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« Bringing Back the Dead | Main | A Millionth of One Percent »

July 22, 2006


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Brian Wang

Iran and Syria have been supplying funding and weapons to their Hezbollah proxy. The cruise missile that damaged the ship was from a chinese design.

But make no mistake Hezbellah has no chance to win militarily. Getting in a few shots that do some damage does not mean that the flyweight beats or has a chance against the cruiserweight champ or that the champ is not doing more damage to the flyweight right now.

Notice all the whining in the media and from Russia (who went pretty hard themselves against Chechnya) and other places that Israel is overreacting to the provocation.

Israel is not going all out militarily yet. They are in 3rd gear. They have a 4th, 5th and 6th gear.

A dirty bomb is not like a full nuclear bomb. We could embark on a program to use genetic engineering to make the general populace more radiation resistant (thus more resistant to dirty bombs). But even before that a dirty bomb causes disruption and economic impact, the health impacts are troublesome but manageable.

Any terrorists that get a full nuclear bomb will get it from the rogue nations (Iran -maybe in a few years [although I am thinking things will come to a head before], North Korea, Pakistan or from lax control of weapons from one of the other nations.) Any explosion of a nuclear bomb against the US or one of the major powers mean that you will all out conventional (maybe with some chemical and biological) attack on the supplying nation. Possibly with shaky proof.

If Iran and terrorists cause enough trouble, the US and/or Isreal will go in and clean it up. But you might say ..unending cycle of violence ....blah..blah. First win the current wars, worry about long term style points as you have the first goal in hand. Plus Germany and Japan got defanged. Plus if you really militarily crush the bejezus out of your opponent the next cycle of violence may be 10-30 years away. By which point technology will have rapidly changed.

You might say, but 'Brian you say they have no chance but what about Vietnam?' Ok I can see that US let media, lack of will and political reasons stop them on that. So the US did not win. But did North Vietnam win? 1 to 5 million dead. 20 to 100 times the number of US casualties. Now they are turning to capitalism. Would it not have been better for the Vietnamese people to have skipped the fighting and decades of screwed up economy and just gone straight to capitalism?

Proliferation does not happen out of thin air. There are sources. If you want to bad enough you can stop the sources. I mean WWII crush Nazi's want it bad enough. Currently the Iraq war is spending a lot of money and sending 200,000 guys over but not buy war bonds, mobilize the economy to war footing. It is watch CNN and Fox news about it and kibitz from your couch/blog when you are not watching American Idol.

Major terrorism has the backing of nations...mainly Iraq, Syria. (although India is getting its terrorism from Pakistan)

The bad ideas are not just memes. They have carriers and substrates (the people who are acting.) People who can be tracked and killed.

jim moore

"Ok I can see that US let media, lack of will and political reasons stop them on that. So the US did not win. But did North Vietnam win? 1 to 5 million dead. 20 to 100 times the number of US casualties. Now they are turning to capitalism. Would it not have been better for the Vietnamese people to have skipped the fighting and decades of screwed up economy and just gone straight to capitalism?" - Brian Wang

I ask would it not have been better for the US to skip fighting, trust that our system was better and let the Vietnamese take a little time to figure it out for themselves?

Phillip Huggan

Brian, you have no heart. The only human lives you value are Israeli/American Neoconservatives.

Brian Wang

1. This started with the the democratization of violence thesis. There is a chance for technology to go some in that direction, but having a big economy, technological advantages , a powerful conventional military still matters. I was pointing out that I disagreed with most of the democratization of violence thesis. The troubling nations are only in the game because the US is letting them.

Carthage eventually got crushed by Rome. Carthage had comparable resources in the first war. They had inferior resources but by far the best military commander in Hannibal who pulled off miracles. But even he could not defeat Rome. Then they were punished in the third war. That "unending cycle of violence" lasted a long time. The mismatch that we are looking at is greater and I do not see Hannibal on the other side.

2. I have a side. It is not that I do not value the lives of those in Iran. However, I do value my own life, family, friends and those that deem to be on my side more. An Acquaintence died on 9/11. I know that it was the fault of those not on my side. I am not a neoconservative. I do not follow any political thinking blindly.

When the country gets screwed like it did for my ancestors in China (with communism) they left. That would be my advice to individual Palestinians. You are in a no win situation, you ought to find a way to leave.

Plus Iran, Hezbollah and Vietnam being the weaker side should not start fights that they have no hope of winning.

3. I will not pretend that we have an even fight or that there are huge risks to the US of a loss with Terrorism gone amuck. The terrorists and their side get shut down whenever my side gets mad enough


Brian: In my opinion, the terrorists are winning, and no amount of bombs or bullets will stop them from, quite the opposite. Arguably, the most valuable things real democracies have are their democratic rights. Most countries define and weight these a little different from each other, but the baseline is alwas the same: equality before the law, having the right to due process, division of federal powers, choice as to where to live, what religion, if any, to practice, etc..

Some of these freedoms are being eroded heavily under the guise of the war against terror, not just in the US, but also in most European and some Asian countries, be the threat real or not. "Terror" doesn't win by being the last man standing on a battlefield or with a nuclear mushroom cloud. That's because there is no shoot-out at High Noon; terror is not an armed force, but a meme which becomes stronger, not weaker, with every carrier of this meme killed, because the meme's enemies behave exactly as it predicts.

I'm not sure I know what could make terror stop, but Iraq and Afghanistan showed that a war without a good political plan won't. Terror destroys our way of living, but not by destroying us physically, but by making us introduce secret laws, secret surveillance, secret process, and secret prisons. Terror does not work without someone letting himself being terrorized.


It isn't just advanced weapons but advanced communications and crypto that are a boon to terrorists/rebels/insurgents. Trying to take them out with brute military force isn't going to work, the 20th century is littered with failed examples. But there are also some good examples of things that worked.

The USA has within the past ten years effectively ended the IRA's terror campaign. They did this rather simply, by ceasing to supply the IRA with arms and pressuring them to stop. That move combined with a measured and nuanced approach by the British over the past two decades ended isolated the IRA from its support and forced them to give up violence. The same approach can work elsewhere. It may not be as emotionaly satisfying as sending in the tanks but it does work.

One has to wonder wether the current conflict in the Middle East is really about ending terrorism or a deadly political shell game by elements on both sides of the guy.

Brian Wang

I do not think the terrorists are winning. I equate current terrorism with really bad crime. What we have now is a police action on steriods. You make a point of brute military force. The US has not gone as brutal or as hard as it could. I make this point not to say that the US should kill more of them, but that the harder they try to make terrorism win then the more of them end up dead.

Putting this in poker terms, the US has a royal flush and the dealer is paid off. They have a small pair and are trying to draw to a smaller flush. No matter what they do they lose. Putting bigger bets in resources in lives will still be lost.

In terms of lives, fewer Iraqis, Palestanians and Lebanese would be dieing if they were not under the delusion that they can achieve their own goals through terrorism, cross border adventurism etc...

Matt says: terror is not an armed force, but a meme which becomes stronger, not weaker, with every carrier of this meme killed, because the meme's enemies behave exactly as it predicts.

Really. Let us put this to a thought experiment. Say there are 100 million who might take up the meme. Currently 5 million do. You kill 2 million of the 5 million. You say but that causes 4 million to be recruited to the cause. So now there are 7 million with the meme (total pop is now 98 million). Now you kill 4 million. They recruit 8 million. 11 million now believe out of 94 million. You kill 8 million. They recruit 16 million. 19 million now believe out of 86 million. You kill 16 million. they recruit 32 million. 35 million believe out of 70 million. You kill 32 million. They recruit the last 35 million. They have 38 million out of 38 million. You kill 38 million. Meme over.

If there were any around you could ask Carthaginians or maybe some of the exterminated Native Indians tribes or Aztecs how their meme is working out.

My analysis of they can't win is Isreal took on all the arab countries including Egypt back in 67 and 73 and they won. I still they are able to do that now. Likewise the US could fight the world and if not win the world would not win. Therefore, the opposing meme has no chance to win.

I am not saying that slaughter is a good thing. I am saying it has happened in the past and could in the future. I am also saying that some of the ideas "can't kill a meme" are wrong.

I also think that the war from the US side is driven by a small group of interests. Military industrial complex profiteers, those with certain ideology and think tank meme, etc... They might not be right or good, but they are there. Iranians, Syrians, Lebanese and others are fools and lemmings to follow there own small group of vested interest people into the abyss.

Of course the Iraqi conflict is not about "ending terrorism". It is about keeping things running smoothly for the US/global economic machine and for companies like Haliburtan to be paid off.

The current Hezbollah adventurism (which you know if they had not gone across the border, Israel would not have started shooting at them.) is for Iran and Syrian interests and to bolster the political support for radical movements unable to deliver in peacetime who need to be in the position of oppressed underdog.

Phillip Huggan

"The terrorists and their side get shut down whenever my side gets mad enough"

No Brian, now "your" side are the terrorists. 2700 innocent civilians die on 9-11 and you inflict 50-100 times that body count upon another innocent country having nothing to do with 9-11 or terrorism: Iraq (had the Alberta Bible-thumpers running Canada now been in charge in 2003, Canada would be right along side the American-led coalition slaughtering Arabs). Even if a Western city got nuked by a terrorist, the subsequent body count wouldn't be as high.

The 1996 Qana massacre of 100 Lebanon civilians by Israeli forces had a very powerful influence on Bin Laden's psyche. How many future terrorists are being made today? Well, of about 400 Lebanese deaths to date (40 in Israel so far), somewhere between 40 (Lebanon's estimate) and 133 (Israel's estimate) of them are actually Hezbollah militants. Split the difference and Israel is killing 5 civilians for every terrorist killed. Hmmm, I wonder of they are making more terrorists than they are killing.

Hezbollah provides water and education and loans to Lebanese civilians. It is a dual purpose organization just like the American government is. Israel has had Mossad assasins active in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq; terrorists have been targeted but so have people with political inclinations Israel simply doesn't like. In their present air-strikes, I'd have no objection if Israel bombed Hezbollah targets. But they have bombed highways, the airport, powerplants, water supplies, grain stores, medical supply trucks, Lebanese army positions(?!); they have killed 8 Canadian citizens. Yet another Arab country is being destroyed.

As far as I can tell, Israel and the USA (while Republican governments continue to be elected) are lately more the problem than part of the solution to international stability. It is "horrifying" when New Yorkers are killed but when Sunni and Shiite Arab blood is spilled, it is somehow a good thing? Except a Pakastani villager is making his family economically more prosperous by being brainwashed in a terrorist training camp to be a suicide bomber. We in the West get all the economic fruits and have the choice of any info source. Yet some of us still choose Fox News. The situation is not symmetrical. It is the West who are at fault here.

The ironic thing is that Lebanon and Iraq were two moderate secular governments by Arab world standards. The invasion of Lebanon will be strategically flawed anyway: Hezbollah militants not stranded in southern Lebanon can simply retreat behind the porous Syrian border.

Brian Wang


Do you notice how your examples start off.

they kill 2700 and then lose one hundred times that.

they come across the border kill 8 and kidnap 2 and then their airports and people suffer and die.

they should not be starting fights that they will lose.

The west would not be killing them if they did not start it. Yet you still say the west is at fault ?

Lebanon/Hezbollah started this latest round. And for stupid and narrow reasons. Definitely not to help the populace of Lebanon.

If kids ignore the beware of dog sign, ignore the old man telling them to keep off the lawn, he climbs the fence and then gets killed by the old mans pit bulls. Yes it is a tragedy the kids are dead. But they would not have died if they had stayed on their side of the fence.

I agree that the US should not have gone into Iraq and when they did they should have kept most of the Iraqi army intact. The ideological reasoning to debathify was wrong headed and not pragmatic.

I of course realize that atrocities happen in war and one stronger side may kill more than might be necessary to achieve its goals. Thus wars should be avoided. The weaker side really should especially try harder to avoid war. It is not solely the US's responsibility to keep the body count down. If Hezbollah really cared about their own people then they would not recklessly start wars to get them killed. Same goes for Syria and Iran. Plus the argument, hey they can slip across the border into Syria. Are you that naive as to believe given what is and has been happening that Israel or the US will always stop at the Syrian or Iranian border?

I know it is not your argument but those who say the terrorists are winning and look at the overkill are not being consistent. If the terrorists are winning then the losing side could be considered justified in upping their aggression to try to win.

Tom Craver

Side point - the Vietnam war can really only be understood as "The Vietnam battle of the Cold War", and by realizing that sometimes even a lost battle is useful as a holding/delaying action.

Terror is a brutal tactic of asymmetric warfare - to make war on terror, one must find a way to discourage its use. The strategy in Afghanistan was to wipe out some terrorists, but also to demonstrate what happens to governments that allow terrorists to operate against the US from their territory.

In Lebanon, Israel appears to be doing what the US did in Afghanistan, modified by the recognition that they can't permanently occupy Lebanon as the US now occupies Afghanistan.

Brian Wang

btw: an article related to my statement that Hezbollah has no chance.

Hezbollah running out of missiles

It is widely reported that they had 13000 missiles to start with. They are shooting off 100+/day. We are in day 13. Israel is destroying weapon caches and getting some number of launchers and missiles with them.
So running out within 30 days makes sense if the destroyed roads, bridges and blockades are effective in preventing resupply.

Mirco Romanato

I would point out to this post:

It is about islamist developing a decentralized technology to build WMDs and what would happen after this.

Brian Wang

That was interesting article at the Belmont club site. A nuclear response may result from a nuclear attack on a city. I have written something that explains why a nuclear response may not be necessary for an overwhelming counter-response

Chris Phoenix, CRN

That article at the Belmont club site is scary. It seems to boil down to:

1) Islamist terrorists will use any weapon they get their hands on, including nukes, because they want to destroy us.
2) There is no way to negotiate with them or stop them short of killing them.
3) The more that are killed in retaliatory strikes, the more Muslims will be radicalized.
4) Therefore, the terrorists had better be stopped--by America's War on Terror--before they get any real WMDs, or all Islam will be destroyed.

A point of logic: If they can't be stopped by military means post-WMD, then how can military means stop them now?

Another point of logic: If (as the article argues) a rational response to the first nuclear attack is to skip to the end and wipe out all Muslims, then why not skip to the end preemptively?

Brian Wang's writing about Lebanon seems to similarly treat Muslim civilians as proto-terrorists. "If Hezbollah really cared about their own people then they would not recklessly start wars to get them killed."

It's quite destructive to lump together residents of Lebanon as "Hezbollah's own people." That could easily lead to Lebanon becoming another Palestine.



Brian, that was a great comment. States still have vastly more resources to use against non-state groups if they have the political will to do so.

Brian Wang

I was not lumping the muslim civilians as proto-terrorists. I am lumping them in as potential casualties (proto-casualities). Civilians on both sides end up dead when the shooting starts.

If a group, like Hezbollah did not want their civilians to become casualties they have control of that when they are initiating the war.

I also recognize that the northern 2/3 of Lebanon does not support Hezbollah at all.

Civilians can also influence their potential casualty status. They can decide to get rid of those who are taking them into wars that they do not want. People in the US can try to do it with demonstrations etc... People in other places can have a tougher time. Rat out the troublemakers, fight for change against the troublemakers.

I think Hezbollah cares about keeping the fires of the revolution burning and forcing a radicalization of the population. People living in peace and getting tourism apparently was a losing formula for their goals and the goals of their Syrian and Iranian backers.

Lebanon had 6 years of peace. Israel had left. Its sinking back into war was the result of initiation by Hezbollah. Many in Lebanon and Arab world think that the gratuitous attack was reckless and unnecessary. do you think it was "forced upon them" and if so why?

Tom Craver

I think it's possible to fight terrorism - but we'll have to get a lot more creative than "Invade the country where a lot of them are hiding, and kill them when they fight back".

Some things we may or may not be doing:
- Set up a credible (even if ineffective - see below) system for people to anonymously inform on the terrorists.
- Put up high-altitude aerostats to record everything that happens in an area suspected to harbor many terrorists. After an attack, search back to find where the terrorists came from, track them as they flee.
- Do something similar for spotting (via motion detection) and tracking illegal border crossings from places like Pakistan, Syria and Iran.
- Use ESCHELON-like automated audio processing, but applied to directional microphones scanning a city that harbors terrorists.
- Through indirect channels, introduce shipments of weapons like grenades, that only terrorists would buy - with remote activated radio-locating devices in every (live) grenade.

Use all of the above to identify terrorists, track them, build up maps of their habits, locations, movements, associates, cells, networks, hierarchy. Hold off using that information until you can strike root, leaf and seeds at once.

Pick up some who are just known to associate with terrorists - and later release them after planting the rumor that all the terrorists were identified over the previous months by their fellow citizens - undermining the terrorists' belief that they are safe hiding in urban areas.

Brian Wang

I agree that better methods and technology can be used to achieve the goals of the US and its allies. Although the technology and systems that Tom describes are close, a lot of it is not quite here yet.

Surveillence airships are being tested

Widespread video monitoring has been in London since 1998 and is going into New York.

Infrared cameras could become as cheap as regular digital cameras

Radar will get a lot cheaper and lighter

persistent monitoring

The flood of new and cheaper sensing and surveillence technology will be to the advantage of the US and its allies.

Chris pointed out: If they can't be stopped by military means post-WMD, then how can military means stop them now?

I do not agree that they cannot be stopped now or after WMD. If we are clever we can do it in a more targeted manner with less collaterol (fewer civilians killed) damage as Tom has pointed out. If we are not so clever then we can substitute more force and will. My point has been that at no point will the US or Isreal be forced to lose except if they fold. The point has mainly been against those who claim the terrorists are winning and you can't stop the terrorists. I also believe that even if Iran and N Korea have WMDs that they can also still be beaten/deterred or whatever the technologically superior west wants to do. How easy it goes down depends on how clever and sneaky you are. The more sneakier and clever the better. Again substitute aggression and will if you are insufficiently sneaky and clever.

On the scale of problems I do not think terrorism is the top issue or as bad as the media and politicians like to make it out to be. It is an issue to be addressed, just like crime. Clearly 9/11 was a big deal but statistically in terms of money and lives I would categorize it lower than some other issues. (Don't have time to list but 1.2 million people die worldwide in traffic accidents each year.)

Mike Treder, CRN

The previous two comments, both highly personal attacks on another commenter by 'Asib' and 'Asib2', were deleted for being offensive.


Keep deleting Mike. But someday you will be ashamed of yourself.

Mike Treder, CRN

Asib, you are entitled to your opinions and I welcome you to keep posting them here on two conditions: 1) that they are relevant to the issues being discussed; and 2) that you refrain from ad hominem attacks.


The irony is that I was searching for "Nano bootcamp" for my graduate students that got me into your blog and then read through other things. I live in the heartland of the redneck cowboys and there is no day without hearing or reading offensive words while they label themselves as Jesus lovers, compassionate, care givers,… and I am fine with that. However, I get frustrated only when people with no knowledge in religion, politics, and history label millions of people with the strongest words and talk about killing them like he wants to kill flies. I wish people had a "Nano" care for others that are a bit different than us.

Brian Wang

I will assume that Asib might be referring to the kill a meme paragraph. I think you are assuming that I would support and encourage implementing that paragraph. I do not support taking that action. I am saying that based on history that if the vastly military superior get pushed hard enough then they can step it up and the militarily inferior will then lose. Such killings have happened in the past and could happen in the future. Not because I want them to. I am suggesting that since such events have happened and that the militarily and technological superior side can more easily make it happen. It would be prudent for the technological and militarily inferior to reconsider the wisdom and prudence of the tactics of terrorism and aggression. They should consider the history of WW II and that the US military has gotten 100 times stronger since then.

You are partially right in that my point does not have anything to do with the rightness of either side or the religion and politics. I do have some knowledge of history, religion and politics, but was not applying it to this analysis.

The analysis is one of risk assessment and behavior that increases risk. If someone is driving a wooden boat filled with people that they care about, then they should reconsider playing chicken with a battleship with 1 meter thick metal. Assuming that the battleship will swerve a little every time seems to be a mistake, irregardless of religion, politics and history.

So Asib, what do you think will happen if Iran gets a nuke and it ends up getting used against New York? Some people (although not you) have been saying that the terrorists would then win. I am saying that then they would lose and many other people would lose along with them. Definitely the vast majority of those people should not lose with them, but as history shows that can happen.


I do not use to discuss politics in nanotech blogs and if I need to be punched I usually go to orthodox jew or neocon websites to make my points. But since you asked I answer your question here.
1-Politics: Who in the world decides that who should own a nuke bomb and who should not? Do not tell me the wise one should own it. Those wise one's proudly used it and burnt thousands of innocents.
2- Military: Iranian have already prepared 10 million asymmetric troops ready. Remember, Hezbollah has only 6000 fighters and with relatively old technology taught Israelis unforgettable war lessons. So go figure how confident Iranians are.
3- Common sense: Iran officials like American ones are mostly so rotten and mean, love their positions, titles, money, and investments. So, why should they use a nuke to receive hundred nukes back?
4- Technology: Iran already has enrichment technology and does not need a mushroom cloud style bomb. I think if they are attacked by nukes (which is more probable than the funny-horror fox news New York attacks stories), they can simply make thousands of dirty bombs and can create enough catastrophes. Last year Rita hurricane path was 500 miles away from us but civilized people's fight for a bottle of water and a pack of bread was so amazing.
5- Personal: I in the age of 8 lived months under bombardment and I know how different is the reality and the Hollywood version. Unfortunately those who decide when to attack, when to stop, design new mideast, greater mideast, when to meet Saddam and hug him and when to get him are the one that have never felt a war and its consequences.
6- History: In last 350 years, Iran has never attacked any country in the world. Since you have knowledge in history please let me know how many countries can you find with this history.
7- Religion: Doe you know what makes Hezbollah so powerful. Definitely it is not their weapons. Shia believes: Live like Ali (symbol of fairness and justice, the one who was governor of entire Islamic lands but lost his case in the court against a Christian) and die like Hussein (symbol of braveness, the one who had the chance to skip the war zone but stood and fought along with his 72 followers against 10,000 army and all were killed).

Brian Wang

1. I think it is apparent that those who already have thousands of bombs and military superiority are deciding. Not necessarily the wise but those who got the power first and have it now. Geopolitics seems to be more about power, capability under various situations. Note: I don't have any power or influence. I am just making the observations.
2. Military: and yet Iran only fought Iraq to a standstill (1980-88). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran-Iraq_War
Iraq got pasted by the US military.
I think that the asymetric warfare matters less if those in charge of the opposition are more brutal and callous (as Saddam was). Any asymetric warfare successes early on will increase the responding brutality and callousness. Like Japan saw in WW II.
4. "Last year Rita hurricane path was 500 miles away from us but civilized people's fight for a bottle of water and a pack of bread was so amazing."
What is the point that is trying to made here ? that natural disaster response was poor in Louisiana ? that people need water and food ? that Natural disasters are bad?
Iran has trouble with natural disasters too.

6. Iran is using Hezbollah to attack Israel now. Their use of proxies and of disavowable groups is a clever and cost effective strategy. I don't think it will effectively scale and in the case of a full scale war agents working in other countries will not be given the freedom of action that they currently have. 10 million will not be 1,800 times more effective than 6,000. The main trouble is caused if the 10 million can engage in a land battle, especially with an invading force. the US has B52 and long stick bombing and more UAVs.

However, if you are right in your assessment that Iran will not attack the US directly or via proxy and that it will not pursue a fission bomb, then maybe there will be no war. But I think many of the things that are seem to be happening would indicate that your assessment is not correct. Why is Iran pushing so hard for an expanded enrichment program if not for a fission bomb? they have been offered uranium and technology for nuclear energy via Russia.

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