The Echo Chamber
Saturday, March 15, 2003
  3:49 PM

Don't miss Anna Bunny's protest pictorial. She's got original photography from this week's anti-war protests in D.C. 

Friday, March 14, 2003
  11:01 AM

Hydrogen Power Deserves Apollo-level Commitment

Wired magazine has published an April article about hydrogen and the important implications it could have for the United States. The authors, Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall, praise the President for mentioning hydrogen fuel cells in his last State of the Union Address:

In this century, the greatest environmental progress will come about not through endless lawsuits or command-and-control regulations, but through technology and innovation. Tonight I'm proposing $1.2 billion in research funding so that America can lead the world in developing clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles. (Applause.)

A single chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen generates energy, which can be used to power a car -- producing only water, not exhaust fumes. With a new national commitment, our scientists and engineers will overcome obstacles to taking these cars from laboratory to showroom, so that the first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free. (Applause.)

Join me in this important innovation to make our air significantly cleaner, and our country much less dependent on foreign sources of energy. (Applause.)

The problem, according to Schwartz and Randall, is that this $1.2 billion dollar level of commitment cannot result in energy independence within a decade – and that is what we should be striving for. The cost of Apollo was $100 billion in today’s dollars. Schwartz and Randall suggest that conversion from internal combustion to hydrogen fuel cells within a decade demands that level of commitment. In their article they catalog the engineering problems that need to be addressed and the estimated cost of the R & D.

The authors assert that the problems associated with producing practical hydrogen cars are problems of engineering, not feasibility.

In 1961 scientists knew that it was possible to go to the moon if we as a nation choose to go. It was President Kennedy who made the choice:

The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space…

We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war.

Certainly going to the moon was a grand challenge worthy of praise. Why, some might say, should we commit Apollo-level resources to something so mundane as automobiles? Because our country has a circulatory system – and its the nation’s highways. The continuing success of our country demands that commerce flow.

Critics of the Apollo program on the other hand always said that there was little practical benefit that we as a country gained from Apollo. If the Apollo program were just starting today the critics would be saying “going to the moon never fed a starving child.” But who could argue that the development of a nearly limitless clean supply of energy would not practically benefit our country?

By the way, I completely disagree the critics of Apollo. Apollo gave us an important cold-war victory on the way toward the collapse of the Soviet Union. Apollo required the development of the integrated circuit that later led to the computer revolution. Apollo even was responsible for the development of early hydrogen fuel cells that I’m writing about now.

General Eisenhower decided that Germany's superior roadways gave it a military advantage in World War II. Therefore, as President, he decided to create the Interstate highway system. This, of course, transformed our economy and was a big reason (together with Kennedy’s tax cuts) for the post-war economic boom.

The lesson is simply this: when the United States decides to do a great thing, it happens. Period. But the decision has to be made. President Kennedy:

But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

This is a program that all Americans should be able to support. The hawks will see this as a strategic move that is both defensive and offensive. Defensively we deprive the world of the opportunity to blackmail us with petroleum. Offensively we will bankrupt the middle-eastern terror factories. At present Arab governments maintain their power by taking our oil money and using it to subjugate their populations. These governments shift blame for this subjugation to the U.S. via virulent hate spewing madrassas. This will all come to an end if the price of oil plummets. This is a project that the hawks will love.

On the left, environmentalists will see the opportunity to rid ourselves of the internal combustion engine. A little water on the street ain’t bad exhaust, is it?

Lastly, we should do this to revive the economy. There are times when the United States should spend its way out of a crisis. This is one of those times, and this is the right project. Its will directly benefit us while cutting our enemies off at the roots. 

Thursday, March 13, 2003
  4:00 PM

"What if Saddam fails to comply and we fail to act, or we take some ambiguous third route which gives him yet more opportunities to develop this program of weapons of mass destruction? . . . Well, he will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. And someday, some way, I guarantee you he'll use the arsenal."
---President Bill Clinton, 1998. (Hat tip: John Fund).

Wednesday, March 12, 2003
  1:58 PM

Blair Steps to the Plate

At this point the dilemma as to how to proceed diplomatically is less Bush’s than Blair’s. Bush has laid down the gauntlet. There will be a vote. But the U.S. will go to war regardless of the outcome of the vote if Saddam doesn’t disarm. And Saddam is not going to disarm.

Bush has left himself no room to move. This was done on purpose in order to convert weaker allies. But this means that diplomacy has ended for Bush. Now the problem belongs to Blair.

Blair knows that the American cause is just. Blair knows that the U.S. will be successful. But Blair feels that he will pay a political price if he goes to war without U.N. Security Council approval.

I wish I could recommend a course of action to Blair. And since it’s my blog, I’ll indulge that conceit:

Mr. Blair,

Be courageous and do what you know is right. Call up Bush and tell him that you are ready to go to war regardless of the outcome in the Security Council. Then you and Bush present tomorrow, not Friday, a one-paragraph resolution that says:

Iraq has failed to completely disarm as required by U.N. Security Council resolution 1441. Therefore, the “serious consequences” contemplated by 1441 are authorized.
When that resolution fails to pass, go to war next week. You will be attacked politically. You will be burned in effigy on the London streets. But that is only short term. Once the war is won the UK will have in Iraq a powerful new ally in a strategically vital region of the world. And the U.S., the most powerful country in the world, will not soon forget how the U.K. stood with her. The world would see the atrocities of Saddam’s regime. The prestige of much of continental Europe and the U.N. will suffer. But the UK will become a key member in a new and more important alliance of freedom loving nations.

If these things happen, you will be a hero. Your party will come around.

But if you fail to be courageous a number of things could happen before the war, but ultimately the U.S. will go to war alone and win. Iraq will still be a new ally, but will not have the gratitude toward the U.K. that it has toward the U.S. The fate of the U.K. will be more closely tied to the diminished status of France and the U.N. And here’s the ironic kicker – you won’t even be given credit by your critics for being loyal to the UN. You will still be portrayed as Bush’s lap-dog.

After six months of diplomacy Bush has no more room to maneuver. The choice is yours.

I hope Blair's country will be with us.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan: Reports of Blair's political demise have been greatly exaggerated. 

  9:25 AM

Day by Day

If you haven't seen it already, you really should start reading the “Day by Day” editorial cartoon. Dean Esmay has an interview with the author/artist Chris Muir at his blog.

I’ve added a permanent link to “Day by Day” under “Editorial Cartoons” on the bar to the left. 

  8:30 AM

Is the Premature Surrender Story Premature?

Lefty blogger Mark Kleiman has written a post doubting the premature surrender story I made reference to below.

Kleiman makes several arguments that the story is bogus, but the one I find convincing is this:

And on its face, the story makes no sense. Not the part about some Iraqis deserting, which is plausible, or even deserting because they thought the war had started, which is a little harder to believe (What? No radios?) but might still be true. But under what circumstances would those soldiers be sent back to (as Eugene points out) probable death or worse, rather than being interrogated for whatever tactical intelligence they might be able to provide, disarmed, and either interned or offered a chance to join up with one of the Iraqi opposition groups?
So I’m going to file this one under “Its so good it ought to be true, but almost certainly is not.” Kleiman is a real killjoy.

Hat tip to Jim over at Unqualified Offerings

Tuesday, March 11, 2003
  4:26 PM

I'm Sure Homer is Thrilled

Universe as Doughnut: New Data, New Debate

  2:11 PM


No, this is not a post about the interminable, excruciating diplomacy that the U.S. now finds itself mired in. I’m writing about literal torture, the kind that Pat Buchanan seems so comfortable with.

Pat frames the question this way:

Would it be moral to inflict pain on this beast [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] to force him to reveal what he knows?
I hardly think I’m a bleeding heart liberal, but I have a problem with the question itself. Namely, Pat refers to Khalid as a beast.

Normally I wouldn’t have any problem calling Khalid a beast. Khalid plotted the deaths of thousands of innocent people. There is no word I can think of that is sufficiently derogatory for this evil man. But within the context of this debate I think it is very important that we first acknowledge that Khalid is human.

Any debate about torture should at least start honestly. What we are talking about is taking a human being and strapping him down and applying electricity or chemicals or drugs or hot irons or whatever.

Please understand that I’m not at all concerned about Khalid. He deserves torture. I’m concerned with what torture would do to the U.S., both subjectively and objectively.

Subjectively it would cost us some of our humanity. We would begin to consider certain people as sub-human. We might then begin to think that the societies that produced these people are sub-human. Perhaps we would start to believe that certain ethnic groups or people that practice certain religions are sub-human. This is not the right path for the United States. We are a nation of optimists.

WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
Yes I’m bringing up this passage in reference to Khalid. No I’m not suggesting Khalid should be allowed to pursue his happiness by blowing us up. I’m not even suggesting that Khalid should not be executed after the application of due process. I’m saying that Khalid was “created equal” before he gave himself over to hatred and fanaticism and evil. Reading on…
That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men.
The first and most important job of the U.S. Government is to protect our lives, our liberty, and our right to pursue happiness from enemies like Khalid. But in doing so, we as a nation should not deny the humanity of our enemies. However disconcerting it may be in individual cases, we are created equal.

Objectively torturous interrogations would cost us our reputation with other nations. It might be hard right now to appreciate this cost. Adversaries that count on our goodness not to retaliate have hamstrung our country. Many bloggers have wondered why no one is concerned with the American “street.” This is the reason. France knows the Eiffel tower is not going to be blown up by either the U.S. government or by American terrorists. Bin Laden thought we would retaliate for September 11 by launching a few cruise missiles. He was wrong, of course, but its clear he was counting on us to be too civilized to effectively respond.

But if we were to start torturing suspects in our war on terror, we would lose the moral authority to ask other countries not to torture. Human rights have already taken a back seat during this conflict. Both Russia and China feel freer to strike out against their Muslim minorities. But think what would happen if we the greatest model of tolerance started torturing. What was once a guilty secret would become acceptable and brought out in the open. They would torture their own dissidents, but they would also torture Americans.

This is why our intelligence community is by and large against torture. Our spys are understandably concerned that torture not become acceptible.

In short, we should guard the optimistic ideals of the United States throughout our war on terror. Its best for our country, but also, the world needs for the strongest influence on earth to be the good guys. 

Monday, March 10, 2003
  1:41 PM

Evidence for a Cake Walk

Remember the Iraqi soldiers that surrendered to the CNN news crew during the first Gulf War? There is a group of Iraqi soldiers that have gone one better. These guys attempted to surrender before the war.

The motley band of a dozen troops waved the white flag as British paratroopers tested their weapons during a routine exercise.

The stunned Paras from 16 Air Assault Brigade were forced to tell the Iraqis they were not firing at them, and ordered them back to their home country telling them it was too early to surrender.

The British soldiers felt sorry for these wretches.
"The Paras are a tough, battle-hardened lot but were moved by the plight of the Iraqis. There was nothing they could do other than send them back.

"They were a motley bunch and you could barely describe them as soldiers - they were poorly equipped and didn't even have proper boots. Their physical condition was dreadful and they had obviously not had a square meal for ages. No one has ever known a group of so-called soldiers surrender before a shot has been fired in anger."

When an army is demoralized to begin with, psychological operations combined with massive bombing is extremely effective. From the Northwest Florida Daily News:
Lt. Col. Raymond Chapman, commander of the 8th Special Operations Squadron at Duke, was deployed to the region as a mission planner.

He also flew psychological warfare missions [during the first Gulf War], dropping 29 million leaflets over Iraq warning Iraqi soldiers that the Blue 82, the largest conventional bomb about the size of a Volkswagen, would be dropped on their post.

"We'd fly over, drop the leaflets that said, 'You're about to have a bomb 30 times more powerful than a Scud dropped on you," he said.

The bomb's reputation for destruction preceded it. Chapman recalled that soldiers at a British outpost witnessed one being dropped and radioed command, saying, "Oh my God! The Yanks have nuked the Iraqis."

The threat of having a Blue 82 dropped on them struck fear in the Iraqi solders. The leaflets also gave instructions on how the Iraqi soldiers could surrender safely to the nearest American post.

"These guys were in bad shape," Chapman said. "They were cut off from supplies. They were hungry and scared."

Thanks to CNN, which captured events as they unfolded, Chapman said they could drop the leaflets and fly back to base and watch news footage of Iraqi soldiers surrendering with the leaflets in hand.

Today, the Blue 82 has a bigger brother called the MOAB (Massive Ordinance Air Burst). The new MOAB is a 21,000 pound bomb (Blue 82 is about 15,000 pounds) and MOAB is precision guided (Blue 82 is not). This link also provides pictures of MOAB. This thing ought to be nicknamed "The Orange Crush."
MOAB doesn’t need a parachute, like the Daisy Cutter [Blue 82's nickname], but uses a GPS (like JDAM) and an aerodynamic body to detonate the bomb at a precise area. Thus the MOAB can be dropped from a higher altitude (like outside the range of machine-guns and rifles). Like the Daisy Cutter, MOAB is shoved out the back of a cargo aircraft (usually a C-130, but since the MOAB uses GPS and higher altitude drops, the C-17 can probably be used as well.) MOAB is a highly destructive and terrifying weapon. If used in Iraq, it would demoralize any Iraqi troops in the vicinity who survived the explosion. The force of a MOAB explosion is sufficient to knock over tanks and kill any people within several hundred meters of the detonation. After the 1991 Gulf War, the United States started to get rid of it's various FAE weapons. But some were left in the inventory when the Afghanistan came along and the success of Daisy Cutters there, plus the new Russian research in FAE weapons, led to the new American research effort. There may be larger, or simply more powerful, FAE weapons in the works. But for the moment, MOAB, using pretty old fashioned technology, is the biggest non-nuclear bomb around.
So if Iraqi regulars are already trying to give up at the Iraqi/Kuwaiti border, where would the MOAB need to be deployed? The last paragraph of the Mirror article may give a clue:
Meanwhile Saddam Hussein has ordered thousands of troops back to Baghdad as he turns the city into a fortress.

It is believed that two rings of steel are being established around Baghdad. The outer one consists of regular Iraqi army soldiers and the inner one is made up of Republican Guard fighters - thought to be the only troops that will put up fierce resistance.


  10:31 AM

Another Islamic Aphorism

Here is another "aphorism" offered without comment quoted directly from

Due to the fact that we are shaped by our environment we must create an environment that in every way influences us in accord with the Will of Allah. Ultimately, everything in our environment that is an influence not in accord with the Will of Allah must be eliminated.

Sunday, March 09, 2003
  7:38 AM

Are we Done at the U.N.?

I was struck with the idea Thursday night that Bush has decided to dismantle the United Nations as an organization that controls U.S. policy.

He obviously intends to go to war regardless of the outcome of the vote he is forcing in the U.N. Security Council. He has decided that Iraq poses a real danger to the United States and he must, therefore, address this danger.

...I'm confident the American people understand that when it comes to our security, if we need to act, we will act. And we really don't need United Nations approval to do so.
But why force the vote that will probably get vetoed anyway?

First, he believes that some of these countries are bluffing. He even used the poker metaphor "show their cards." Once the vote is forced, they will capitulate and go with the U.S.

Second, those who are determined to veto will be on record as being against the war. Once we go to war anyway, easily win, and uncover the extent of the danger and the atrocities committed, history can judge who was right and who was wrong.

A danger will be eliminated and the critics will be silenced. But more importantly, the U.N. will cease to have the moral authority to stifle American foreign policy.

Steven Den Beste’s Friday post on this subject is a must-read. Make sure to also catch the Telegraph opinion piece that Beste quotes from. 

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