Worthwhile Reading and Viewing

Much political anger is based on attributing to opponents views that they don’t actually hold, according to this study, summarized and discussed on twitter here.

Paul Graham, who himself writes some interesting essays, says:

No one who writes essays would be surprised by this. When people attack an essay you’ve written, 95% of the time they do it by making up something you didn’t actually say, and then attacking that.

The skill of surgeons varies tremendously, with bottom quartile surgeons having over 4x as many complications as the best surgeons in the same hospital…so says this study.  And surgeons are keenly aware of who is good & who is bad – their rankings of others are very accurate.  Summarized and discussed on twitter here, where there is also a reference to the classic study  showing 10X range among programmers, and another study measuring the impact of managers on revenue performance in the game industry.

Some innovation stories from small US manufacturers, and a shop-floor driven tooling innovation at GE Aviation.

Speaking of tools, here’s a study suggesting that using mechanical tools improves language skills.

The limits of narrative, at Quillette.

Ryan Peterson, CEO of the digital freight forwarder Flexport, discovered an AI tool that lets you create art without being an artist, and has been having fun with it.

35 thoughts on “Worthwhile Reading and Viewing”

  1. After the 1975 medical malpractice crisis in California, a cooperative was formed to provide insurance for surgeons and other physicians who could not afford the high premiums of the few remaining insurers. My malpractice premiums went from $3500 to $36,000 in one year. Since my gross income that year was $48,000, I practiced without insurance for three years until the coop was formed. My partner and I had a sign in our waiting room explaining that we did not have insurance.

    The coop was not an insurance company and not subject to the rules about reserves. We were all at risk, sort of like a Lloyd’s “name.” In addition, we were allowed to choose who could join as if we were a club. As a result, the coop sent out inquiries about any applicant to others in that area. Responses were confidential. If anyone was considered incompetent or careless by colleagues in the same specialty, they were rejected politely.

    We were required to contribute an initial $20,000 for capital and had annual assessments, based on the coop’s experience, of about $5,000. Meritless suits were fiercely defended but questionable ones were settled. For 17 years I was not sued. When I retired, my $20,000 was refunded.

  2. The study on the impact of managers on revenue of computer games is quite interesting; here’s a direct link to the study:

    https://deliverypdf.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=471009102086024126064098001066094123061037004077091082097072003101006113124112103091001009026029106125054083121097127114086078024034037055050079123029093012077111008029054039095030074112022095021014102098092072076076126093030110093080015121089095097088&EXT=pdf&INDEX=TRUE

    (the length of that ID field would probably suffice to assign individual numbers to every atom in the solar system, maybe the galaxy)

    Read and comment if so inclined.

  3. (the length of that ID field would probably suffice to assign individual numbers to every atom in the solar system, maybe the galaxy)

    Which is why Tiny URL exists.
    https://tinyurl.com/app

    Much political anger is based on attributing to opponents views that they don’t actually hold, according to this study, summarized and discussed on twitter here.

    When I spent a fair amount time writing blog comments, I also noticed that I spent a fair amount of time pointing out to our liberal commenters that no, that’s NOT what I wrote. “Reading comprehension issues” fit a lot of my replies.

  4. David,
    My interpretation of the paper would be just the opposite. They were trying to assess the contribution of all the people that weren’t managers to the success or failure. The answer from the abstract seems to be that they couldn’t.

    ” The absence of evidence at the individual level of analysis also prevents a thorough understanding of which roles beyond those of top managers contribute most to firm performance.”

    I would venture to assert that that is just what the managers want. Just as with surgeons, this issue is only opaque to outsiders and upper managers. All the people there day to day know just who to credit or blame.

    In Dr. Mike’s example, I’d bet he could have gotten even more pointed and accurate information if they had asked the OR nurses.

    Of course, the essence of management is getting acceptable performance of the less stellar members of the team and leaving the stars to manage themselves. Also preventing the least stellar members from becoming black holes that consume the project without leaving a trace observable to the rest of the universe.

    Returning to surgeons, the disparity of outcomes surely can’t be a surprise to anyone that ever watched M.A.S.H.. All the study says is that just asking around is probably as good as collecting exhaustive statistics. This is something I suspect most doctors have known since Galen was a boy.

  5. Putting words in your mouth, and then attacking you for what you did not say, seems to be a popular tactic used by leftists.

  6. MCS….”I would venture to assert that that is just what the managers want”

    If I understand the study right…and I should go back and read it more carefully…it doesn’t matter *what* the managers want from the standpoint of how these results come out, because they were based on statistical analysis of the revenue generated by each game and its team.

    I don’t know how things work in the computer game industry, but in companies I’m familiar with, the manager *choose* who to hire as individual workers, and who to get rid of or trade in/trade out with other organizations in the company…or at least to have a very strong influence on those decisions. So, at a bare minimum, the astuteness of the managers in selecting people should be expected to have a very strong effect, even if people-selection were to be *all* that they do.

  7. Frank…what I observe is not only the ‘putting words in your mouth’ phenomenon, but also the attribution of personal attributes…especially motivations…to opponents which often do not apply. Leftists do this most often, but the other side isn’t totally exempt.

    For example, I’ve seen a blogger who I know to be highly-educated and Jewish told by a commenter that her conservative views are due to her being an uneducated fundamentalist Christian.

    OTOH, I sometimes see conservative assert that ‘progressives’ hold their political views because they are lazy and don’t want to work. I know too many counterexamples to agree with this…and anyhow, it’s dangerous to underrate one’s opponents.

  8. If they are looking for the most bang for the buck, a quick and easy tactic would be the first approach and, if this works, then nothing further need be done. This would give ‘progressives’ the appearance of laziness but, as you say, this would be dangerous underrating – and lazy thinking to boot.

  9. David,
    I should have read further than the abstract, I can only plead that my life is already full enough of 30 page pdf’s to inhibit me from pursuing many for “fun”. I still stand with what I wrote but admit it was not quite on point.

    Notwithstanding the author’s protests, the PC game business resembles nothing so much as the publishing business. It is certainly nothing like a manufacturing business. While the success of Toyota depends on the popularity of their designs to an extent, it also is very dependent on their ability to produce those designs at scale. In the PC game world, all the expense is in the design with the the cost of production being negligible.

    All of the, for lack of a better term, creative industries dream of being able to produce hits with the same regularity that Toyota produces cars. For them it always comes down to the vision of a singular creator, whether it’s an author or director. Even when these creators have a track record of success, misfires are common. There have been some notable movie production disasters from out of control production costs but most have arisen from simply misjudging the appeal of the end product. The cost of producing and distributing books is higher than games but at least much of the cost is prorated in terms of actual sales, or can be.

    As far as middle level managers being able to design their teams, I find the hiring process of most places I’ve worked extremely haphazard. They can’t be all bad, they hired me after all, but it’s always much easier to hire a dud than to get rid of him. The only way I’ve ever been able to tell how much of a resume was BS was after they started to do the job and then it was too late. I find there are two 20/80 rules. 20% produce 80% of both the good and the bad.

  10. Wait, an AI tool that lets you make “art?”

    First you need an intention, a purpose, a statement. Computers lack that – they only follow directions from humans.

    But then, a lot of human “art” also lacks something to say, has no purpose, and the artist’s only intention is to make a buck and build a reputation.

  11. “For them it always comes down to the vision of a singular creator, whether it’s an author or director.”

    Authors have been complaining about that mindset for a long time. Publishers never seem to learn that you cannot predict success very well, and you never know where the next best seller will come from or how long it will take to become a hit. The new Dune movie has been in the news, which reminds me that Frank Herbert had a terrible time finding a publisher for his novel, both because of its length and because it did not fit the sf formulas. And even once it was published it took a while to catch on as word-of-mouth spread.

  12. In Dr. Mike’s example, I’d bet he could have gotten even more pointed and accurate information if they had asked the OR nurses.

    I don’t know how many times I have told people thinking about surgery to ask an OR nurse. When I was at Dartmouth, one of my fellow students was a recovery room nurse getting a Masters in medical quality. She did a research project on anesthesia quality. The recovery room nurses knew the answers.

  13. Very, very rarely do you run into a “manager” or a “leader” who actually knows thereof of which they manage or lead. Most of them are where they are not due to any real proficiency or skill in the trade or profession, but because they’re consummate politicians and gamesmen.

    Which explains so very much of the “why we’re fscked” in all the many different areas we are.

    I’m convinced that the biggest issue we face isn’t “climate change” or “peak oil”, it’s “Why are we putting so many idiots in charge of things?”. That’s a civilization-ender, if I ever saw one. Forget the “Sweet Meteor of Doom”, we’re gonna drown in a sea of red-tape process and utterly indifferent malign incompetence, mostly resulting from our tolerance of these idiots and a refusal to deal with the process by which we’re creating them and elevating them to positions of authority.

    The people at the EPA who were responsible for killing the Colorado River weren’t removed from their positions of authority; they were instead given bonuses and promoted. As the wry phrase in the Army goes “Fsck up, move up…”. This is why we’re so screwed up, nationally–The lack of a certain clarity of vision about competence and performance, and a forthright willingness to deal with the incompetent. Everybody wants to be Mr. Nice Guy when the time comes to confront the idiot or other malfeasant, but nobody is willing to step back and examine the institutional damage these cretins cause or eliminate them.

    Every organization needs what amounts to an immune system that eliminates the incompetent. Across our civilization, ours is not working–Which is precisely why you see so much outright utter idiocy prevalent in most of our enterprises.

    If you examine things, peers and actual practitioners know who is dangerous and a menace to everything they do. Nobody ever asks them, or listens when they speak up. If you go and look at most failure situations, you will almost always find someone who spoke up and said “Yo… This isn’t going to work, and X is a menace to society…” Like Cassandra, nobody ever listens to them.

  14. pst314,
    Publishers used to at least tacitly admit that they weren’t very good a picking winners by publishing a wide variety of authors, including some they were fairly sure weren’t ever going to be best sellers. That seems to have gone away. If you can find a book store, you’ll see the same authors as last year that have cranked out yet another installment of their series.

    I have mixed emotions about “Dune”. I’ve read it at least three times, yet my enthusiasm faded years before the parade of new “Dune” books did. I find the recruitment of authors to extend the franchise of deceased authors especially questionable. Let the poor man or woman rest in peace and go out and do something new of your own.

    Of course, all the big publishers are part of “media” conglomerates and it’s all about the Benjamins. The manager’s seven figure paychecks depend on them convincing the suckers – excuse me, shareholders – that they have the magic touch that can pluck the diamonds straight from the slush pile without wasting any money on plain dirt. Just look at the now decades long saga of Time Warner. They never seem to run out of gullible investors willing to believe that this time they know what they’re talking about.

    To get back on point. Most PC games are run on an engine that allows the technical aspects such as resolution, frame rate and rendering to be separated from the flow of the game. Writing a game is a scripting process rather than bare metal programming. Basically, the people that write the story no longer have to know how to set the type. This greatly extends the pool of possible game developers.

  15. “Publishers used to at least tacitly admit that they weren’t very good a picking winners by publishing a wide variety of authors, including some they were fairly sure weren’t ever going to be best sellers. That seems to have gone away.”

    Agreed! Unfortunately, I seem to have forgotten everything that editors and authors have said in my presence about how this change came about. Presumably the replacement of old school editors in smaller independent publishers with bean-counting MBA’s in multinational conglomerates.

    I have mixed emotions about “Dune”.

    As have I: Its literary flaws grew more obvious as I grew up, although I do feel it has some merits. I stopped reading Frank Herbert’s sequels before he stopped writing them: He really did not have enough to say to justify so many words. And never mind his son’s sequels/prequels/whatever. But I do vaguely recall some authors saying that their publishers pressured them in to writing endless sequels when the authors wanted to do new things.

  16. I don’t know if this is so much interesting viewing as infuriating. Sal Mercogliano goes line by line through the report on the fire of Bonhomme Richard fire. Pretty much the whole chain of command up to the CNO should have not just resigned but should have died from simple embarrassment.

    Part 1:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyMLckaPEkM

    Part 2:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ckGi_RmZCA

    It’s nearly two hours but from someone probably uniquely qualified to have an opinion.

  17. Sure would have been nice to see some pictures of the GE invention. It sounds to me like BS for which GE invented some kind of rube goldberg device.

    There are half a dozen company that make automatic nut drivers. They look like oversized electric screwdrivers and are used everyday in similar applications. If they can access the studs to start the nuts by hand, there is no reason I can understand that they can’t buy something off the shelf to solve this problem. Probably less than $2,000.

    No need to reinvent the wheel.

  18. MCS: “Pretty much the whole [Bonhomme Richard fire] chain of command up to the CNO should have not just resigned but should have died from simple embarrassment.”

    Wow! Thanks for the links to those videos, MCS. Well worth the time looking at them.

    What do we do with an organization like the US Navy that can see a $1.5 Billion warship burned out in a US harbor and not fire the entire chain of command — just to encourage everyone else to Pay Attention? What do we do with a Congress and an Administration that just lets it all slide? Let’s hope the US Navy never has to go to war!

  19. That ain’t new, or restricted to the Navy.

    Go look for any after-the-fact investigations or hearings for just exactly why the US Army and Marine Corps were “utterly surprised” by the IED campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’d wait for you to produce some, but since there ain’t been any that are out in the open…? We’ll all be here a long time while you search.

    People should have been fired. Nope; didn’t happen. Trent Telenko recently highlighted the Ukrainians getting uparmored US Army tactical trucks, and lauded the folks who produced those.

    From where I sit, they should have taken the entire lot of those assholes out and shot them, starting with the geniuses who were in charge of the entire FMTV program back when it was still in early development. We (my former company commander and I) wrote them a nice paper, telling them that a cab-forward design for a vehicle meant for military use was sheer stupidity. Why? Because that puts the damn crew compartment right over the lead axle, and what do lead axles do in a mine/IED environment? They set things off… Right under the crew compartment. The South African range of SAMIL vehicles are all conventionally designed, with V-shaped hulls that put the front axle out where God intended, well in front of the crew space.

    We got back a nice little contemptuous reply from the FMTV program’s leading lights, wherein we were blithely informed that these military tactical trucks were not meant for “front-line service” and would never have to worry about mines or IEDs. We’d also proposed that they develop up-armor kits for the vehicles concurrent with their design, so that they could be rapidly armored in case we ran into something that required that. Nope; again, we were told “No, you do not understand… These are not combat vehicles…”

    Took those assholes until 2006-ish to get us any sort of armor more complex than some sandbags and/or kevlar blankets. Then, we got to watch them all give each other high-fives and bonuses for what a good job they’d done in “adapting to circumstances”. Circumstances that they’d created through willful stupidity and blind ignorance.

    Trust me on this one, folks: If a then-Staff Sergeant and a Captain could look at the state of things regarding war in 1993 and recognize that the IED and land mine would have to be countered in our rear areas? Then, those jackasses should have been able to do the same thing, no?

    All of them should have been fired, if only as an example to others. It’s not like they weren’t told, repeatedly, that we’d need the gear. It’s like the urban warfare kit for the M1 Abrams–You can go back to the 1980s in all the Armor Journal editions where they discuss urban warfare, wherein they tell everyone reading it that the M1 badly needed enhancements for infantry cooperation and urban warfare. Didn’t happen until, what? 2006? TUSK came out, and everyone patted themselves on the back, and lauded the people who “made it happen”. Nothing was done, of course, about all those people who’d sat there denying reality and preventing the development and fielding of that self-same kit up until then. Some of them were the same people, now with changed tunes once it became brutally apparent how wrong they’d been. But, to listen to them? The whole thing was new and “unexpected”, and they’d done a great job “adapting to changed circumstances”. No, what they did was block people with the ability to accurately foresee and forecast which way things were going, and then take credit for adopting those ideas once it became abundantly clear how badly they’d screwed up by not listening to them in the first place.

    Oh, and mark you this, as well: None of those early “prophets without honor in their own land” got either an apology or a re-look at their original work. They were all conveniently forgotten, ‘cos if they weren’t, then someone would have some serious ‘splainin to do before Congress and the American people.

    I don’t really want to know just how many guys got wounded or killed doing route clearance work the old-fashioned way. Thinking about that just raises my blood pressure, which goes even higher when I hear the assholes laud themselves to the skies for having come up with solutions we fscking well told them they’d need back in the early 1990s.

    Am I bitter? No, not at all. I’m just fiiiiiiine with this crap. This is the way we do business, running blindly into walls that anyone with half a freakin’ brain could see and avoid.

    Morons. The lot of them. Utter, irretrievable morons.

  20. Ther4 were two elements to the IED debacle in Iraq. The one that surprised me was that high explosives were easier to get than fresh milk and eggs. This was not what I expected in a country long governed by a repressive dictatorship. I assumed the guns, let alone artillery shells were locked up. That there were thousands and thousands of Iraqis that would oppose any change in the status quo not to mention become targets for all the others lately under their boot was a given.

    There is no reason for anyone to care what I thought but the fact that all the super geniuses in the Bush administration apparently missed both was a surprise.

    It’s pretty clear that we should just fire a lot of admirals and generals without replacing them. The entire DOD has become a place with far too many chiefs and not enough indians to get anything productive done.

  21. Every field has 10x people. Those of us who work with software developers certainly know that. Not sure why anyone would think surgeons are any different, except that they, and “scientists” have managed to place themselves up on a pedestal somehow. It’s sort of like the Gell-Mann amnesia effect, I think. We all know that there are terrible and great teachers, mechanics, etc., so why anyone would think any field is exempt is a mystery.

  22. they didn’t think the regime would distribute guns and explosives, another explanation for al qua qua, the ransacked facility that was their white sands or aberdeen proving ground, if you read boddansky’s monographs on the subject, chechnya was the inspiration for both the second intifada by hamas and the iraq campaigns,

  23. @MCS,

    You would think, as a Westerner in a normal country that explosives and all that would be secured. And, you’d be wrong, ‘cos they sure as hell were not…

    Iraq circa 2003 was a vast, open-air munitions dump. I don’t know what the deal was before we invaded, but the reality we found was that there were dispersed lots of everything, all over–Munitions were found in schools, mosques, private homes, you name it. The gargantuan munitions dumps we took over were not secured, either. I cannot over-emphasize just how much there was in the way of military high explosives available in Iraq. The demilitarization of that stuff went on for years–We were still doing it circa 2007, and the scale of the effort was something you’d likely be shocked by.

    That was one of the huge “missed stories” of the Iraq effort. We literally spent billions tracking all that stuff down, demilitarizing it, and trying to recycle as much as we could. Some of the EOD efforts were truly incredible; some of the sites we were working at took years to go through and destroy everything. Most of it was Soviet, so the EOD folks were fairly unhappy campers having to deal with the risk of decayed and deteriorated explosives, some of which were prone to just detonating on their own.

    As for why the Pentagon “didn’t foresee” any of that? Well, that’d be a fundamental untruth, because we went in knowing we’d be doing that. What hadn’t been foreseen was the dispersal and the abandonment of security over the vast dumps the Iraqis had created. We also didn’t realize just how much they’d stockpiled, in that Saddam was the military equivalent of a hoarder when it came to munitions. From what I was told by the EOD techs I talked to, a lot of the munitions he’d purchased from the Soviets had already been past their “freshness dates” when he bought them, and the Soviets happily shipped the stuff, knowing that. Some of those munitions dumps “spontaneously detonated” during the Iran-Iraq War, some went up during Desert Storm, and they had issues throughout our demilitarization process. There was one incident where our guys went in to one of the storage sites, opened up a bunker, and whatever they did before entry resulted in the entire thing going up, including several neighboring bunkers. We lost a bunch of contractors on that one, and a couple of US EOD techs got pretty badly injured, from what I remember.

    Irony of it was, some of those contractors were Iraqi EOD types who were ecstatic to be able to go in after a lot of that stuff. Seems Saddam did not want any of his munitions dealt with, so he wouldn’t let anyone go in and destroy the old and dangerous stuff, which frustrated the Iraqi EOD types no end, during his regime. What would happen, instead of them destroying the munitions like everyone else does (aside from Soviets or Russians, who seemingly just wait for the old stock to blow up or burn in the depots…) and destroy aged-out munitions, is that they’d just lock up the storage bunkers and ignore them. Which is why we had such fun cleaning that stuff up. The US had to deal with a massive backlog of things that simply hadn’t been done in Iraq once Saddam took over. Case in point–The water treatment plant in his hometown of Tikrit hadn’t had any real maintenance done since the Brits built it for them in the 1960s. When we got there, the filtration beds hadn’t been changed since construction happened, and the charcoal was completely gone. The plant operators, what few were left, all testified that nobody could get anything at all done without express approval from Baghdad, and that never came, so they didn’t do anything. Even before sanctions, they’d been unable to get anyone in the Iraqi government to do anything at all about refreshing and maintaining the filtration beds, so what was going out into the water system there in Tikrit was basically just untreated river water… Just about everything we touched in Iraq was like that, from medical facilities to the entire oil industry. No maintenance or updating was done, anywhere, ‘cos that cost money that Saddam put into weapons. Which he’d also avoid maintaining…

    All of this was known before we went in, but… The extent of it? Took everyone aback; added into the mess was the active vandalism of any repair efforts we did by the “insurgents”. If I remember right, they killed the plant operators for that Tikrit water purification plant twice; blew up the plant at least once, and the rest of the problem was them blowing up the electricity transmission towers on a regular basis. None of that was expected or predicted; neither was that the entire civil governance of Iraq would evaporate. You literally could not find anyone to take charge of anything, because a.) there was no history of local self-governance to fall back on in the absence of the central government, and b.) anyone who did try to take charge of their own lives and fix things generally got killed for their trouble. So, most of the Iraqi people were just apathetic when it came to fixing anything, waiting for someone to come from Baghdad and do it for them. In the absence of that, they had to rely on the US Army doing it, which they’d then do their best to destroy. I don’t want to know how many billions of dollars they blew up or burned, over the early years. It was not cheap…

    Frankly, I think the Iraqis would have been a lot happier to have had the Soviets come in and do the scorched-earth thing to them. That’s what they expected, that’s what they wanted, and that’s what they made happen, despite our best efforts. You can blame the Pentagon or the Bush Administration all you like for the “inept post-war planning”, but the reality is that nobody could have planned for that chaotic crapfest. I have to conclude that the Saddam years created a vast mental illness in a lot of Iraqis, akin to being a co-dependent abused wife. They simply couldn’t fathom the idea that Saddam was gone, and that they were on their own, sink or swim. There were very few people that you’d recognize as having their own agency, their own responsibility for their fates. Unlike, say, post-WWII Germany or Italy, where setting up local civil government once the national-level nutters was pretty simple. Unlike Iraq, you didn’t have people blowing up the stuff you fixed as soon as you fixed it. We actually quit keeping track of how many times they blew up the electrical transmission towers between Baghdad and Tikrit; it was a waste of time, really.

    Like I said, it was nuts. I participated in the pre-war planning, and there was a lot of “Yeah, we’ll have to fix that…”, but there wasn’t any “Yeah, we’ll have to fix that six or seven times before it lasts more than a week or two…” considered, at all. Sane people can’t fathom the behavior of the insane, and nobody expected so many Iraqis to do things against their own interest.

  24. baathism is it’s own toxic solvent, this is why there was an sahwa awakening among the military and security forces, see kyle orton, so it was less secular then advertized, also like the golden square that inspired them, the sunni always thought they were the majority and deserved to be, some of the other top military that didn’t join islamic state were nasquabandi sufis, who were not all peace love and happiness, their brethren in the caucasus tied up the Russians for thirty years,

    the oil for palaces program, did much to enrich certain european parties but not the rank and file citizen, debaathification didn’t help probably, certainly down into the middle levels of the bureaucracy, so there was that plus the nonsubtle direct pressures,
    now the Zachista method of counterinsurgency is not all it’s cracked up to be either, the Russian had to smash Grozny at least two or three times,. and then ultimately rebuilt it,

  25. The Brits always used the divide a conquer strategy in their possessions. Moslem troops in Hindu areas and vice versa in India. Sunni minority to rule the Shia majority in Iraq. Guaranteed civil war when they left with constant reprisals and counter reprisals while they were there.

    I suppose it was a step up from the mass terror that Belgium used in the Congo but only just.

  26. Sending imperial troops to remote provinces where they have no friends is as old as the Persians, at least. And the Belgians could be more subtle than they were in the Congo–the Tutsi/Hutu divide was pretty carefully nurtured.

    The USSR was ethnically gerrymandered in order to create points of conflict where others might be lacking. Look anywhere they drew political lines. Be the good and bad sides in Eastern Ukraine who and/or what they are, the conflict is a feature for Moscow, not a bug.

    May 9 is big juju there. Let’s watch for clues, like the Kremlinologists of yore.

  27. Kirk is right–the USSR flooded the world with junk weaponry. It was less a country than a military-industrial complex with its own flag and anthem.

    The Baathists were the classic example of the old mule skinner’s training regimen. First, he whacked the mule on the snout with a length of 2 X 4–to get his attention.

    It took chutzpah for a bunch of half-educated Third World army officers to try to make Iraq a modern, powerful country. Leave aside human weakness in general, the old patterns of loyalty were too powerful to be overcome. Unlike Germany or Japan, which had versions of successful modernity already before 1945, Iraq was almost entirely a fiction, and modern Iraq a fantasy.

  28. I dunno… I think the root problem is trying to graft a modern Western political system onto an inherently tribal social structure. The Kurds aren’t doing too badly, but they’re an example of what probably should have been done in the first damn place. Draw the lines along tribal boundaries, let the tribes do their own thing.

    I think Iraq could have been successful as a collection of smaller tribal-based nations, rather than the monstrosity they tried making it. It’s a lot like Yugoslavia, in that it was an entirely artificial creation of some idiots with maps and rulers sitting in a foreign capital with zero local knowledge or input. And, as with Yugoslavia, it’ll eventually break down along tribal lines anyway, given enough time. Or, they’ll kill each other to the point where there’s only one tribe left standing on top of a heap of dead bodies.

    I think that Biden may have had his “stopped clock” moment, back when he suggested that they break Iraq down into tribal territories. After the time I spent over there, I think that would likely be the best way to go, but the problem with that idea is the fact that the resultant countries would be too small and powerless against outside domination from nations like Iran. Then, there’s the happy fact that the Sunni Arab and Shia Arab populations are rather thoroughly mixed together across the territories, and… Yeah. Build a wall, let them figure it out, then open the wall up again. Internecine warfare like that will have one of two results–One side surviving, or both grinding themselves down to the point where they no longer care enough to kill each other. Either way, there’s gonna be a whole heap of dead bodies to deal with, and a bunch of innocents dying horribly.

    It’s like dealing with an alcoholic drunk… You can’t impose a “fix”, you have to wait until they figure it out for themselves and decide to make a change. Tito tried stamping out the internecine ethnic madness in Yugoslavia, and you can see how well that lasted. The Arabs in Iraq are even worse, when it comes to that sort of thing.

    If they weren’t sitting on all that easily-extracted oil? They’d be a backwater known for insane levels of public violence and total depravity. Even the Persians of pre-Islamic times thought that the Arabs of what is now Iraq were too hard to rule.

  29. The problem with a divided Iraq always was and still is where is the oil and water and who gets it. The oil is money but the water is life and death, also money.

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