE would not change the conduct of operations.

b. Lawful implementation of the rule. The notion that the rule cannot be “lawfully implemented” (enforced) because restricting [individual] self-defense contradicts the Code of Conduct is patently ridiculous. There is no relation whatsoever between the rule and the principle that Americans do not surrender when they have the means to resist.

5. Conclusion. CJCSI 3121.01B has changed to emphasize the primacy of unit self-defense, yet the rule in the current SROE on the inherent right of self-defense remains the same: individual service members may exercise the inherent right of self-defense- unless their unit commander directs otherwise.

RT Guard

The Thai Royal Guards:

I believe I have uncovered evidence that the Thai Royal Guards are the toughest fighting men alive. They'd have to be, to wear this uniform:

A man walks down the street wearing a hat like that, you know he's not afraid of anything.

ROE What?

A Most Disturbing Story:

Joel, would you mind to take a look into this? If this is being accurately portrayed, it's the most disturbing story I've heard in a while.

In June, the Pentagon changed its Standing Rules of Engagement to allow commanders to limit individual self-defense by members of their unit. Interpreted for me by two Army judge advocate general officers (JAGs), this essentially means that soldiers and Marines may not have the individual prerogative to fire upon an enemy when they are faced with an imminent threat of death or serious injury. That belongs only to commanders, who may not be present to make a decision every time a soldier or Marine faces a deadly threat.

The impetus behind the rule change likely evolved from concerns that a soldier might misinterpret a danger and kill an innocent instead of a bad actor. But critics say the solution to this ever-present tension is better training, not more restrictive rules.

Commanders and JAGs close to the debate say the rule change poses numerous potential problems and contradicts the guiding principle in all of America's rules of engagement, which is that nothing in these rules limits the inherent right of self-defense. If a soldier or Marine can't make a split-second decision to kill or be killed, even at the risk of making an erroneous judgment, he or she may eventually hesitate, fumble the wrong way, and end up dead.
Hat tip: Sharp Knife.

UPDATE: I'm going to leave this post on top today, as it seems to me a tremendously important matter. You cannot "turn off" the right to self defense. It is the most fundamental right -- "the inherent right," as the piece puts it. The military can suppress free speech for a time, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and so forth. These rights, recognized in the Constitution, can be set aside by military orders. Volunteers, even draftees in the days of the draft, can be ordered into dangerous situations -- volunteers particularly.

Neither can you set aside personal responsibility for how the right is used. Whether you have orders or not, you as a serviceman are personally responsible for the fashion in which you bear the arms entrusted to you, even as a civilian who exercises the right to keep and bear arms is responsible for how he uses his arms. If you act "in self defense" in a fashion that is not appropriate, you have in fact committed a crime for which you can be punished under the UCMJ. This is true just as a civilian who wrongly shoots another can be punished under state and sometimes Federal law. More than that, you will answer to yourself, if you guess wrong and kill an innocent. For many, this will be a worse punishment than the law.

Because the responsibility exists in the law, in all times at all places, there is no need to abridge the right -- even were it moral to do so, which it is not. It is already the case that the soldier and Marine will answer for how he uses his arms. The military has apparently decided that it might prefer not to answer for how it has trained him to use them. Better that he should stand in place, and maybe die, than that the military should risk having to explain why he shot what turned out to be an innocent.

Such moral risks exist in war. There is no avoiding them, and though training can mitigate them no war can be fought without them. It will not help to tie his hands.

Nor is it right to do so. It is also the case that he will answer for how he has failed to use them. Only in some cases will the law participate in that process, if for example he refuses orders to fight. The worse case is the one in which he makes a choice not to defend himself or his unit -- guesses wrong about a figure who might be a civilian but who might be a suicide bomber -- and has to live with the memory of his friends.

These are awesome moral weights to bear at any age. Yet there is no avoiding them. The consequences -- sometimes legal, certainly moral -- will fall on these young men on the front lines. The worst of them cannot be touched by the law. It is hard enough that these men must take up such weights so young. It is unacceptable that the military should strip them of the power to choose and act. The weight will not leave their shoulders because the power left their hands.


Outrages of the Week:

The COUNTERCOLUMN points out that the US military effort to place stories in the Iraqi press is not only legal but required by Joint Service doctrine.

Relevant passages occur in Annex D to Appendix B (Guidance for PSYOP Operations) and page 29 or so and following.

The guidance is very clear: IO operations should be an integral part of planning at all levels - strategic, operational, and tactical, and that IO operations include a PSYOP component, and PSYOP operations should be coordinated with Public Affairs.

The doctrine also makes it clear on page 29 that news media outlets are an increasingly important part of that battlefield.

The doctrine also makes it clear at several points that the general host nation population is a legitimate target for Information Operations. It was ever thus.

The only thing the doctrine prohibits, with regard to working with foreign media, is using the media to print false information. During time of war, all else is fair game.
Greyhawk at the Mudville Gazette, however, is not comforted because he's too busy being shocked by the latest outrage.
Congratulations to those of you who are still reading - obviously you expressed your outrage by smashing something other than your computer screen. When will the Bush administration learn that it has no business supporting its policies?
You know, this is one of those things that wouldn't have happened if everyone weren't so eager to write boooks about their role in public affairs. If you could rely on people's professionalism, you wouldn't have to worry about their personal sentiments.

It has become usual for every public official who attains any sort of prominence to write tell-all stories the moment they leave their posts (or sometimes before, as in the case of the "Anonymous" Mr. Scheuer). These things have different titles and authors, and they suggest different solutions to common problems. Nevertheless, every one of them could have had the same subtitle: "Why I'm right, and everyone else in the government is dead wrong." No one writes to express support, or to proudly explain their role in helping bring about successful policies. Everyone starts with the assertion that successful policies would have been much more successful if only people had listened to them, and that failed policies were a direct result of people not listening as well.

When you've been hit by one book after another of this type for five years, I'm sure you do get a bit gun shy. "Before we appoint this fellow to a critical position in the GWOT effort," you'd say, "We might as well start planning now for his expose. Find out whether it's going to say we're pawns controlled by a Jewish cabal or a domestic cabal, and also see if you can learn if he thinks we're trying to undermine his department because we are guilty of some secret plan to take over the oil supply, or if he just thinks we're undermining his department because we're morons."

"But we aren't undermining his department," your underling would point out. "After all, we're about to appoint this guy to a critical position in our war effort."

*Sigh.* "You just don't get D.C. politics, do you son?"



Everybody's posting gift guides. I'll just repost a link to my favorite of them, No-Longer Drill Sgt. Rob's gift guide for deployed soldiers. Lots of men would like gifts off this list even if they aren't deployed military. I commented on it a year ago, and endorsed his choice of an Applegate-Fairbairn folder. A year later, I still carry that knife every day. It's the best folding knife on the market, I think -- certainly the best one I've encountered.

Here are a couple more "pointy" gifts. They're from a category called "custom knives," which means knives that are each individually forged by a smith who knows his business. They're works of art as much as tools, though in order to be a work of the knifemaker's art, they have to be entirely functional and very difficult to damage.

I am the proud owner of a "Stek" knife, which are hand-forged damascus steel, and sold apparently only through Ebay. (Here is what they're selling just now.) It's the most beautiful knife I've ever encountered, and the best by far. The man and his son, who work together to create these things, are masters of the art. Because items are for bid, price is not certain, but I wouldn't object to paying two-four hundred dollars for one of their full-sized fighting knives if I were planning to buy another. That's about usual in the market for a custom knife, and these are top quality. However, because it's on Ebay, you might get it for less if you're quick or careful.

Shoot! Magazine, a publication devoted to the "cowboy action shooting" hobby, endorsed ML Knives in their Nov/Dec edition. They're beautiful replicas of 18th/19th century designs. The article gives specs on the carbon steel he uses, and they sound like quality blades -- but I've never handled one, so I can't attest to them for certain, but only pass on Shoot!'s recommendation. (If anyone from ML Knives wants a formal review out of me, however, feel free to send me a Western or Alamo Bowie to examine.) A glance at their page of currently available knives shows that prices are quite reasonable for custom-made knives. That may be because they aren't as well known as some, or it may be because they target a very specific market, people who want a frontier-style knife that appears somewhat rustic. I happen to like that sort of thing, but it's not what everyone wants.

There are much more expensive custom knife makers out there -- take a look at KnifeLegends or KnifeArt to see just how high the prices can go. You can get a top-quality knife for a whole lot less than what they are asking, if you know where to look.


Barrett Rifles:

It's bad enough that the AP decieved Barrett Rifles as to its purpose in soliciting an interview. It's worse that they then ran a story filled with inaccuracies ('penetrating tank armor from a mile away'), 42% of which was drawn directly from gun-control advocates, including only one quote from Barrett after they taped a long interview with him.

It's worst that picked up the story and ran it without comment. The AP editors can get away with saying that they know nothing about firearms, and so couldn't spot the bad information (and bad faith) from their reporter. has no such excuse.

Fortunately, they do have the forums:

* I guess those terrorists will just hide it under their coat and smuggle it into the airport. Please. This thing is huge, heavy and expensive. Just exactly how many have been recovered from crime scenes? How many have actually been used in the comission of a crime?

* I'm a federal police lieutenant and a member of the Police Marksmanship Association. I do not have a problem with civilian ownership of these firearms or the Title I & II weapons out there. What people forget is that the same folks who are attracted to legal, registered full auto weapons, sound suppressors and artillery pieces also are generally the folks buying the Barrett M-82's and M-95's. We have yet to see a single criminal incident with a .50 caliber rifle.

* No Barretts have ever been used in a crime. Not once, not ever. They weigh 30 lbs. Shoot down a plane? With a semi-auto from how far away? Bull.

* I dont think you can fire it from the shoulder, all the classes we got didnt mention it. I never saw it employed in that fashion always used the bipod. My unit only used it to at most 1100M. it works pretty good, but the buffer is made of a plastic that gets pretty beat up after awhile. maybe with SLAP ammo you could get that range. as to the 10,000 yrds i doubt most could even see that far in typical engagement scenarios with the issue optic(M3).
There's quite a bit more.


The Biblical Worldview Test:

Have you tried this test? It is designed to measure whether or not your "worldview" is rooted in the Bible. I'm afraid I didn't do very well -- they rated me as a "Secular Humanist" overall, but I did particularly badly in the science section, where I scored negative twelve percent ("Communist").

There are three things I particularly love about this test.

1) Every question has a "correct answer." Even the one about the Bible's opinion on a flat tax.

2) The correct answer is always either "strongly agree" or "strongly disagree." The test permits you to "tend to agree/disagree," or state that you have "no opinion." These answers, however, are always wrong. The Bible is perfectly clear on every topic.

3) You actually get double points taken off for stating that you have "no opinion" versus having exactly the wrong answer. If you say you "strongly disagree" with a statement they want you to "strongly agree" with, you lose half as many points as if you say you have no opinion at all. It is apparently better to be flat wrong and sure of it, than to entertain any uncertainty in your beliefs.

This last accounts for my particularly hideous score in the science section. For example, I listed having "no opinion" on the question as to whether there was or was not evidence for a worldwide flood. Well, there is, in the form of narratives not only in the Bible but in every human culture; and there is also evidence against the proposition, in the form of geology. Does the one kind of evidence overwhelm the other, or do you remain open to the possibility that scientists may yet discover evidence to back the narrative? It wouldn't be the first time -- Homer's description of forms of armor used five hundred years before his birth proved to be perfectly accurate, and Troy was discovered after centuries of men believed that the whole thing was an untrue myth. It seems to me that the proper position is to recognize the evidence on both sides, favor the hard science because it's testable -- but with the provision that the other evidence does exist, and may someday be proven out.

Well, that kind of open-mindedness is apparently the work of evil Commies. Now, I've been accused of a lot of things in my time, but being a Communist -- that's a first.

Liberal Thinking

Secrecy and Economics:

Via the Dawn Patrol, I found Right Wing of the Gods' critique of a piece called "My Liberal Manifesto." The Manifesto itself is not that interesting because it does not examine the ideas it puts forward, but instead merely asserts them. The formula is "I believe X," period.

The critique (which continues here) is much more interesting, because it explains the reasons behind why Dans, the author, agrees or disagrees with each position. As it stands, it is a very good explanation of a centrist-right libertarian's reasons for rejecting the leftist model. It would be a very useful exercise for someone who adheres to the original positions to explain why they think their positions are the stronger ones, addressing the particulars raised in the critique.

I am obviously not the person to do it, for the most part. I can, however, engage the gentleman on at least one question. I think he brings up a good point about government secrecy, a topic we were just discussing at length. I have to quote part of his answer on economics first, for reasons that will become clear:

I believe that the government is no more corrupt or inefficient than a huge multinational corporation (Enron),

Of course Enron was the exception, not the rule. The market also dealt with their dishonesty, as James K. Glassman noted:
The Enron scandal was primarily a story of executives and auditors deceiving investors about the true state of a business. If it was "greed" that caused the deception, it was greed that uncovered it as well. James Chanos, a money manager who specializes in short-selling (speculating that a stock's price will fall), got wind of Enron's shenanigans, and tipped off a reporter at Fortune. Enron was forced to restate its earnings and acknowledge hidden debts.

Investors reacted with fury, dump-ing Enron stock. The company's worth declined from $30 billion to almost nothing. Before any indictment or government report, the market pronounced Enron guilty and imposed a sentence of capital punishment. Then longtime clients started punishing Arthur Andersen, Enron's auditor. Delta ended its 53-year relationship with the auditor, as did Merck and Freddie Mac. Andersen, and the executives who allowed it to stray, face oblivion.
The government? It does the very same thing, as Walter Williams wrote:
Enron used accounting gimmicks to hide debt and make corporate executives look good and earn fat bonuses. Congress does the same thing. Each year, it transfers vast sums of money from the Social Security and the Federal Highway trust funds to hide debt, and they boastfully lie to us saying they've not only balanced the budget but created a surplus.
So what's the difference between Enron and the government? Enron doesn't exist anymore! Not because of government action, but because the people withdrew their support by selling their stock. Yet Washington has no such worry.
That argument underlies his argument against worrying over government secrecy, which is in part two of the critique.
I believe the government should be transparent and open to prevent corruption rather than always hiding behind ‘national security’,

What difference would that make? As my first post on this subject pointed out with Social Security, government corruption exists openly. The problem with corruption isn't so much that it's kept secret under "national security", it's that the people are oblivious to it even when it's not hidden from view. The corruption in government is made possible only because of the apathy of the people.
The author goes on to state the argument from security in addition. Joel and I were just having that discussion, so I won't repeat it. I do think that the fellow raises an interesting point here, however: that it hardly matters if government corruption were exposed, as relatively few Americans care. It wouldn't make any difference if we knew.

The argument hinges on the idea that Americans are prepared to accept corruption at a certain level, in order to avoid being bothered with stopping it. Political involvement of the type that can change Federal policies is hard work and lots of it, and there is no guarantee that you will achieve any success even if you invest that kind of time and work because there will be others organizing against you (look at, for example; their endless fundraising and spending, organizing and politicing hasn't actually accomplished any of their goals). That kind of personal investment is something most people would rather not make, preferring to spend the time they have away from work on family or hobbies or other enjoyable activities.

Because the activity is so engrained in our political culture, changing it requires a tremendous amount of energy -- not just electing a new representative, but changing the entire leadership of at least one of the houses of Congress. You could do that either by pressuring or replacing the current leadership of the party in power, so that they became devout on the question of not playing budgetary games; or by electing a new party into power. The first of these two is hard, as described above. The second is easier, but perhaps very expensive: if you disagree with the opposition party on important matters, you may very well choose to accept a certain number of bad things from the current party rather than replace them with a party that will turn the government in a direction you would dislike.

The question is whether it would be the same with issues of moral corruption, rather than budgetary gamesmanship. The answer, I think, is that we would very much like to believe that it would not... but that there is probably a large zone of moral corruption issues where it would indeed be the same. I think there are some core, bedrock issues that Americans care about more than they care about their personal politics -- a government that openly banned the free exercise of religion, or ignored election results, would surely come in for serious trouble.

On the other hand, we have seen internal pressure used effectively, for example in the case of the recent abortive Supreme Court nomination. Without rehashing the merits of that particular case, it does show that there are at least some issues that are important enough to draw popular revolt within a party. The composition of the Supreme Court is probably one of them for both parties; abortion is one for the Democratic Party. There probably aren't a lot of issues like this, though, because the parties are both coalitions of groups with similar but different interests and priorities. On the issues where those interests are largely aligned, the party isn't terribly likely to buck its base anyway. A revolt of this type is therefore only likely to happen on issues when the coalition is broadly united on a point, and the party leadership goes the other way. Why would they do that?

Well, they might do it if it could be done in secret.

There is a real difference between the calculation described above, which Dans calls apathy but which is really an understandable economic calculation, and the case of moral corruption in secret. In the one case, we as a people are making decisions about what we care about enough to invest our time and energy in. We are aware of the cost of trying to change things, and the cost of leaving them alone, and we are making a free choice.

Even if Dans is correct that people would be apathetic on issues of moral corruption -- as I said, I think they might be on at least some of them, though there are bedrock issues that would draw revolt -- the "apathy" is itself an exercise of a free people. The evidence is all there; they can choose to look or not to look, to act or not to act. The nature of the Republic is preserved by this.

In cases where corruption is secret -- and here I am not asserting that there is any secret corruption going on in the government, because of course I do not know -- the People can't perform their duty as citizens. They have no choice. They are prevented from being moral actors, because they are given no knowledge. To the degree that the government operates secretly, it ceases to be a government of the People.

I am therefore moved to side with the liberal on this question, with the unfortunately large exception carved out by the argument from danger. Sadly, there are things that really do need to be secret. As Joel and I recently discussed, I think our national security could actually be improved by lessening secrecy and increasing distribution of sensitive information. But I do not argue that we can do that with all information. It is clear that we cannot. There really must be some secrecy for reasons of national security, and it would be irresponsible to argue otherwise.

Dans may very well be right that sunshine would not prevent corruption, or at least not many kinds of corruption. Even if it did not, it would still be the right thing to do. It is right because it preserves the character of the Republic, and allows the People to be free and to choose. To the very greatest degree possible, then, we ought to pursue it.



Lots of us bears around, apparently.

But there is something that lies beneath all of that kindness, an agressive person that will kill if you have to. Yes, you love people, but if the mess with you too much then out comes the beast within. People that have experienced this side of you keep their distance.
Only for a while.


End of an Era:

As of today, Drill Sergeant Rob is not a drill sergeant any more. He says the best part is getting rid of the Smoky Bear hat (or, "Montana bash," as the cowboys say). I can't agree, being a confirmed wearer of large hats, but good luck to a man who's been training our warriors for a long time now. He's getting a promotion, and a ticket to Fort Carson.