hk-50
Scene from “Knights of the Old Republic II”. These assassin droids are perhaps the consummate “bad guys”.

When I was in college, I took an elective course called “Introduction to Military Intelligence”.  It was one of the best courses I took during my four years in college.  The teacher was a retired Army Major, and a very nice guy. (Our first day, he made the old joke about military intelligence being an oxymoron.)

One of the big things I remember him saying was that “the bad guys always have a tactical advantage”.  I’d never thought about it before, but it’s true, and it’s something counter-terrorism and intelligence officers have to contend with.

Bad guys are people who attack other people.  Good guys are just minding their own business, not looking to hurt anyone.  That’s one of the things that differentiates good from bad.  This means, among other things, that the bad guys know when they are going to attack and how, and so always have the element of surprise on their side. The good guys are forced to be reactive and defensive, which is a tactically bad position to be in.

Now, there are lots of quibbles or counter-arguments you can make about this, as well as arguments over what constitutes a true “attack” (e.g. “weren’t the good guys ‘attacking’ at the invasion of Normandy?”) The larger point, though, still holds–bad guys are usually on the attack, and as such have an advantage.

So, what to do about it?

The solution most good guy nations came up with is to have people on stand-by, watching for and guarding against attacks by bad guys.  This works pretty well, but they are still operating at a disadvantage because they usually don’t have first-strike capability.

It’s also important to note the difference between “tactical” and “strategic”.  Tactical stuff is on a smaller scale, meaning one battle or one individual action.  Strategic is a longer-term, big-picture thing.  So, it’s possible to be at a tactical disadvantage but a strategic advantage, and vice-versa.

boris-grishenko-20090224055451786-000

It’s worth asking.  It was a very close election, and so a little careful cheating could have changed the outcome.

The experts seem to take it for granted that the election couldn’t possibly have been stolen.  But the experts also took it for granted that Trump couldn’t possibly beat Clinton.

I’ve always assumed that in a country as big as the USA, there is bound to be some cheating in national elections, but that it is on a small scale, and people from both sides do it, so it more or less evens out.

There is, however, reason to think 2016 was particularly ripe for cheating, due to two facts:

  1. Earlier in the year, the FBI warned that the Russian government was hacking U.S. voting systems.
  2. Donald Trump was singularly sympathetic to Russia throughout his campaign–not only in comparison to Clinton, but also in comparison to his rivals for the Republican nomination.

I am not saying that the Russians hacked the election in order to ensure their preferred candidate won.  I am just saying that if that did happen, it would look exactly like what has happened.

Trump and his staff kept saying throughout the campaign that the polls were wrong, and they had secret supporters in the Rust Belt. And sure enough, that is exactly the way it appeared to play out on election night, with Trump narrowly pulling upsets in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Maybe Trump is an instinctive political genius who could intuitively sense what the professional analysts were all missing. Or… maybe those secret Trump supporters were really deep cover. As in, perhaps they only existed as lines of binary code.

Again, I’m not saying I think this is the case.  To my mind, the election results match up perfectly with what the charisma theory would predict. That seems like the most likely explanation.

But because the Press got their predictions of how it would play out so wrong, it seems to me they should at least look into whether it might have been stolen, rather than simply assuming it wasn’t–just as they previously had assumed Clinton couldn’t lose.

Good post at This Ruthless World about the Norwegian mass-murderer, Anders Behring Breivik.  I’ve been trying to avoid writing about it, because what the monster did sickens me so that I don’t really like to write about it, but I have a few thoughts on it.  Like: what is the deal with the press’s endless focus on the video games the criminal played?  It is true that it is a sign of a somewhat unhealthy mind to play games for many hours at a time, but come on; we don’t need help establishing that he is not a normal person.  And I don’t think video games invented violence, so it is just possible that Breivik got the idea independent of gaming.

Moreover, as the Ruthless World post discusses, the man is probably not actually insane.  The word they are looking for to describe him is “evil”.  Why is it so hard for people to see the truth?  Breivik is, for all intents and purposes, a Nazi.  Now, ordinarily I hesitate to make comparisons to the Nazis, but when we are discussing someone who has committed mass-murder out of an explicit desire to preserve the purity of the Aryan race, I really think the comparison is justified.

“But weren’t the Nazis themselves insane?”, you may ask. Well, yes; many of them were.  But remember, the Nazi leaders persuaded vast swaths of the German people to support them.  The average German wasn’t insane; only brainwashed by propaganda and pressured by authority into doing the bidding of the insane.  (Hannah Arendt wrote a book about this subject.) Breivik had no doubt read a good deal of neo-Nazi–and perhaps even paleo-Nazi–stuff, and consequently decided to commit his awful crimes.

He is not insane.  He is simply very, very evil.  He is a political extremist, who is willing to go to commit murder to advance his Nazi-esque philosophy.  He is a terrorist, plain and simple, and I think he deserves the same fate as Timothy McVeigh, Osama bin Laden and every other terrorist, though I do not believe the Norwegians have the death penalty.

Courtesy of Ta-Nehisi Coates, a New York Magazine article which quotes Dinesh D’Souza saying:

“For Obama, the radical Muslims are on the right side of history — that’s why he is so unnaturally solicitous toward them.”  

Judging by what we’ve seen of Obama’s handling of radical Jihadists, I would have to say that D’Souza must be using a new definition of the word “solicitous”.

Even if we ignore this, Obama’s track record on fighting terrorism is better than that of his last two predecessors. But this is not the first time D’Souza has ignored key counter-evidence in trying to press his charges of “anti-colonialism” against the President.

It is an unfortunate fact that when talking about him, it is all too easy for the tongue to slip and to say a “b” where the “s” ought to go in “Osama”. This is most annoying to me, but nevertheless, I–and many people I know–have made this error. Salon has a good article on this, and I agree with the claim that this is all the “b” in “bin”‘s fault.

What is particularly troubling about this little mistake is that people rarely used to call bin Laden “Osama”. Everyone called him “bin Laden”. He was the most infamous bin Laden in the world, so no need to say “Osama”. After all, there’s rarely a need to specify, for instance, that we are talking about Adolf Hitler, and not some other Hitler, and so we drop his first name. 

With the furor over the Islamic community center dying down slightly, it is apparently necessary to find some new front on which to facilitate Samuel P. Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations“. This arrived in the person of Pastor Terry Jones, who plans to burn Qurans in order to “send a message to radical Islam.”

General David Petraeus has said that this is a bad idea, as it will be used by Muslim extremists to justify more attacks.

On the one hand, you could make the argument, as made over at Private Buffoon, that Pastor Jones has the right to burn Qurans under the First Amendment, and that a government official like Petraeus condemning it is rather disturbing. The comparison with the old “the anti-war demonstrators encourage the enemy” argument is an interesting one.

To make matters worse, I see that Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State Clinton have both weighed in on the issue. While their hearts are in the right place, I fear that this is, strategically speaking, a bad idea. The reason is that it now gives the Republicans the chance to complain that government officials are pressuring the guy; and make it into a First Amendment thing, as opposed to a open-and-shut case of radicalism run amok.

However, I don’t think the Republicans would dare say that to General Petraeus, because he is by far our most accomplished General, he salvaged something out of the Iraq invasion, and I think he might actually be a Republican. It wasn’t that long ago they were clamoring for him to run against President Obama in 2012, at any rate.

None of this, however, should distract us from the issue at hand, which is the sheer stupidity of Pastor Jones’s absurd plan.

Got some news for you, Pastor: radical Islam already hates us. That is why they commit acts of terrorism against us. Radical Islamists probably think that every child in America burns a Quran a day, if I know how propaganda works.

Therefore, the only possible outcome of this behavior will be to alienate other, nonradical Muslims. This cannot possibly be considered a good thing. It all goes back to what me and thingy (whose post on this matter you should definitely read) discussed on this post: “many Republicans, at some level, seem to equate ‘being Muslim’ with ‘being a terrorist’.” (Perhaps it would be more accurate to say “Conservatives” instead of “Republicans”.)

It may not be conscious, even, but it’s hard to explain this sort of behavior any other way.

Peter Cook once said that his nightclub “The Establishment Club” was inspired by “those wonderful Berlin cabarets which did so much to stop the rise of Hitler and prevent the outbreak of the Second World War.”

I am reminded of this quote by the recent “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day“, in which, as a response to fanatical Islamic extremists threatening violence over an episode of the show “South Park” that (sort of) depicted Mohammed, people are to, well, draw him.

I suppose I approve of the activity, since I am firmly of the opinion that absolutely no good can come from religious extremism. And yet I can’t help but feel the whole exercise is… pointless. I mean, did it really win anything for us? Did it change any minds, or, much more importantly, make us in any way safer from further attacks by radical Islamic terrorists?

The problem here is a problem I see not only in satire, but in protest marches, in protest songs, and even in everyday discourse, where passively insulting something or someone acts as a substitute for actively fighting against it.

Put plainly, I worry that this will make us complacent. It’s all well and good to draw Mohammed, if it makes you feel better about things, but let us not think for one moment that we have taken any actual effective action towards combating this violent extremism.

Yet more mistakes by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. She’s admitted to not reading the Arizona immigration bill, but nevertheless has gone ahead and criticized it. She also cut funding for security for New York’s mass-transit system and then lied about it.

Napolitano has never struck me as an especially competent individual. I strongly feel that she botched the response to the Christmas day attempted bombing–though it was largely merely a PR failure on her part, it suggests a rather high degree of incompetence, and if it were not for extremely good fortune on that day, the consequences of DHS stupidity could have been much more severe.

More than anything–and maybe we can chalk this up to anti-charisma–Napolitano has displayed a rather stunning level of tone-deafness. I’ll tell you up front: I haven’t read the Arizona immigration bill either;  but I still am more than qualified to pass judgment on it. But Napolitano was easily lured into saying something that made her sound less confident and more like a clueless hack–and by John McCain, no less!

Here’s what I’d have said:

 “I am familiar with the law to the extent that I recognize the potential exists for it to be abused for the purpose of infringing upon the rights of citizens.” 

Napolitano’s anti-charisma exacerbates all of her mistakes, of course, but it’s getting harder and harder to see what actual skills she possesses that make her worth the PR headaches she creates.

“‘We’re taking this very seriously,’ [Homeland Security Secretary Janet] Napolitano told CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ program. ‘We’re treating it as if it could be a potential terrorist attack.'”

Gee, you think?

Update: The title of this post is the original headline from the Reuters column I linked to. I see they’ve changed it since then.