The Long View 2005-01-26: Anonymous, Huis Clos, Alcohol, Acoustic Decavitation

Michael Scheuer still strikes me as a bit of a nut, but the prediction John Reilly heaped scorn on here seems to have been spot on.


Anonymous, Huis Clos, Alcohol, Acoustic Decavitation

 

Michael Scheuer, the former CIA expert on Osama bin Laden, is best known for his book Imperial Hubris. In that critique of the Terror War, he tells us, among other things, that nothing is more certain than the collapse of the US-backed government in Afghanistan. Here he is on the PBS News Hour of January 24 applying his expertise on west-central Asia to Iraq:

I completely agree...that Zarqawi is a more nationalist oriented person trying to drive the point home that the Sunnis and Sunni Islam should dominate Iraq. But Iraq is really spinning out of control. Iraq has become and will continue to be the Afghanistan of the new century, if you will. There are Jihadists coming from all over the Middle East and from the Far East and from Europe to fight in Afghanistan, or, I'm sorry, in Iraq. And it's being supported [by] money from Saudi Arabia, money from the Gulf, from private donors. So we're really seeing the birth of a modern Mujahideen movement that in ways will transcend the simple question of who rules Iraq.

May I point out that every prediction Michael Scheuer made about Afghanistan has, at least so far, turned out to be wrong? In fact, if Iraq turns into Afghanistan, we will have little to complain of. What we have here is an example of a notion that has become an axiom for most the foreign-policy establishment: the Iraq War is unwinnable. Being unfalsifiable, that axiom will remain true even after the new government consolidates control over the country and Coalition troops withdraw.

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And of course the foreign-policy establishment will have a point, since the final state of things will not be an outcome that they anticipated, or that the American people expected, or perhaps that the Bush Administration expected. At any rate, so said Mark Steyn in the Chicago Sun-Times of January 23:

The Democrats' big phrase is "exit strategy." ...

Next week's election in Iraq will go not perfectly but well enough, and in time the number of U.S. troops needed there will be reduced, and in some more time they'll be reduced more dramatically, and one day there'll be none at all, just a small diplomatic presence that functions a bit like the old British ministers did in the Gulf emirates for centuries: They know everyone and everything, and they keep the Iraqi-American relationship running smoothly enough that Baghdad doesn't start looking for other foreign patrons. In other words: no exit.

And why should this be considered a good thing?

A century ago, American policy in Mexico was all exit and no strategy. That week's President-for-Life gets out of hand? Go in, whack him, exit, and let the locals figure out who gets to be the new bad guy....By contrast, the British went in to India without an "exit strategy," stayed for generations and midwifed the world's most populous democracy and a key U.S. ally in the years ahead...The problem with "exit strategy" fetishization is that these days everywhere's Mexico -- literally, in the sense that four of the 9/11 killers obtained the picture ID they used to board their flights that morning through the support network for "undocumented" workers...

One notes that British influence in India declined somewhat after the British Army withdrew, and also that it is only fairly recently that India stopped looking like a basket case.

Be that as it may, we should remember that the Iraq War has never been about Iraq, but the effect that the intervention would have on the region. That could still turn out to be quite as catastrophic as Michael Scheuer anticipates. The odds are, though, he will be wrong about that, too.

* * *

Should anxiety about these great questions prove unbearable, take heart in the latest scientific news about the most common treatment:

There's new research out on the health effects of alcohol. Studies have connected moderate alcohol consumption with lower risks of heart disease. Now research published in this week's New England Journal of Medicine examines alcohol's effect on memory and mental function in older people, and suggests that moderate drinking may help prevent memory loss and mental decline.

Perhaps the brain and the liver are tradeoffs.

* * *

There is more good news on the cold-fusion front:

Researchers Report Bubble Fusion Results Replicated: Physical Review E has announced the publication of an article by a team of researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Purdue University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and the Russian Academy of Science (RAS) stating that they have replicated and extended previous experimental results that indicated the occurrence of nuclear fusion using a novel approach for plasma confinement. [Acoustic Cavitation]...

The research team used a standing ultrasonic wave to help form and then implode the cavitation bubbles of deuterated acetone vapor. The oscillating sound waves caused the bubbles to expand and then violently collapse, creating strong compression shock waves around and inside the bubbles...

According to the new data, the observed neutron emission was several orders of magnitude greater than background and had extremely high statistical accuracy. Tritium, which also is produced during the fusion reactions, was measured and the amount produced was found to be consistent with the observed neutron production rate.

I gather that this approach is no closer to the energy break-even point than is magnetic-containment fusion, but at least you don't have to build a huge machine to do the research.

Copyright © 2005 by John J. Reilly

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