Kat Continues

Monday, October 23, 2006

Kat, who I linked before, has been answering some guestions posed by a war skeptic. Her answers expand a good deal on the original post and give one a much better idea of what the reconstruction in Iraq is like. Because the news coverage of this aspect of the war has been totally worthless I highly recommend reading what she has to say at My Thinking Corner.

Teaser:
Second in importance were vital services, such as electricity or repairs to damaged water and sewer systems. This proved to be substantially more difficult than initially expected, partially due to war damage but largely due to long-term neglect under Saddam. For example, it was not unusual to replace an obviously damaged valve on a water supply system only to find that once pressure was placed on the balance of the line, three other valves (not to be found anywhere in Iraq) promptly blew, or whole sections of pipe split, or leaks developed around hundreds of packing joints and gaskets.

Yeah, that was for you civil engineering and construction geeks.

Update: (From MeaninglessHotAir) Kat's comments on Thinking Corner may well be the best thing you will ever encounter on this blog. Drop everything and read them now, and forget for a moment all the other dreck out there on television, in the newspapers, and, yes, even on this blog.

16 comments:

Rick Ballard said...

"We can remove dishonest politicians, but there is no formula or set of laws available to remove a dishonest media. So if we are content to be foolish, which is potentially more dangerous?"

Kat ain't no dummy.

The "more troops" argument by that blogger (not Kat) reveals a pretty basic lack of understanding of security issues. Law enforcement can use a force of under 20K to maintain order in LA because 99.9% of the population is law abiding in the first place. If it ever drops to 99% 200K cops won't be able to maintain order. And soldiers are not cops.

We could have more security with a lot fewer troops if we instituted "shoot a sheik day" every day for a month. First assign them the job of security - which is their primary function anyway - and then shoot the ones who don't perform. It would be a lot less bloody to do that than trying to ferret out that .08% of the population who are raising hell - at the sheiks instigation.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

Chuck,

Thank you!

That was the most inspiring and honest thing I have read in years. I only wish that I could get many of my fellow countrymen and women to read it with an open heart.

The idiot whose blog it is on is yearning for a powerful dictator, one who doesn't make mistakes, one who sings the perfect song. The world's all messed up because of....Bush! He's not the perfect God-like daddy we deserve. Some people will never be ready for democracy.

Knucklehead said...

This Kat is the meow! There's no end of great stuff in her comments but she finished one of her long explanatory posts with this:

Iraq can be a lot of things in the future. But for now, they require oil, they require electricity, and they require water. They require roads and basic care and security. Most of these are things that we in the US cannot provide for ourselves individually, but instead must band together to do as townships, states, and nation. It is not a sin or an abomination that one nation or group of nations attempt to help provide these things to another. It is also not foolish to believe that these efforts may produce a degree of trust, appreciation, and even cooperation in the future. If these things are not true, we might as well wall up our borders now, and cease our efforts to be a part of the rest of the world.

Excellent!

MHA,

The idiot whose blog it is on is yearning for a powerful dictator,

I might not have gone as far as calling Kevin and "idiot" but then again...

This is something I've long marvelled at. This phenomenon is not limited, by any stretch of the imagination, to BDS sufferers. They do take it to extremes. They climb up on their roofs to scream about what a loathesome, fascist dictator Bush is and then run back to their keyboards to yell about the stuff he didn't do which would have required dictatorial powers to accomplish.

I long ago came to the conclusion that roughly half of the people on earth really do want authoritarian government. They want munificent and benevolent flavors of it 9which means dictators who do things they find some way to rationalize into "the right things") but they want it. Democracy is too hard. People who disagree with you sometimes get what they want. Often nobody gets what they want.

one who doesn't make mistakes, one who sings the perfect song. The world's all messed up because of....Bush! He's not the perfect God-like daddy we deserve. Some people will never be ready for democracy.

That which isn't perfect sucks! I often wonder if some of these people have never planned and executed any project more complicated that a family camping trip.

It seems pretty clear to me that they have never tried to run a plan toward a goal that requires people, resouces, and time to achieve. They've never done anything beyond a sporting contest that actually has another "team" working to prevent you from attaining your goal while pursuing their own. They've apparently never experienced having people within their own organization competing for limited resources to achieve different goals or just flat out disagreeing on the goal.

They just seem to have never done anything more difficult than manage to feed, house, clothe, and entertain themselves and their immediate family. No clue how priorities must be set, how plans get battered and smashed when exposed to harsh reality, how not everything under Gaia'a blue sky can be anticipated and planned for, and how attaining a goal means adjusting and carrying on against resistance.

For some odd reason these sorts make me think of Witchita Lineman...

I am a lineman for the county.
And I drive the mainroad.
Lookin' in the sun for another overload.


It's all just wires, towers, roads, weather, and them to them. No thought about what it took to get the wires, towers, and roads where they are and how much effort (which they never gave a thought to) it takes to keep it all together through the weather.

Oh well, enough. As others said, read Kat. She's a treasure.

Skookumchuk said...

If you had any idea of the sheer volume and breadth of work being done in Iraq or the difficulties being overcome in order to complete it, you, too, would feel very cheated by the media you're defending. It is their choice to ignore the accomplishments being made in order to reserve their time and efforts for every bomb blast or drop of blood spilled.

And there are many reasons for this. There is the reflexive hatred of Republicans and the desire to transform all US conflicts into Vietnam, all the usual. There is another reason. The members of the MSM probably don't know any people like Kat in real life back home. They aren't friends with pavement design specialists or people who can install 500KW generators or erect field hospitals or design dams.

This is because those who do these things tend to not live in a 5 square mile area in Manhattan or in Santa Monica and eat at the same ten restaurants. Such people's daily work is simply not important to those who make up academia or the mainstream media. If, say, a new sewage treatment plant is built in your city, will the press cover its construction in a way that doesn't highlight its potentially negative consequences? Will the press talk about what was accomplished, or about how a neighborhood citizen's group complained about where the plant was sited?

There are many things at work here - hatred of Bush, dislike of the military, suspicion of business, the desire to equate contractors repairing an irrigation system with "mercenaries" and also an unease with and a social distance from the flyover people who accomplish these vital and mundane things.

But in the broadest sense, contractors like Kat introduce thousands of Iraqis to normal American people, to their values, and ways of doing business. I believe that this in itself is an important and lasting contribution to Iraq, one that can't be undone by what the presse ancienne may say to the world.

Kevin said...

found this link on my dashboard, for some reason the comments section here is forcing me to use my blogger ID.

All I can say is this, I say and write more than enough things that would earn me the label "idiot". Please use those, rather than projecting your general disagreements with liberals on me.

In military matters, I favor the Powell Doctrine, overwhelming force, quick, clear exit strategy. While you may disagree with me, I don't think it's unreasonable to fault Bush for not following that stategy.

The Idiot Blogger

Knucklehead said...

Kevin,

Thanks for dropping by. I've been reading your chat with Kat and you've been gracious and thoughtful. Hardly the signs and symptoms of raging idiocy (a malady, BTW, with which I am far too familiar) ;)

You've given some thought to the insights presented by Kat. We can all learn from her. Back in the day when I was just another wad of cannon fodder in an armored unit we had a little phrase we used to express confidence and, sometimes begrudging, admiration for some people: he knows some stuff. In Kat's case that's "she" but the shoe fits.

Re: the administration's "failures" or imperfections I generally suggest to people that they consider the alternative. The legitimate choice for POTUS in 2000 was between George W. Bush and Albert Gore. In 2004 it was between GWB and John F. Kerry. Do you believe for a moment either of Al Gore or John Kerry would have delivered anything remotely closer to either "success" or "perfection"?

The Powell Doctrine is one that some of us believe has outlived its viability. Panama and Grenada were dealt with a while back.

For starters what is "overwhelming force" in today's world? What is an "exit strategy"? Presumably you don't define "nuke 'em till they glow so we can hunt 'em in the dark" as "overwhelming force" and "stay the heck away from there till things stop glowing" as an "exit strategy".

It seems likely that you want something quite different - less drastic.

Europe has all but checked out. They have no interest in defending themselves or anyone else. Even when they feign interest in such things they quickly demonstrate little capability. Canada is part of Europe.

The Soviet Union disintegrated into some states for which one might rightly have some optimism and others which are slmost beyond comprehension. The rump Russian Federation - Russia more or less - seems a downright dangerous combination of sick society, mafia run rampant, and lust for the glory days.

Japan is struggling with its brutal imperial past and her neighbors have long memories.

China is... what?

India is rushing by fits and starts to convert itself into a modern economy and a regional power.

Africa is a diseased continent littered with failed states and warlords.

Afghanistan... Pakistan... Iran... Islam's bloody borders.

Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil. All problematic or potentially so. Malaysia, Indonesia, the Phillipines. More of the same. North Korea! South Koreans feel closer to the loon there than to the US. And they might loathe/fear Japan even more than they do us.

Which portions of that baloon should
we be squeezing on with "overwhelming force"? When should we stop squeezing?

And none of that even touches on US military capability. Once upon a time we launched thousand bomber raids. Now there are some 200 long range bombers in our entire inventory.

None of the above touched on the issues of a reactionarily anti-administration press. Some of would go far enough as to describe them as willfully seditionist if not outright treasonous. Can any POTUS, any administration, "educate" the "people" as you suggest this administration should have done in the current climate?

I think it bears repeating: what is "overwhelming force"? How does one "exit" from the ever expanding bloody borders of the "Islamic World"? Ask the same question for the thugocracies and warlord havens.

Is it time to sandbag the borders and put the nation on a war footing?

truepeers said...

Whatever the many failings of Canadians and their liberalism, the cultural dynamic here is quite unlike that in Europe (if anything it is becoming more like China's....!). Please recognize our failings for what they are, rather than projecting your general disagreement with Europeans on us. (Just checking to see if that makes logical sense-;)

Just one example: at the recent meeting of the Francopohonie, our Prime Minister alone among the Jew-bashers forced the national leaders to rework their anti-Israel declaration. Harper has since made it clear that when faced with a choice between Israel and Hezbollah, there can be no question of neutrality.

Knuck, I take it you have been reading that chap, sometimes called a Canadian, Mark Steyn. No doubt we need to pay attention to his nightmare, if we aren't yet. But his defeatism, his willingness to write off Europe, is not what WE need to believe. It's the equivalent of listening to Iraq doom sayers and not to Kat. Europe can change around, and pretty quickly once people come to realize that their political class cannot protect and coddle them any more and that they must learn again to do things for themselves.

chuck said...

Europe can change around, and pretty quickly once people come to realize that their political class cannot protect and coddle them any more and that they must learn again to do things for themselves.

If you get the chance, read Wyst:Alastor 1716 by Jack Vance. See if he didn't get it right.

Knucklehead said...

TP,

Yowza! I think I have a bruise.

Where to start? My "unwilling and unable to defend" thing wasn't intended to be the sort of claim Steyn is leveling.

Your example of Harper is a good enough one to make me reconsider my take on Canada. That y'all would elect the guy and, for the time being at least, toss out the "liberals" is a potentially positive but not enough for me recant.

Let me try and clarify what I'm getting at here. People aren't killed by immuno-deficiency diseases. They are killed by something else that they have lost the ability to defend themselves from.

Europe (and yes, I did include Canada) has a sort of immuno-deficiency disease. They are so hooked on consensus and comfort that they have trained themselves to avoid conflict at all costs. They will not resist, fight, against anything that threatens them.

Steyn believes the agent of destruction will be the Islamoids. Perhaps. But even if not there will be some other agent. Perhaps it will be the smothering bureaucracy which renders them too sclerotic to resist the next wave of internally generated fascists or unable to respond to economic collapse. Heck, maybe the Russians will come and smite them. Whatever the agent they won't put up a viable defense. They can't because they have no ability to generate antibodies anymore. Various infections will befall them until one finally leads to fatal collapse. They'll just pop some pills to mask the fever but the infection won't go away.

It is possible I underestimate Canada. Perhaps she still has the ability to resist whatever infection arises. You have the advantage of having no "natural enemies" so to speak - remoteness has advantages.

Knucklehead said...

Oh, BTW, TP. I started reading Steyn but lent it away (inflicted it on someone else? That wouldn't be nice). Too depressing ;)

He's a very humorous man but his brand of humor doesn't hold up when relentlessy drummed at.

Skookumchuk said...

truepeers:

But his defeatism, his willingness to write off Europe, is not what WE need to believe.

I sometimes wonder if Steyn really means it. Or if these breathless warnings are more to show what might happen if the Euros don't turn things around. What he clearly wants is for Europeans to develop the intellectual vocabulary to discuss these issues in ways that are for the moment impossible and to then develop political institutions that allow for true representational government and for the preservation of European culture. It must be admitted that this is a tall order. Is it impossible? That is the question.

Kevin said...

Knucklehead,

Thanks for the response and the opportunity to answer your questions.

The last time we attempted to completely remake a society was Japan at the end of WW2. That took an occupation force of ~350K troops that stayed for 7 years. This was for a country with a long tradition of submitting to authority. My very unscientific guess is that it would take more to secure Iraq.

My exit strategy beef ties in with the troop commitment argument. If you want things to be quick and relatively inexpensive (the Bush/Rumsfeld choice), then change as little as possible. Leave the Ba’athists in charge and the security apparatus in place where it's convenient. Once the new (bought and paid for) oligarchy is in place, gradually leave. Wash, rinse and repeat in 10 – 15 years. Please note, I’m not advocating this approach but it seems preferable to splitting Iraq in 3.

If you want to really remake the society, then you must have more security. More security means more troops. Enough to secure the cities, train Iraqi Security forces, hunt insurgents and close the borders to the Mujahideen and arms from Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia. The exit strategy comes when the players in Iraq realize they can more successfully acquire power through business and politics than through violence. There is no timetable in such an occupation. We would be spending an awful lot of money, much more than we are now. But if we’re going to go into Iraq and claim the moral high ground, this is the path we should have taken. If we don’t have that force, then we shouldn’t have gone in the first place.

Final note, since I agree with part of what you say on the press and I don’t have the energy to address where we disagree there. I find it interesting that you bring up Japan, S. Korea and China as non-helpful entities. I think we’ll see that start to change in the Far East and we have Lil’ Kim to thank for it. The anti-nuke, anti-Americanism of Japan and S. Korea has been made possible by the umbrella of American military power. They’re rethinking that right now. And China is asking themselves, which would I rather have? A nuclear and militarized Japan and S. Korea on my doorstep or the current modest US presence? It will be interesting to watch what happens.

Sorry for the long comment. You asked good questions and they deserve good answers, or at least the best I can come up with.

Cheers

Ed onWestSlope said...

Ahh Yes, How to remake the world, or a small portion of it, without becoming the Colonist. Or being perceived as the Colonist. This seems to be part of the issue of troop size and how long to stay.

This was touched upon several times at Belmont Club, about 2 years ago, if I remember.

Being an Engineer, I tend to want the advantages of Colonization (British model) building up the infrastructure and developing an overall sense of cooperation (trading and minimal private & public bureaucracy). I also desire to minimize the graft.

Very difficult to plan, even worse to accomplish. Everyone wants to create the hated and inefficient bureaucracy to handle it. Both Libs and Conservs will desire the bureaucracy, to different degrees. The Libertarians want little or no bureaucracy but, most of them seem to have a hard time cooperating to get the job done.

Kat seems to represent what we need. People who will go and do what must be done. There are a lot of us who feel we have a 'calling' but, the opportunities seem to be limited.

Knucklehead said...

Kevin,

I think you overstate what the US did with Japan following WWII and is trying to accomplish in Iraq.

Nobody "remakes" somebody else's culture. In the case of Japan (and Germany) we and our allies waged total war upon them until it was undeniable that there were only two options left; surrender or perish.

Total war no longer seems to be acceptable to Western nations, including us. There is virtually no political support in the US for waging total war; even less support in the rest of the west.

Once an adequate level of defeat was accomplished the US provided the security under which the Japanese restructured their own society within a set of "big rules" that the US insisted on.

The Japanese are an extraordinarily consensus driven society with enourmous deference to the emporer (and other authority figures). In an odd sort of way authority established consensus. Once the emporer told them to surrender there was, essentially, social consensus. From there "security" was a matter of law enforcement. There were, to my knowledge at least, no large internal conflicts within Japan.

Germany was similar but the difference is instructive. Germany was completely incapable of any further resistance other than meaningless guerilla tactics. Their defeat was total - they had no remaining ability to inflict serious damage upon their enemies.

Japan was not precisely the same. They were faced with a choice between attempting to continue or face obliteration from nukes. The Japanese had at least the illusion of the choice of dying or opening the door.

The sheer magnitude of the defeat of Germany left them with no choices. They were at the mercy of whomever held their territory. In the FRG, as in Japan, the US provided the security for the Germans to restructure their society under certain guidelines.

For neither Japan nor the FRG was there any attempt to "remake the society". Those who believe that Muslims and/or Arabs are incable of democracy make the mistake of believing that govermental forms are "cultural".

Japanese culture was not changed by their democratic form of government. It was changed by defeat and changing times yet it retains a sense of itself. In the FRG German culture was not changed by the form of government. The Germans remained cultural Germans.

In the DDR the Soviets attempted to remake the culture, the society. They tried to do that in Russia and everywhere else also. But the form of government failed to accomplish that. The Germans in the DDR remained Germans. And the Russians remained Russian. Indians are still Indians despite their development into a British style democracy. Chinese are still Chinese despite Maoism or the fledgling democracy of Taiwan.

What is different in Iraq is the security issue. I still fail to see how more US troops would guarantee security. It is Iraqis (and some opportunistic jihadis and assorted criminals) who make it insecure. It can only be Iraqis who make it secure. They've got to do it for themselves. We're can only provide a baseline they can work from. American soldiers on every street corner, or kicking in every door and clearing every house, would just provide more targets. I honestly believe we'd have more dead.

I've said it before in other threads so my fellow Yargbians are familiar with this. Back when the whole Iraq thing was starting there were MANY people who were quite vociferous in their insistence that the Iraqis needed to stand up and bleed, and die, for their own country. Well, now that they are doing exactly that we hear nothing but vociferous claims about the chaos and mayhem. It looks like Iraqis fighting for Iraq to me.

I have no idea if Iraq is better off as one country or some sort of federation of three smaller countries. Yugoslavia sure seemed better off as one nation - at least until the Big Dog stopped imposing that upon them. Now some bits and pieces of it are quite peaceful and prosperous and others are still struggling. The people who live there need to figure out which is best. It is entirely possible that there is no "Iraqi society" but, rather, 3 different societies within lines on a map.

If the lines need to be redrawn... It isn't like the lines in place now have been there for millenia. They are fairly recent inventions.

truepeers said...

Knuck,

You are right about Canada, to a point. E.g. Harper will be very lucky to get anywhere near forty percent of the votes next time (in our four party system and the other three parties are all to his left).

All nations, even the US, like to think their mere existence is proof of their virtue, and to take this as some guarantee of their eternal promise. But, as we should know, nothing lasts forever and sometimes it is when we are full of ourselves that we are closer to the end.

I would not judge Canada as a particularly strong nation at present, though I imagine the situation is better than in EUrope. While I think we still have a higher immigration per capita, we have a strong economy, highly focussed on international trade, haven't had a federal government deficit in years, have low unemployment with lots of low-skill service sector jobs going begging at present. And we have the second largest oil reserves in the world.

But we do have a political and intellectual class withoug a lot of vision and a fear of conflict. Harper is relatively rare in having a moral centre. Multiculturalism is as irrational here as anywhere, but as yet we don't have huge ghettos of unassimilated newcomers. People generally assimilate and sound like everyone else in talking up the irrational ideology of multiculturalism while trying to get ahead in the economy (the point being that we don't yet have many making a virtue of protesting modernity and refusing to participate). Multicultural irrationality means we less rule ourselves as a united Canadian people, as we are ruled by overlords hammering out their quotas or whatever in the back rooms. But multiculti empires can be relatively stable, if not as stable in the long run as nations.

While we are a left-liberal empire to a significant degree, we are also still something of a naiton with a moral centre, as Harper evidences... Anyway, all such empires are not the same. The European empire is really quite different despite some similarities in its political pieties.

Skook, you may be right about Steyn's strategy. It's a tall order but there are signs people are starting to face up to it because there just is no half-decent alternative. All great things come from necessity. So it's good to show the necessity, if you don't forget the hope.

chuck said...

...the US provided the security under which the Japanese restructured their own society within a set of "big rules" that the US insisted on.

Well, MacArthur's staff wrote the constitution and MacArthur broke up the feudal land holdings and sold the property to the peasants. Many think that land reform was instrumental in forming a conservative nucleus that stabilized Japanese politics. MacArthur putting down the labor movement is more controversial and may have kept Japan stuck with a one party system all those years.

There was a find several years ago of various experimental constitutions in some farm house attic dating to the 1870's or some such. Apparently writing constitutions was all the rage for a while but lost its appeal as the Meiji restoration proceeded.

The Germans wrote their own constitution and the federal system they came up with probably accounts for some of the stability they have enjoyed since. They also kept some of Hitler's institutions, in particular the stronger version of the welfare state originally introduced by Bismarck. Some other laws also remained on the books, such as the law against home schooling that the Nazi's instituted against Seventh Day Adventists and other non conforming groups. Citizenship remained a matter of blood until revised by Schroder. That is why so many second/third generation Turks were never German citizens. Sort of the European assimulation problem in its startkest form.

I think that in the Arab world any sort of Democracy will have to have a tribal aspect. I would probably have put the tribes in something like the senate, but that hasn't happened. The Iraqis may be the first to find a solution to the tribal problem if they have the time. If they do figure it out, it will be a real innovation in the area.