Mailvox: A USAF vet writes

LW sees my point, to an extent:

I’m retired Air Force and, regarding subject article, I don’t think you fully appreciate the accuracy of new smart weapons. Up until the 2003 Iraq war, they were used in only a limited fashion. In the first Gulf War, for instance, they comprised only a small percentage of bombs dropped.

Dumb bombs have never been very accurate. During WWII, over 100 bombers were sent on single missions to take out single targets, many times unsuccessfully or only partially successfully. Nowadays a single B-2, with smart munitions, can take out as many targets as the number of bombs it can carry, so a single B-2 can replace thousands of WWII era bombers.

The true limitation of airpower is that airpower, no matter how accurate it’s bombs may be, can’t hold ground from which the enemy, or the enemy’s means to continue the fight, has been eliminated. In short, there must be boots on the ground.

Still, your point is well taken. The military is stretched to the point that action against Iran, other than from the air, is impossible. And the Chinese have helped them bury their nuke facilities so deeply that our most robust bunker busters can’t reach them. So an air attack on Iran most likely will only further antagonize Muslims worldwide without eliminating their nuke facilities, thereby exhibiting a profound impotence on our part. That’s not something we need to show the Muslim world, who seem to only understand and respect overwhelming force.

I think the Iran scenario offers an even higher likelihood of making matters worse than the foolish decision to try nation-building in Iraq. The Islamic world would have taken a salient lesson from the beautifully executed invasion and subsequent removal of Hussein from power. That lesson has been lost and others inimical to our national interest have replaced it through the occupation.

As for the efficacy of the new weapons, well, that’s a song that has been sung more than once before. Militaries have been misled into believing that superior weaponry will win wars for millenia; the fact that it has happened once or twice doesn’t mean that it’s very likely this particular time.

The neo-Marxian president and other evils

Francis Fukuyama lays it all out for the uneducated and ill-informed:

“The End of History,” in other words, presented a kind of Marxist argument for the existence of a long-term process of social evolution, but one that terminates in liberal democracy rather than communism. In the formulation of the scholar Ken Jowitt, the neoconservative position articulated by people like Kristol and Kagan was, by contrast, Leninist; they believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States. Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.

Remember, this is coming from a quasi-Marxist supporter of Wilsonian global democratic revolution. Note also the link between liberal democracy and communism and the fundamentally similar way the two are brought about. The following paragraph, too, is significant; longtime readers will recall that I have been skeptical of the military threat posed by the jihad to the United States since my first political column in 2001.

The most basic misjudgment was an overestimation of the threat facing the United States from radical Islamism. Although the new and ominous possibility of undeterrable terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction did indeed present itself, advocates of the war wrongly conflated this with the threat presented by Iraq and with the rogue state/proliferation problem more generally. The misjudgment was based in part on the massive failure of the American intelligence community to correctly assess the state of Iraq’s W.M.D. programs before the war. But the intelligence community never took nearly as alarmist a view of the terrorist/W.M.D. threat as the war’s supporters did. Overestimation of this threat was then used to justify the elevation of preventive war to the centerpiece of a new security strategy, as well as a whole series of measures that infringed on civil liberties, from detention policy to domestic eavesdropping.

An excellent and informative piece, well worth the reading. It is this sort of thing that makes the New York Times still relevant, its ludicrous daily columnists and sophmoric political reporting notwithstanding. Fukuyama’s recommendations are more neo-Marxian globalist nonsense, of course, but his critique of neoconservatism is completely correct.

Mailvox: an exercise in insanity

NL wants to see mushroom clouds:

Seems you figured out the problem yourself. You said Nagasaki and Hiroshima were the only successful air bombing runs. Wonder why the rest failed us? There only firecrackers compared to the atomic bombs. So, why don’t we use them? That’s the real question you should be asking.

I don’t need to ask that question. First, since we did not launch nuclear attacks on the Soviet Union, China, India, Pakistan or North Korea, we will certainly not do so in the case of Iran. Iran is far less of a potential threat than three of the current nuclear powers as it will have far fewer weapons with a much shorter reach than either Russia or China and it is significantly less crazy than North Korea, media histronics about the Hitlerhood of the man who isn’t even the top dog in Iran notwithstanding.

Second, my understanding is that Iran has its development facilities distributed around eighty different sites; were the USA to drop eighty nukes on Iran, the other nuclear powers would likely regard that as a virtual act of war on them and look to retaliate in a variety of very significant ways.

Mailvox: technology, hand-waving and real wages

Chris Naron appears to have read a book:

I noticed you mentioned the fall in real wages again today, and it reminded me of a question I wanted to ask you. Are you familiar with Michael Cox and Rishard Alm’s book Myths of Rich and Poor? Thinking I was ordering something new after reading Thomas Sowell’s article a few weeks ago, I found instead that I had been suckered into a book published in 1999. Oh well.

It is interesting however that here’s a book that attempts to counter exactly what you are saying about the fall in real wages by deconstructing the statistics and reassembling them. Normally, I would take it with a grain of salt–it’s just another partisan GOP attempt to talk up the economy to make “Dear Leader” look good. But this book was written at the height of Clintonian prosperity and by a libertarian (I only assume that given the author’s association with the Cato institute).

At any rate, I would like to get your opinion on their work because much of it reinforces my own intuition about the insufficiency of the real wage stat. To use one of the examples from the book, which would you rather be, a billionaire in 1890 or an average American in 1990? Consider the things you cannot have at any price in 1890 before you choose. (Someone without his Treo…forever…)

They’re confusing the march of technology with real wages. Forget Treos and Macintoshes, how much food can you buy? How much gold? This is just the same sleight of hand that people use to try to claim that there isn’t any inflation either.

Think about it. The number of workers more than doubles. The amount of consumption increases by significantly less than double. I’m assuming that you understand enough of the law of supply and demand that you can figure out what happens to the price. There’s no need to delve into the statistics to prove the concept theoretically, as it happens, the statistics – however nebulous government statistics are – support exactly what theory would predict.

I have no doubt in my mind that you’re right about real wages falling because of women in the work force. But I don’t get your point about buying food. It’s easier to get food now than ever before as evidenced by the fact that poor people tend to be fat. And how does the march of technology not affect standard of living? Is it slight of hand when the truth is that we’re far better off materially now than during the period when real wages were increasing?

The evidence is flawed, given that it doesn’t account for people choosing to eat differently. If the affordability of food was the sole fat factor, then the rich would be fatter than the poor. This isn’t the case, therefore the point doesn’t hold up. Furthermore, the fact that the state and federal governments subsidize the poor’s purchase of their food doesn’t actually make it cheaper. For example, chocolate in the form of a Hershey bar cost 12.3 cents for 1.55 ounces in 1973. The same 1.55 ounces cost 80 cents in 2003. So, you can see, when there’s no technological change to disguise things, the cost of food rose 650 percent while the wage rate fell 16.3 percent.

Did the quality of Hershey’schocolate really improve so much in those thirty years? Is it faster and more efficient? Does it taste 6.5 times better? How would Cox and Alm attempt to explain away that example?

Standard of living and real wages are two entirely separate things. A Turkish harem girl in 1650 had a higher standard of living than a Welsh miner in 1880, but the miner’s wage rate was infinitely higher since the harem girl wasn’t paid for her services. Our standard of living is surely higher than in 1973, but that is based on our advanced technology, not an increase in wages or personal wealth. Suppose, for example, that cheap nuclear fusion is discovered and the government is sudennly able to provide every individual in the country with free pizza, a super-comfortable condo on the beach, flexible robot sex slaves and a 10-foot plasma screen with free video games and movies on demand. Even better, the individual doesn’t have to lift a finger to work for a single day in his life.

Has the individual’s standard of living increased or decreased from today’s norm? And has his wage rate risen or fallen?