05 March, 2008
03 March, 2008
It's been a really long time since I sat down to write a flame-mail to someone. I thought, foolishly, that I'd seen just about every perverse form of Unix there is. I've recoiled in horror at IRIX and SunOS 2.4, I've noticed that Linux mixes BSDisms with SVR4isms with a glib (no pun intended, mind) sort of carelessness. Like, who really cares if it looks like BSD and SVR4? Well, I do. Because unlike a lot of these basement-dwelling communist punks coding Linux, I actually use a variety of operating systems and when my ps can't decide whether it's going to take -ef or axuw (note the lack of minus), whether my tar supports -I, -j, -z, or any of the other transitory flags that infest what is otherwise a perfectly useful tool.
And you know, it's this crap that's the hardest to teach people. You get Unix admins who have twenty years' experience with Solaris (holy shit, it's really been that long, we're goddamn archaic already), and they see both Solaris 10 and RHEL 5 or Fedora 7 or whatever they're up to now, they wonder what in the hell is going on. Nothing's where it is "supposed to be," there are all these magical daemons that do the things that you did yourself before, only they're not so good about telling you because – holy interface batman! – you might see a computer under your goddamn gnome-session (that's a jab at you, Dan). They ask me, why do people change these things? Why are the flags different for every Unix we have? Nobody runs a homogenous environment anymore, so we're not just expected to be Unix admins, we're expected to be well-read Unix admins. Like, I have nothing better to do than read the 4.2 BSD Internals book, the Linux in a Nutshell book, and for fucks sake, I'm sure there's a "tar and cpio for dummies" book.
And heaven help you if you're caught not knowing why your default route disappeared. I mean, the implication is that you clearly don't know your Unix or Linux or UNICOS (which is of course not Unix, if you ask a 'COS user). The truth of the matter, and yeah, I'm gonna fucking say it, I've forgotten more about Linux and Unix than 90% of the admins I meet.
All these fuckers making Unix and Linux friendly and letting them play together and give birth to siamese harlequin spina bifida babies of distributions, well, let's just round them all up, put them on Ubuntu, give them Jimmy fucking Wales as prophet, and send them to Africa where they can do some good, and leave my goddamn operating system alone.
And if you're one of those little pricks, bring it. I want to hear you justify this horseshit you're building these days. I want to hear you tell me that BSD isn't your great grandfather. Justify your goddamn existence.
As I do customarily with posts that get longish, I'll summarize here very quickly. "Low-intensity conflict," "fourth-generation warfare," "insurgencies," and the like don't work for a very simple reason: they've got no plan for what happens when they actually win.
I will address the Iraq "situation" directly for purposes of present relevance. In Iraq, we are waging war on insurgents, and a proxy war against the Iranians, and individuals of other nations (such as Syria), which may not have state support. However, we do find ourselves on the business end of cold-war technology, such as the lowly RPG-7, which Mark Ames has gone into great detail about. In addition, we see the usual assortment of landmines and Kalashnikovs. We're even starting to see Soviet-era body armor on some of the jihadis.
So, really, despite the fact that the Taliban look like a bunch of drunken hillbillies running about in Baja California firing randomly at peasants and goats, the extreme islamist/jihadi movement is becoming a credible threat as a military. They lack organization, to be sure, but they have the technology, they have state backing, and they have enough people. I'd be willing to venture that in Middle Asia and Africa alone there are a hundred thousand people that would take up arms against the United States in a conflict that would likely result in their deaths.
Why they do this is kind of a mystery to us Americans. We don't have much to believe in, aside from a lot of naïve nationalism, or a belief that our society should be governed by Christian ideals. This is not really much of a platform to wage war on. A sort of secular ennui, only armed with nuclear weapons, close-air support, special operations forces, and incredibly sophisticated intelligence assets. In truth, despite the fact that we have in fact lost thousands of lives, and there is no real "winner" in any war, we have very little chance of losing any significant... well, anything, really.
Manhattan, the loss of life is a very minor dent in our now three-hundred-some-odd million people. Us IT folks now understand that, while the World Trade Center may have seemed pretty durned secure at the time, it ultimately was not, and we practice redundancy religiously now. I can't go into the details of the redundancy of where I work now, but when I worked for the American Chemical Society (a neat organization, sure, but if they vanished off the face of the planet, humanity would still get along okay). They have their very pretty DC office, but they also have a failover, "disaster recovery" (referred to as DR in the industry, and I have mentioned it many times before; it's a veritable religion in IT) site in Ohio. The notion being that DC has this big bulls-eye painted on it, and most of us figure it's a matter of time before somebody manages to pull off something ugly in the capitol.
We even have, and yes, I'm an incorrigible geek when I say this, a presidential edict, Executive Order 13228, which has this rather long-winded clause in it:
And so, while they pose a credible military threat, if they actually got organized, the chance of them doing so much damage to the United States as to render it ineffective as a state is infinitesimal. It's just really bad odds for the bad guys.
(d) Prevention. The Office shall coordinate efforts to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States. In performing this function, the Office shall work with Federal, State, and local agencies, and private entities, as appropriate, to:
(i) facilitate the exchange of information among such agencies relating to immigration and visa matters and shipments of cargo; and, working with the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, ensure coordination among such agencies to prevent the entry of terrorists and terrorist materials and supplies into the United States and facilitate removal of such terrorists from the United States, when appropriate;
(ii) coordinate efforts to investigate terrorist threats and attacks within the United States; and
(iii) coordinate efforts to improve the security of United States borders, territorial waters, and airspace in order to prevent acts of terrorism within the United States, working with the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, when appropriate.
(e) Protection. The Office shall coordinate efforts to protect the United States and its critical infrastructure from the consequences of terrorist attacks. In performing this function, the Office shall work with Federal, State, and local agencies, and private entities, as appropriate, to:
(i) strengthen measures for protecting energy production, transmission, and distribution services and critical facilities; other utilities; telecommunications; facilities that produce, use, store, or dispose of nuclear material; and other critical infrastructure services and critical facilities within the United States from terrorist attack;
(ii) coordinate efforts to protect critical public and privately owned information systems within the United States from terrorist attack;
(iii) develop criteria for reviewing whether appropriate security measures are in place at major public and privately owned facilities within the United States;
(iv) coordinate domestic efforts to ensure that special events determined by appropriate senior officials to have national significance are protected from terrorist attack;
(v) coordinate efforts to protect transportation systems within the United States, including railways, highways, shipping, ports and waterways, and airports and civilian aircraft, from terrorist attack;
(vi) coordinate efforts to protect United States livestock, agriculture, and systems for the provision of water and food for human use and consumption from terrorist attack; and
(vii) coordinate efforts to prevent unauthorized access to, development of, and unlawful importation into the United States of, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, explosive, or other related materials that have the potential to be used in terrorist attacks.
But let's suppose for a second that not only do they get organized, but Iran gets some diesel subs (they may already), some SLBM's, they pull off the Ames scheme of taking out one or two carrier battlegroups with surface-skimming cruise missiles, and let's suppose just for a second, that they manage to align themselves with North Korea, Syria, Hizbollah, and let's even throw in Indonesia too. This is effectively a world war, and in fact resembles World War II pretty well. There would be massive naval battles, where the huge ships we have are hopelessly outmanouvered by the smaller, cheaper boats that the intifada uses. We're able to sink their ships with impunity, more or less, but there are so damn many of them, it's the attrition game all over again, only this time on the water.
So the carrier air wings and most of our Navy is tied up trying to prevent these subs and other vehicles (there are containerized ballistic missiles which could be concealed, for example, on cargo ships) from landing nuclear or other warheads on metropolitan areas.
Let's even say that they do horrific damage, manage to destroy large swaths of the government, prominent cities like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the District are all in ruin – picture Dresden. This is about as far fetched as you can get, but bear with me for a moment.
They don't have an end game. They have no idea what they'd do if they actually won. Caesar didn't conquer the Gauls just because he wanted to kill a bunch of heathens, he wanted to annex their land for Rome, and use it to support the increasingly consumerist state that Rome had become.
Caesar, inasmuch as he kept in remembrance that Lucius Cassius, the consul, had been slain, and his army routed and made to pass under the yoke by the Helvetii, did not think that [their request] ought to be granted: nor was he of opinion that men of hostile disposition, if an opportunity of marching through the Province were given them, would abstain from outrage and mischief. Yet, in order that a period might intervene, until the soldiers whom he had ordered [to be furnished] should assemble, he replied to the ambassadors, that he would take time to deliberate; if they wanted any thing, they might return on the day before the ides of April [on April 12th].
It is again told Caesar, that the Helvetii intended to march through the country of the Sequani and the Aedui into the territories of the Santones, which are not far distant from those boundaries of the Tolosates, which [viz. Tolosa, Toulouse] is a state in the Province. If this took place, he saw that it would be attended with great danger to the Province to have warlike men, enemies of the Roman people, bordering upon an open and very fertile tract of country. For these reasons he appointed Titus Labienus, his lieutenant, to the command of the fortification which he had made. He himself proceeds to Italy by forced marches, and there levies two legions, and leads out from winter-quarters three which were wintering around Aquileia, and with these five legions marches rapidly by the nearest route across the Alps into Further Gaul. Here the Centrones and the Graioceli and the Caturiges, having taken possession of the higher parts, attempt to obstruct the army in their march. After having routed these in several battles, he arrives in the territories of the Vocontii in the Further Province on the seventh day from Ocelum, which is the most remote town of the Hither Province; thence he leads his army into the country of the Allobroges, and from the Allobroges to the Segusiani. These people are the first beyond the Province on the opposite side of the Rhone.
Routed, folks. Caesar considered the offer of truce (or at least a ceasing of hostility, and decided that a) it was useful land to have, and that it would be provinced as it abutted Rome. That's what we call governing. He wasn't out there just a-killin' them Gauls, he was annexing territory for taxes and land. And, while Ames likes to talk Belisarius, Caesar did not do such a bad job utterly destroying the Gauls.
In the spring of 1452, Mehmet sent 1,000 masons to the narrowest part of the Bosphorus, five miles north of Galata, to begin construction of a fortress. Constantine XI immediately recognized the threat. A Turkish fort on the Bosphorus, the strait running from the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea above, could prevent supplies from reaching Constantinople.
Unable to challenge the Turks militarily, Constantine XI sent envoys to the sultan to “tell” him that the building of the fort was unacceptable. Mehmet dismissed them with a warning, “Mark this also, I shall have every ambassador impaled who dares henceforth come to me with such a message!”
The emperor tried to rally his remaining forces, but there were too few left. As the Janissaries closed in, Constantine tossed away his imperial insignia and shouted: “God forbid that I should live an Emperor without an Empire! As my city falls, I will fall with it!” He then charged into a mass of Janissaries. So died the last emperor of Rome.
As with most medieval battles, the real killing began after resistance had ended. The Turks swept through the city, massacring civilians. The Turkish fleet left its position to join the plundering. Thus, many refugees made it to the harbor and escaped. Christian vessels loitered around the Golden Horn until noon, picking up survivors. They then cut the boom and headed out to sea, having saved hundreds of lives.
The killing frenzy soon died down among the Turks. Live captives brought more money. The troops forgot about killing in their rush to take slaves, riches and relics.
Mehmet II rode into the city having accomplished his great dream: the conquest of Constantinople. His men brought him the head of Constantine XI, and he had it displayed upon a pillar to confirm the emperor’s death.
Mehmet II didn't lay siege to Contantinople because he thought Constantine was a wuss and an easy target; rather, he wanted that land, and he built a goddamn mosque right on top of their most revered (Christian) church. And now, Istanbul (neé Constantinople) is Turkish, under essentially muslim rule, and a more or less successful state.
But the intifada doesn't have a Caesar, Pompey, Belisarius, a Mehmet or even a Xerxes or, hell, let's even throw in Powell and Schwartzkopf. If the intifada managed to annihilate most of the US, what would they do with it? It's a really big fucking country, and it's full of infidels who just aren't real into Shari‘a, many of whom, such myself, are very well armed, and generally irritable people. I'd really hate to see Alexandria and Arlington turned into Grözny or Gorazde, but the second somebody says, hey, those Indonesian littoral fast attack boats have landed on the Potomac, I'd be out on the "two-way rifle range" looking for dudes in second-hand fatigues and third- or fourth-hand kalashnikovs.
It's overused, but the quote from Yamamoto is apt: You cannot invade mainland United States, there would be a rifle behind every blade of grass. We're not talking about Iwo Jima, we're talking Lewis-and-Clarke scale trench warfare for any sort of force to actually take the US by force and govern it. All the intifada has going for it is legions of suicidal idiots hell-bent on destruction. Destruction gains nobody anything. If they wished to restore the empire of Babylon, if they wished to restore the glory of the Sultans and the Jannissaries, they could but they're too busy slitting eachothers throats, blaming the jews, and generally being whiny turds.
This isn't to say the US will prosper and live on in perpetuity, because it won't, but if you don't have a game plan, if you don't cross the Rubicon with the thirteenth, banish or kill all your political rivals, and take the seat of power by force, and then govern by force, all you're doing is killing your soldiers at a fantastically disproportionate rate. Hundreds to one. Bring nukes into the equation and it's thousands to one, and you get the added bonus of never being able to go home again because it's a smoking hole in the ground.
So this whole intifada business is just sheer bullshit. Blow up a few tanks, kill a few of our boys, but we're in there, installing a government, planting intelligence assets, and building bases. That, folks, is how you invade a country and do something productive with it. Whether it winds up what you really intended it to be is irrelevant. Whether it's right or wrong is even irrelevant once the act is done; the country is now an asset and both sides of the aisle would agree about this. What we all seem to disagree on is whether it was morally right, legally right, and so on. But, folks, to quote Mr. al-Duri, the game is over.
Jihad makes no sense. Kill the infidels, get them out of Saudi Arabia and Iraq and you've still lost 750,000 lives. What's more, they're still killing eachother, so who really needs to go in there and kick their asses anyways? Why don't these fools come up with a real game plan. Iran should come right out and embrace Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, and the Emirates. This business of pretending that they don't all want to impale our collective American head on a pole, Constantine XI style, is stupid. Why play the game? Imagine the political bloc they could be. Their very own NATO. They'd have their own security forces, they'd get special uniforms and hats, and you'd really have to think twice before you landed a JDAM on somebody you thought was Osama's third cousin twice removed. They'd have their very own oompa-loompa SAS or ISI or whatever, and it would, frankly, be a force to reckon with. Saudi Arabia, for certain, has the money to build an incredibly sophisticated military, either through outright buying it, or developing it in-house (with huge amounts of talent in the area, primarily due to the war).
But, as history has shown, they're much happier to slaughter eachother, and they have no real idea what to do with a state. They're tribesmen by trade, and the Pashtuns and the Kurds are perfect examples of this. They're happy to say, "we own this mountan to that mountain, the valley and the river in it, and all the sheep." This, by the way, is what the Natives were saying when the English settlers came to what is now the United States, and we know how that turned out. This is what the Tibetans are doing now, and China is a perfect example of steamrolling these sorts of people, and further, an example of a nation so large, so populated, that it would have to be decimated, absolutely desolate, for an invading force to take ownership. Nobody's annexing China any time soon.
If I were advisor to the intifada, call me Mehmet Perle or something, I'd tell those guys to put aside their stupid differences (it's rather like protestants and catholics hating eachother, isn't it? they're both equally deluded, but they both believe in damn near the same thing. It's hate for the sake of hatred.) and try to reshape the world in their own image, by force, which is the only way it's ever been successfully accomplished.
Unify, crush, rebuild, rule. In that order. That's how it works, and blowing up planes, putting bombs in donkey carcasses and putting out spooky videos on YouTube is kid stuff. If the intifada had any chance at all of saving the world, or remaking it in their image, they'd be unified, better armed, their states better defined, their diplomats more refined (who could forget the scene of Muhammad al-Duri running, harried, to Europe after the fall of Baghdad?) to the UN running to his home in March of 03?), and they'd have a solution for what to do with the world once they've conquered it. All they've got right now is a prophet and a grudge. And I'm not so sure of the veracity of the former. There seem to be lots of them throughout history, with very mixed results.