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27 December 2009


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dilbert dogbert

As always an interesting post. What caught my attention was the idea of small group enlistment process in Islam. The idea could be carried over to Evangelical Christians. The evangelicals seem to be a very fragmented bunch. To date they don't seem to be in the business of blowing up airplanes - Thank God.

John Howley

"Growing numbers of Mexican and U.S. officials say—at least privately—that the biggest step in hurting the business operations of Mexican cartels would be simply to legalize their main product: marijuana. Long the world's most popular illegal drug, marijuana accounts for more than half the revenues of Mexican cartels."
WSJ 12/26/09


"There will be some collateral damage (dead innocents). There always are. A border war against the drug lords is inevitable."

This is not going to end happily. Once "collateral damage" occurs, and it's traced to all these super skilled operators, the equation changes. It will no longer be law abiding citizens vs drug lords but rather the US vs Mexico. Not the Mexican army, of course, which would be no match, but the new Mexican insurgents. These people will be peasants recruited by the drug lords to fight. They will appeal to Mexican patriotism and they will have numerous volunteers. There will be more than enough money to pay them. Cocaine isn't cheap you know. (although it would be if it were legal.)

There will also be many (millions) disgruntled Mexicans already living north of the border. Where they will fall in this equation is anybody's guess. But they may take a more active role than merely calling their congressman.

The drug lords will have more than enough money to buy weapons, hire assassins, target Americans in retaliation. Do not assume they will simply make a business calculation. Don't you always warn us not to assume that Nations will make decisions based on self interest?

Yes, its a business. They will have to calculate risks and benefits. The risk of death will seriously dissuade many. But many more will gladly take the risk. Especially since the higher the risk and the harder it becomes to transport drugs into the US, the more expensive those drugs become, and the greater the reward becomes for taking those risks. The free market has a solution to almost every problem.

And it has a solution to this one. Legalize drugs and those drug lords we're talking about will be gone with nary a shot fired.

Otherwise, your suggestion will introduce COIN to Americans in a way they never wanted to see it.

This I'm writing from my home in lovely Las Vegas Nevada. Soon to be in the front line in the upcoming most excellent drug war. To be followed, of course, by an epic drug war "surge."


I'm happy to see you "take on" the blight of Ayn Rand's nonsense. Why does no one point out that at the end of Atlas Shrugged the geniuses all go off and form a union, yes, a collective action, because they can no longer cut living in the real world.

She represents the chosen people myth placed in a secular environment, using the most limited of values (one's selfishness)as the litmus test for "belonging".

It is a cult, and can only lead to a country riven by mutual loathing.

N. M. Salamon

T S Eliot wrote a wonderful poem, The Hollow men, he did not know that his prophesy described the USA Government in 2010:
The Hollow Men
T. S. Eliot
Mistah Kurtz—he dead.

A penny for the Old Guy


We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.


Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer—

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom


This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.


The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.


Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.


Ayn Rand is nothing more than L. Ron Hubbard in drag, i.e., a so-called philosopher whose only innovation was to misappropriate the mantle of scientific objectivity in order to rationalize a way of looking at the world that was neither scientific nor objective.

The single unifying theme behind your various tales of these miscreants of our age is that none of them ever had a real job. It's amazing how a little honest work towards the common good can clarify one's thinking, to the point of providing intellectual immunity from half-baked philosopher-apologists used by those unfortunate souls who are interested only in their individual gains.

Patrick Lang


Great post, some quick comments. You may post if you like.

a. When I was in Europe, immediately after 9/11 working on counter terrorism matters at EUCOM, I made the statement that the US would best be served by not confining our gaze to just Islamic Terrorist, but would do well after securing Afghanistan to turn our attention to the Drug Cartels of Mexico, Central and South America, as they were, like the terrorist attempting de-stablize nation states of the region in the same manner as Islamic terrorist. Moreover it would have the effect of not turning the War on Terrorism into a war against Islam--which has happened.
b. You are correct the best way to handle the cartels is use those who operate in the shadows--but we must do so with the implicit consent of Mexico but give them the ability to be critical our actions. The diplomatic Kabuki dance.
c. The radicalization process in Islam mirrors very much the radicalization process within our nation. We must not forget that Tim McVeigh was from a middle-class family who came to see our own nation as the enemy.
d. I have been giving a lot of though to the variations of conservatism in the United States and in particular the rise of the Tea Party (although I like Tea Baggers better!) movement. In that vain I have rereading Richard Hofstadter's "Anti-Intellectualism" and "Paranoid Style in American Politics." While I do not agree with all of Hofstadter's conclusions, and some of his observations are dated, his analysis goes far to helping one understand conservatism in America, what he does not do is explain Ayn Rand and her brand of Libertinism. I much prefer my conservatives whose linkage is to Edmund Burke and James Madison and not free form thinkers inspired by Jean Jacques Rousseau and to a degree Thomas Jefferson.

Again thanks for a great post.

With kindest regards, I remain,

Yours respectfully



The International Finance Corporation has a pamphlet in which it describes the difference between a functional economy and a state-driven economy. In the former, investment creates jobs. In the latter, the state more or less bloats itself, without experiencing the immediate or long term benefits of job creation. In many countries, the differential is 4 or 5 or even 6 to 1: the same money put into a market oriented economy creates four to six times the jobs that are created when the money is squandered by a statist oriented economy. But Mexico takes the cake: the ratio there is an astonishing 87 to 1, the highest I've ever seen in the world.

Mexico has consistently chosen a path that will predictably lead to a bad outcome. Having allowed monopoly or oligopoly rents to flow to the drug cartels now for thirty years, they finally chanced upon (barely) an executive who has decided to do something about it. Tragically, it's late in the game.

This Spanish form of governance; this denigration of large swaths of the people; this dalliance with uber-progressive/anti-American nonsense, it's all coming home to roost. I wish it weren't so.

Over the last forty or so years, we've come to a rough idea as to what works both economically and politically. To systematically ignore these results is to sanction a gap that grows wider every year.

Let's place the responsibility squarely where it belongs: the demand side is with certain of our citizens; but the supply side is equally culpable, if not more.

Time for a reality check: if in New Mexico and Arizona, 14,000 people had been killed in the last nine years, would we stand for it? What would we think of the governors of those states? What would we expect and demand of the police chiefs, mayors, judges, prosecutors? Mexico is horribly broken, right down to its deepest, fundamental operating systems and assumptions.

The government of Mexico must decide whether it is morally important to control the country, and to give to its ordinary citizens the basic protections they deserve.

We, on the other hand, should decide whether to a) legalize, control, tax certain drugs (thus boosting the number of abusers--a fact we can't much control; or b) stop the widespread practice of "setting 'em up and knocking 'em down" in U.S. municipal courts. Enough with the low level busts. We should pass a law drastically increasing penalties for serious drug offenses, while at the same time orienting resources to take down kingpins--ruthlessly and with force. And Mexico should do the same.

Culture matters. We might not become drug-free overnight, but honestly and seriously addressing the issue means full-spectrum war, i.e., middle school kids finally make the link between smoking pot and the kid that's killed in Juarez; judges and prosecutors finally give up on the easy cases; Mexico decides to grow up: breaking the deep corruption that pervades that country.

To turn the corner on that huge task, the elite in Mexico would have to view themselves as having something vital in common with those in places like Juarez, however.

But they lack the sense of exceptionalism that we've inherited. They lack the sense of outrage (because most of the pain is felt by people of another caste).

I'm glad, and I'm proud, of the fact that I live in a country in which we would not descend so low--not without a fight.


“The splendor of the rose and the whitness of the lily do not rob the little violet of it’s scent nor the daisy of its simple charm. If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its lovliness.”

St. Therese of Lisieux


Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.


Marijuana will not be legalized, federally at least, within our lifetimes. Realistic extraterritorial approaches to narcoterrorism should be.

In the post-Nobel-Speech era, the U.S. should come to grips with the real need for profiling the likes of Mr. Abdulmutallab.

Thomas Jefferson's legacy does not deserve the indignity of inferential comparison with Ayn Rand.


Not my comparison.
Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.


The bulk of ordinary Americans are not well read in philosophy or history. Slogans and soundbites incessantly repeated over the public airways seem to be their main source of information. Rush Limbaugh, for one, is forever spurting Ayn Rand mantras. “Conservatism” is a euphemism for greed and false pride that she trumpeted.

Though intellectually depressed, ordinary Americans know that they are getting screwed but they have not yet connected the dots. Sooner or later they will associate the names of Ronald Reagan, Alan Greenspan and the financial sector (and their lobbyists friends) with the “free market” rubbish that glorifies money and greed above service. Your blog is one of the few places where an ordinary person can get an education on topical connections.

I have often wondered as to how and why Fundamentalist Christians relate to a political party inspired by Rand. Is it something in the water?


When I hired-out on the railroad 31 years ago, an old-head gave me "Atlas Shrugged" and said it was a good railroad story. Read that way it was a corker. The romance was industrial and industry was romanticised but did like the way she honored the work-ethic and showed capital is created by intelligence and labor. She showed how merging capital and government bred incomptence, corruption and decay. She made the industrialists the new aristicrats and thought it was was natural for them to order the serfs around or foul the air or water. She was unsustainable, a carbon ash-heap, but so was Mickey Spillane, filling the air with carbonite exhaust.

Tried reading her objectivist crap but gave it up early as bunk and am sticking with Mickey Spillanes more pragmatic point of view--avoid all bullits.

Clifford a Tyler, thanks for the info, confirms my observations. Not much time to post these days but will be reading.


Colonel Lang,

Juarez has been a corrupt hellhole for as long as I can remember, but that hasn't stopped some foolhardy coworkers of mine from heading down there. I haven't heard one that doesn't have a local cop exhorting them for a few hundred dollars or else they go to jail.

As far as your solution, I will reiterate that the Border Patrol has its own operators, trained by JSOC, in the form of BORTAC. I imagine that BORTAC, which has the same mission as JSOC but with a focus on what goes on south of us, has had the same thoughts you have about decapitating the senior leadership.

On the other hand, I believe they realise the same thing I do: This thing is like a hydra, not a dragon, and that its going to be the line agents on the SW border who are going to be hit the hardest by this. This includes their families and friends too, as the cartels have no compunctions about killing anyone even remotely involved. You only need see the slaying of the Mexican marine's family after his funeral to witness that.

So that being said, I imagine you will see the true militarization of the Border Patrol, followed by denouncements of this from the usual ACLU and La Raza mouthpieces about the rights of "undocumented migrants" being violated while agents fight for their lives on a nightly basis. Much of the cartels' violence is reserved for each other in power struggles and shows of force towards the government. If it came out that the US government was targeting them, it would more than likely give them a target to align against and turn their force north.

Only Mexico City tops Phoenix for kidnappings in the world, I might add. I imagine that the extreme violence common south of the border wouldn't be that hard to import up north.

Of course, I could be wrong and overstating the results of any assassination policy and you could be certainly be right. I do bow to your experience on this matter.

But that being said do you see the fallout from the killing of the cartel's brass being worth it in the end?



Leaving sovereignty issues aside for a moment what would you hold to be the objective of targeting high level traffickers/corrupt officials and bankers in Mexico?

If it was merely to undermine their organizational structure and reduce the inflow of drugs through Mexico, I could see it suceeding. Though I'm not certain violence would necessarily decrease.

If the objective is lowering the actual level of drugs supplied to america however, I'm not sure it would work. Supply might be shifted to other routes, or even to increased domestic American production , where due process would prevent a JSOC strategy.

What exactly did you have in mind as the aim of this course of action? I may have simply missed it. Thanks, and it was a good post by the way, I enjoyed the intelligent commentary on all three issues.



I meant Objectivism.


Have you seen this?



I hear over and over again on my job the corruption of American local police, DEA, FBI, US military, etc. I dont know if these stories are true, but they happen so often, the descriptions are so vivid and by people who dont seem to have any motive to lie to me that it seems highly probable that the corruption is ubiquitous. I regularly hear stuff like "They (government) will never end the drug trade because there is too much money in it...they could wipe out the drug trade in a day if they wanted to, but they dont want to stop it because everyone is getting paid."

Its like the corruption in our political system; the corruption on Wall Street that may take us down at any moment...too much money being made for morality to win in USA today. I hope I am wrong.


RAISER William

Seems to be a contradiction. With regard to Muslim terrorism you state: "This vulnerability to small group radicalization is a phenomenon that will persist. It is only made worse by the invasion and occupation of Muslim countries by Western forces." Here I agree.

Then you push for the use of US force against the drug trade coming through Mexico. Seems that would encourage the same kind of anti-American blow-back we're experiencing in the Middle-East, particularly, as suggest earlier, in reaction to the inevitable collateral damage.

As long as there is a strong demand for drugs, I think there will be a supply. Knock off one set of suppliers and others will arise. The more difficult the supply chain, the more profit for those who succeed, thus there will always be those who try, and succeed.

The only "solution" that I see is the one suggested: legalize. Not a "great" solution, but the most workable option.



A bunch of jobless wastrels indeed.

May I invite you to read about Kevin the Teenager and then take a look at a little something I prepared earlier.

Feel free to send it to any Randians you suspect could be annoyed by it :-)

David Habakkuk


I have no doubt that not having done much in the way of real work has something to do with the propensity of an Ayn Rand to spout gibberish. But, as with Marxism-Leninism, one is dealing with a pseudo-religious cult, and -- also with Marxism-Leninism -- the intellectual roots of the cult go back a long way.

There is a very interesting treatment of arguments about individualism in both Britain and France in the years immediately before and immediately after the French Revolution, in the Economic Sentiments, the study of Adam Smith and the Marquis de Condorcet which Emma Rothschild published back in 2001.

One of the things she brings out is that faith in free markets emerges in part as a reaction to a climate of crippling restriction. Under Louis XVI, the campaign to dismantle such restrictions was led by the Controller-General, Turgot, who presented his arguments at the famous Lit de Justice held in 1776.

Among his adversaries on that occasion was the Advocate-General, Antoine Louis Séguier, who argued that the freedom Turgot advocated would 'soon transform itself into license', and that 'this principle of wealth would become a principle of destruction, a source of disorder.'

A further conservative 'theme' covered in her discussion emerges in response to events after 1789, when the Enlightenment scepticism about religion took on a militant -- and indeed quasi-religious -- form. In essence, this was that human beings are in some sense essentially religious creatures, so the natural consequence of the secularisation advocated by the philosophers of the Enlightenment was that religious emotions -- and in particular millenarian longings -- would be projected onto secular objects, with disastrous results.

So commenting on the Marquis de Condorcet's Sketch Condorcet, Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind, the 'ultra-royalist' writer Louis de Bonald wrote that it had helped to understand the 'inconceivable phenomenon' of the revolutionary state, in which men 'coldly commanded their destructive hordes to the desolation and death' of their fellow citizens.

This was, Bonald claimed, the 'final production of the 'destructive philosophy of the eighteenth century, or 'the Apocalypse of this new Gospel.'

Another interesting lesson of Emma Rothschild's study is that the notion the notion of the 'invisible hand' as actually put forward by Adam Smith was much more limited notion than it subsequently became. In the cruder forms which have been very much in vogue recently, it actually represents individualism becoming a religion -- the belief that a system of purely self-interested property-owning individuals naturally generates a benevolent equilibrium.

One can contrast this with the Marxist vision -- which does indeed derive from Rousseau -- that the destruction of private property will mean that individuals cease to be self-interested, thereby generating a benevolent equilibrium.

What that actually generated, in Russia and elsewhere, was the concentration of all property in the hands of the State -- and a system of crippling and dehabilitating restriction. In turn, the evident problems of this create a reaction -- the response of Ayn Rand to the Bolsheviks is a much more vulgar and corrupt version of the responses of figures like Condorcet to the restrictions on commerce in eighteenth-century France. It also anticipates the responses of many young members of the Soviet elite to the stifling system in which they grew up.

A tragedy however is that the patently disastrous nature of Marxism-Leninism did not lead to repudiation of quasi-religious visions. Instead it led to a reversion to crudely simplistic versions of the 'invisible hand', in which a system of actors motivated by the 'licence' which frightened Séguier is supposed to generate a benevolent equilibrium. The possibility that 'licence' could become 'a principle of destruction, a source of disorder' seems to be beyond the comprehension of many of today's economists.

But perhaps -- whatever else can be said against Bonald's ideas - that demonstrates that he was partly right about the propensity of religious emotions to displace themselves onto secular objects.

Cato the Censor

1. Why is going to war in Mexican territory (that's basically what's being argued for here) more feasible politically than legalizing marijuana? If that contention is true which I don't dispute, doesnt' that say something about how terribly screwed up the USA is?
2. Rousseau can conceivably be characterized as an intellectual ancestor of Lenin. He can also be plausibly identified as the inspiration for such things as Montessori schools. Please name something benevolent associated with Ayn Rand, other than an overly melodramatic Gary Cooper movie with an absurd plot premise.


Cool graphic accompanying this post! What is its origin and source?

I assume it's related to your comment about consensus and actually means something like "Get together!"

Also, your comment about Rousseau is rather curious. Rousseau is better known as the father of romanticism and as a foe of conventional wisdom, especially religious dogma. I don't see how this line of thinking could possibly lead inexorably Leninism.


Radicalization of Muslim youth - is it fair to define it as in this http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cpapers36%5Cpaper3571.html>article

"... the relentless shift in the focus of Islamists from the five pillars of the faith – Kalama, Namaj, Roza, Zakat and Haz to the obligation and rewards of Jihad."

i.e., when the Muslim young man is more focused on Jihad than the traditional five pillars of Islam, then he is radicalized, otherwise not?

Second question - is there something qualitatively or quantitatively different with the current radicalization (current = post-Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan) compared to the previous ages? I mean, Islam has always had its radicals in the above sense.

Why I ask - I saw an article that says that Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses" (1988) briefly describes a radicalization of Muslim youth in Great Britain, which people were refusing to recognize. This occurred before the Kuwait/Iraq War and before significant (other than Afghanistan) visible US sponsorship of violence in the Muslim world. In which case, are we misunderstanding things?


We should be primarily inerested in the "big" people to include corrupt officials and bankers.

We ought to start that process in Washington, not Mexico. I would argue that the policies of the Obama administration, care of Geithner, Bernake, and Summers are more of a threat to the nation than Mexican drug lords.

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