Rwanda And The … French??

One argument that more interventionist people like me tend to hold dear is the idea that the political wreckage of the postcolonial world is so severe in some places – Rwanda is clearly one – that local institutions are incapable of restraining the worst behavior of their people, and so that more, not less intervention may be required to keep horrors at bay.

I’m not alone in thinking things like this – Sarah Powers, President Obama’s adviser and the author of “A Problem From Hell” shares many of the same questions.

And today, I read something that took my thinking turned it upside down and shook it.

In the WSJ on Friday is an article by staff writer Anne Jolis that implicates the French in the 1994 Rwandan massacres. Seriously, and both in a way that demands more research to make an absolute claim and that cannot be dismissed out of hand.

“I tell you as I saw it,” says Fidéle Simugomwa, a former Hutu-extremist militia chief during the Rwandan genocide, as he sits for an interview with French documentary-maker Serge Farnel. “The French soldiers were standing on the hill, and firing down at the Tutsi. . . . We had a sign so the French didn’t shoot at us–[we had] leaves on.”

One by one, the ex-génocidaires whom Mr. Farnel films tell the same story: Namely, that on May 13, 1994, small teams of white men they describe as “French soldiers,” clad in fatigues and riding in jeeps or trucks, gathered at lookout points in the backwoods of western Rwanda. They fired into the Bisesero hills, scaring the Tutsi out of hiding. They then aimed directly at the fleeing men, women, and children. When the shooting stopped, the Hutu killers moved into the hills. Wielding machetes, lances, nail-spiked clubs, and their own guns, they finished off the wounded. A score of survivors recounted the same version of events to me.

Read the whole thing (including disclaimers by the French).

Update: If you don’t believe the French could be so bloody-minded, here is a passage from “The Clinton Tapes”:

Clinton said US Allies in Europe blocked proposals to adjust or remove the embargo [the arms embargo on Muslim Bosnia]. the justified their argument on humanitarian grounds, arguing that more arms would only fuel the bloodshed, but privately, said the president, key allies objected that an independent Bosnia would be “unnatural” as the only Muslim nation in Europe. He said they favored the embargo precisely because it locked in Bosnia’s disadvantage. Worse, he added, they parried numerous alternatives as a danger to the some eight thousand European peacekeepers deployed in Bosnia to safeguard emergency shipments of food and medical supplies.

When I expressed shock at such cynicism, reminiscent of the blind-eye diplomacy regarding the plight of Europe’s Jews during World War II, President Clinton only shrugged. He said president Francois Mitterand of France had been especially blunt in saying that Bosnia did not belong, and that British officials also spoke of a painful but realistic restoration of Christian Europe.
pp 9 – 10

Taking Back … The Infantry Half-Kilometer

I’ve got two firearms-related posts that have languished in the queue, one a review of a firearms catalog DVD, and this one a commentary on a monograph from Major Thomas P. Ehrhart of the Command and General Staff College entitled ‘Increasing Small Arms Lethality in Afghanistan: Taking Back the Infantry Half-Kilometer‘ (pdf) which is a very interesting document that casts new and interesting light on the near-eternal 5.56 caliber debate.

The abstract pretty much sums it up (dryly…):

Operations in Afghanistan frequently require United States ground forces to engage and destroy the enemy at ranges beyond 300 meters. These operations occur in rugged terrain and in situations where traditional supporting fires are limited due to range or risk of collateral damage. With these limitations, the infantry in Afghanistan require a precise, lethal fire capability that exists only in a properly trained and equipped infantryman. While the infantryman is ideally suited for combat in Afghanistan, his current weapons, doctrine, and marksmanship training do not provide a precise, lethal fire capability to 500 meters and are therefore inappropriate.

Comments from returning non-commissioned officers and officers reveal that about fifty percent of engagements occur past 300 meters. The enemy tactics are to engage United States forces from high ground with medium and heavy weapons, often including mortars, knowing that we are restricted by our equipment limitations and the inability of our overburdened soldiers to maneuver at elevations exceeding 6000 feet. Current equipment, training, and doctrine are optimized for engagements under 300 meters and on level terrain.

There are several ways to extend the lethality of the infantry. A more effective 5.56-mm bullet can be designed which provides enhanced terminal performance out to 500 meters. A better option to increase incapacitation is to adopt a larger caliber cartridge, which will function using components of the M16/M4. The 2006 study by the Joint Service Wound Ballistics – Integrated Product Team discovered that the ideal caliber seems to be between 6.5 and 7-mm. This was also the general conclusion of all military ballistics studies since the end of World War I.

The reorganization of the infantry squad in 1960 eliminated the M1D sniper rifle and resulted in the loss of the precision mid-range capability of the infantry squad. The modern solution to this problem is the squad designated marksman. The concept of the squad designated marksman is that a soldier receives the training necessary to engage targets beyond the 300-meter range limitation of current marksmanship programs, but below the 600 meter capability of actual snipers. As of June 2009, the equipment and training of the squad designated marksman has yet to be standardized. In field manual 3-22.9 there are only fourteen pages dedicated to training the squad designated marksman.

The introduction goes on:

Combat in Afghanistan has shown several trends. The enemy takes advantage of the terrain and engages patrols or convoys from high ground. He also combines this advantage with heavy weapons systems and mortars from a distance, typically beyond 300 meters.6 From the infantryman’s perspective, he attempts to fix the enemy, since his equipment limits his ability to maneuver, and attempts to kill the enemy through close air support (CAS), close combat attack, (CCA) or indirect fire.

The infantryman’s ability to fix or kill the enemy with organic weapon systems at distances beyond 200 meters is limited by his equipment and training. The incapacitation mechanism of small caliber bullets, such as the 5.56-mm, comes primarily from bullet fragmentation.7 Bullet fragmentation occurs only at a sufficiently high velocity. All 5.56-mm weapons are most effective when employed within 200 meters due to velocity limitations. Once contact is made, the fight is limited to machine gunners, mortars and designated marksmen. In the table of organization for a light infantry company8 only the six -M240B 7.62-mm machine guns, two- 60-mm mortars and nine designated marksman armed with either 7.62-mm M14 rifles or accurized 5.56-mm M16A4’s rifles are able to effectively engage the enemy. These weapons systems represent 19 percent of the company’s firepower. This means that 81 percent of the company has little effect on the fight. This is unacceptable.

If what the author suggests is accurate – that these issues and combat scenarios are prevalent in Afghanistan – this is a significant and immediate issue.

In lay terms, the problems are twofold.

One is equipment – the 5.56mm caliber M4 rifles that the typical soldier is armed with have an effective range between 150 – 200m, assuming they are using M855 ammunition (this is based on my ballistic tables for that round and a required terminal velocity of about 2500fps to achieve bullet fragmentation – otherwise it’s just a very fast .22). If his analysis is correct, and the typical engagement is beyond 300m, even longer barreled M15’s with higher muzzle velocity would be of limited effectiveness.

In addition, the typical optics for a M4 have a red dot that is 2 or 4 MOA (inches of displacement at 100 yards). At 300 yards, at best, the sights will make it more challenging to hit a 10″ circle (lethal zone for a person); the sights are optimized for quick sight picture at very close range.

The other issue is training and doctrine. Jeff Cooper said (in The Art of The Rifle):

The armed forces of today have almost abandoned the idea of serious riflecraft. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that rifle mastery is a demanding discipline and thus not really applicable to mass armies.

When Biggest Guy deployed, his platoon had one soldier with a M14 with a variable high-power scope (note that that soldier also had a M4 with a grenade launcher).


That’s a 7.62mm rifle that is potentially effective out to 1000 yards, and readily effective out to 600 – 700.

Here’s a picture of TG shooting mine:


(actually, I just like pictures of her shooting…)

The author makes two concrete suggestions.

One goes to doctrine and training:

The most immediate and cost effective improvements can be made through training and education. Soldiers and leaders need to understand the capabilities and limitations of their organic weapons. They need to understand what is required to maintain their weapons and keep them operational in all environments. This process begins in either basic training, or the basic officer leader course, and should continue through unit marksmanship programs. Equipment and organization need to be modernized.

The current 5.56-mm cartridge has limited application in open or mountainous terrain and should be improved, augmented, or replaced. A move to an intermediate caliber weapon or replacement upper receiver will increase the organic capability of the infantry squad and not substantially increase the soldiers load. By adopting an arms room concept, commanders will be able to choose the right equipment for the type of mission and terrain they face.9 Finally, doctrine should be reviewed and re-written to incorporate the capability to engage targets out to 500 meters. This doctrine should also include an updated qualification course, which more accurately simulates combat conditions and rewards shot placement. This type of course will give better feedback to the soldier and commander.

The other to equipment. He suggests that the military decide on and procure an ‘intermediate’ cartridge – the 6.5mm Grendel or 6.8mm SPC – and a supply up upper receivers and magazines to accommodate them, as well as improved optics – Trijicon ACOGs or Aimpoint with auxiliary magnification.

If you’re at all interested in this issue, this paper is a great read. Among many other things that I don’t touch on, it provides an excellent capsule history of military calibers.

I’ve not taken sides on the 5.56 squabble; but if in fact the engagements are frequently at 200 – 500m, we have to do something to increase the effective firepower of the troops.

For myself, knowing this, it makes me far happier to hear that Biggest Guy has graduated from a 5.56mm M249 SAW to a 7.62mm M240.

The Path Not Taken: Will the Supreme Court Apply the 2nd Amendment to the States?

No, you’re not mistakenly on Volokh – here’s a thoughful legal analysis of upcoming 2nd Amendment litigation from commenter Roland Nikles:

In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) the Supreme Court struck down a Washington D.C. gun control ordinance and confirmed that the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants an individual right to bear arms. It’s about more than well regulated militias. The question now is does the Second Amendment similarly restrict state and local government gun control statutes. The Supreme Court will hear oral argument on this question Tuesday, March 2, 2010, in McDonald v. Chicago.

This case will make a big splash in the news, so here’s a quick primer. The Bill of Rights binds Congress. The second amendment applied in Heller because Congress is in charge of the District of Columbia. In order to understand the issue before the court you must know that the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the Bill of Rights (i.e. the first ten amendments adopted in 1791) does not apply to the states as such. See, e.g. U.S. v. Cruikshank (1876) 92 U.S. 542. Instead, the court has selectively made provisions of the Bill of Rights applicable to the states through the due process clause of the 14th Amendment. This substantive due process analysis asks the question whether a particular right is so fundamental that it is “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty” so that it must be binding on the states. For example, in Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319 at 324-25 (1937) the court found that the fifth amendment right against double jeopardy is of such a fundamental nature that it is implicit in the concept of ordered liberty and thus binding on the states.

The court did not need to take this path of substantive due process analysis. (Frost). It could have, and probably should have said that the Bill of Rights is binding on the states by virtue of the privileges and immunities clause in the 14th Amendment. Section 1 of the 14th Amendment provides:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

If there is a second amendment right to bear arms as a U.S. citizen, which the court has found in Heller, the court’s analysis might be that states may not abridge the “privileges and immunities,” broadly understood as rights, granted by the Bill of Rights, including the right to bear arms. However, this argument is foreclosed without some serious backtracking because for the past 139 years, since The Slaughterhouse Cases, the court has gone down a different path – the path of substantive due process.

In McDonald the NRA is challenging the gun control measures of the cities of Oak Park and Chicago. The substantive due process path the court has taken for the past 139 years presents a problem for the claimants. Is the right to own a gun without registration so fundamental that it is “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty?” The answer to this question is not so clear. Based on substantive due process analysis, you might think that the concepts of federalism, state rights, and public interest to exercise the police power to control gun violence should trump an individual’s right to pack a Saturday night special in a crowded bar without a permit. For this reason, the NRA in McDonald is asking the court to overturn 139 years of constitutional doctrine, to go back to the road not taken in The Slaughterhouse Cases, and make the second amendment directly applicable to the states through the privileges and immunities clause of the 14th Amendment.

The popular view is that Roberts, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas would be willing to do this. They are not fans of substantive due process analysis. Among other things, substantive due process analysis has been used to create rights that are not enumerated anywhere in the constitution, e.g. the right of privacy (Griswold, Roe). The whole movement of originalist interpretation has fought against this. It may be that these four justices would be willing to go back 139 years, declare the path of substantive due process a mistake and a dead end, and make the entire Bill of Rights applicable to the states through the privileges and immunities clause. This would invite attack on all of the substantive due process cases based on “privacy” and other unenumerated rights.

Throwing out 139 years of constitutional history would be a revolutionary act. The implications would be far reaching and unpredictable. For this reason, my money is on Kennedy joining the liberal wing of the court and rejecting the privileges and immunities argument in this case. If so, the likely outcome will be that the 2nd Amendment will not be made applicable to the states because the right to be free from gun control legislation is not so fundamental as to be implicit in the concept of ordered liberty. Stay tuned.

Education News

Years ago, at a lunch with Kevin Drum, I kind of outraged him by suggesting that we simply ought to close LAUSD down, fire everyone, clean and update the buildings, and start over.

Here’s news from Rhode Island:

CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. – The full force of organized labor showed up in Central Falls Tuesday, with several hundred union members rallying in support of the city’s teachers and bringing plenty of harsh words for the education officials who were about to fire the entire teaching staff at Central Falls High School.


Gallo and the teachers initially agreed they wanted the transformation model, which would protect the teachers’ jobs.

But talks broke down when the two sides could not agree on what transformation entailed.

Gallo wanted teachers to agree to a set of six conditions she said were crucial to improving the school. Teachers would have to spend more time with students in and out of the classroom and commit to training sessions after school with other teachers.

But Gallo said she could pay teachers for only some of the extra duties. Union leaders said they wanted teachers to be paid for more of the additional work and at a higher pay rate – $90 per hour rather than the $30 per hour offered by Gallo.

And from Los Angeles:

Los Angeles Unified School District, with its 885 schools and 617,000 students, educates one in every 10 children in California. It also mirrors a troubled national system of teacher evaluations and job security that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says must change. Recent articles in the Los Angeles Times have described teachers who draw full pay for years while they sit at home fighting allegations of sexual or physical misconduct.

But the far larger problem in L.A. is one of “performance cases” – the teachers who cannot teach, yet cannot be fired. Their ranks are believed to be sizable – perhaps 1,000 teachers, responsible for 30,000 children. But in reality, nobody knows how many of LAUSD’s vast system of teachers fail to perform. Superintendent Ramon Cortines tells the Weekly he has a “solid” figure, but he won’t release it. In fact, almost all information about these teachers is kept secret.

I still believe it. Fire them all, and start over.

Personally, I think that districts need to be smaller – our home district in Torrance has 4 high schools, which seems to be about the right size for a school district, and offers the chance for parental engagement at the school board level, which is necessary to maintain accountability.

But basically, there’s a point when an organization just isn’t functioning and is harming those it is supposed to help.

Best News Of The Week

At a dinner over the weekend , a more-liberal friend asked what I thought we ought to do about climate.

I gave a short version of the 3% solution argument, and then added that we need to take a breath, step back, and redo the last decade of climate science in a calm, fact-based, transparent way so that we had – at minimum – a set of temperature data that we could all rely on as a baseline for modeling.

Well, this morning, guess what?

At a meeting Monday of 150 climate scientists, representatives of Britain’s weather office proposed that the world’s climatologists start all over again and produce a new trove of global temperature data that is open to public scrutiny and “rigorous” peer review.

…what a great idea!!

Here’s the actual wording (pdf).

Faster, please.

Where Tone Torpedoes Credibility

Memorandum leads me to a Newsweek review of a book that aims to challenge the credibility of climate skeptic Bjorn Lomborg.

Now, I’m a big believer in challenging people’s credibility – that’s how we dig away to something approaching truth.

But Newsweek science editor Sharon Begley torpedoes her own credibility and undermines the credibility of the review in her lede:

In naming roustabout, lumberjack, ironworker, and dairy farmer America’s “worst jobs,” omitted one whose awfulness is counterbalanced only by its public-spiritedness: fact-checking Bjørn Lomborg.

Why is fact-checking Lomborg awful? Because you …ewww … have to read him?

Sorry, Sharon, but that’s just unworthy of anyone who would claim to be ‘NEWSWEEK’s science editor.’ Or if not, it tells me something about Newsweek.

Look, I don’t think Lomborg has a chokehold on truth in this complex issue. Nor do I think Steve McIntyre – or Phil Jones – does.

But I do think that the story is clear – that Jones et alia undermined the necessary process of science – through error cascade, groupthink, or deliberate policy – enough to move AGW into the ‘possible but unproven’ category.

What we need is constructive, transparent, respectful discussion that tries to sift the facts from the claims.

In her review, she makes reasonable claims that three of Lomborg’s claims are not supported by his citations. That’s serious. It would be more serious if she’d taken the time to map out Lomborg’s arguments and claim that – as a hypothetical – he makes 15 major claims and 10 minor claims and that of the 5 major claims that were checked, 4 of them were unsupported by his footnotes.

As it is, we have a science writer who is apparently virulently anti-Lomborg (see lede) citing a media critic’s anecdotal claims that several of Lomborg’s claims aren’t supported by his citations.

Lomborg responded on his website (pdf)…it’s worth checking out. If reading him doesn’t curdle your stomach, as it appears to do to Ms. Begley.

Update: Just read the Lomborg reply, and it’s pretty scathing about Friel’s claims. The fact that Begley doesn’t address the direct hits Lomborg seems to make further undermines not his credibility, but hers.

Instapundit visitors – check out the good news on climate research…

Terrorist v. Mucker ^2

Kevin Drum has jumped into the issue – on my side. Interesting comments, as well.

I’ll suggest a further distinction. Terrorism has a political dimension which blind rage lacks, and calls for a different set of responses.

If you believe that we need the same responses to disgruntled, depressed computer jocks as we do to the Aryan Nation and Al Qaeda, then the distinction doesn’t matter to you. At some level, this is an interesting parlor game – but until it can be tied to sensible policies, it is really just an argument over semantics.

It matters to me…

Mucker v. Terrorist

…Jerry Bruckheimer is already making the movie, and if not…call me anytime Jerry and I’ll give you a plot.

So in the blogs and in the comments below, we’re wrestling about what to call – and how to react to – the crazed guy who flew a private plane into the local IRS headquarters.

The usual suspects on left and right are trying desperately to tie him to the Tea Party movement or to socialism (based on one incoherent suicide note).

Juicebox Matt and Sully are patting everyone on the back, saying that it’s clearly terrorism and the reaction to this incident is a model for how we should react to terrorist acts.

John Robb says this is a canary in a coal mine (and I worry that he’s right).

Patterico and I disagree; he says it’s clearly terrorism, I say no it’s not.
I’m left really, really uncomfortable that we’re looking at this in the right way.

Here’s a CNN interview with the filmmaker Pierre Rehov, who made the great documentary ‘Suicide Killers

You get a clear sense of the ideology that grows terrorists as a deliberate tool in its combat with the wider world.

Both terrorists and muckers (see definition) do the same things – if you take the actions out of context, they look alike. But that’s just it – by taking the actions of of context, you’re depriving them of their meaning, and in doing that I’ll argue one risks making some serious mistakes.

Muckers arise from anomie; from the spiritual/philosophical crisis that seems to run through modernity (one reaction, and one belief, is the orgasmic self-destruction contained in the Romantic ideal at the heart of Bad Philosophy). Muckers are essentially random, and somewhat self-generating. They will be triggered by personal issues (I’m hearing that the Austin mucker’s wife was leaving him after a trail of business failures and tax crises), but a generalized ‘failure to thrive’ socially. they may hang their actions on a hook – anti-cop in the case of the Washington or Oakland muckers – but there is no coherent philosophy behind muckerdom and there is no social change we could make that would accommodate them.

And, more importantly, there is no organized social movement working to grow them.

Terrorists, on the other hand, act less out of anomie than out of belief; out of a social construct that extends well past them and lionizes their behavior – thereby helping grow the next generation.

Rehov’s film is about Islam, but there are other ideologies that have done this; early militant Christianity certainly did, and today you see it in the black nationalist movement and their counterparts in the various white power movements; they key word here isn’t ‘black’ or ‘white’ or ‘Islamic’ – it’s movement.

The pressures of modern society shake loose a certain number of people who finally go amok; but certain belief systems are growing up that not only want to harness that drift, but seek to encourage it so that they can harvest the violence that it breeds.

The crazy antitax movements that the Austin mucker (I deliberately obscure his name) was on the fringes of didn’t have in their core doctrines the belief that you should blow up tax buildings. When they do – when that becomes a part of the pernicious beliefs that get espoused there – then these acts will have moved to the category of terrorism and we should treat them as such.

What I’m trying to say is that there is no acceptable government security response to muckers. I think that there are a number of things that government should do to improve the economy, to improve its own legitimacy, to help rebuild a narrative of America that we can participate in emotionally and spiritually.

But practically? not so much.

There are a number of appropriate responses to movements that mean to grow muckers, however. Working to dismantle those movements is absolutely the right thing to do, and the possibility of dismantling the movements at the root or terrorist acts is what distinguishes terrorism from simple acts of mindless rage.


Joseph Stack burned down his house and then flew his small plane into the local IRS office building, after having left a ‘manifesto‘ which is really an incoherent cry of rage.

I’m hearing things from reliable sources that suggest that what we’re seeing is more the fallout from the collapse of a life – a broken marriage, failed businesses – than a passionate blow by some antigovernment ideologue. I’d carefully watch the news tomorrow on this before taking a position…

…and this ties into David Niewert, who is anxious to tie this into his “big truth” about Angry White People.

Because we have a problem; we are growing muckers, who individually may just decide to go shoot someone, or a cop or four, or people in an airport. Or they may get together with a few others – in a kind of crazy underground cell – and blow up a building.

Or fly their small plane into one.

And some of these muckers are bound by ideology…white nationalist, black nationalist, salafist…and they tend to find each other (the Internet is very good for that).

And so we have a problem in our society – in our world.

It goes back to the roots of what I’ve talked about for some time – my big idea, I guess – about Bad Philosophy. Until we find beliefs that can mend hearts, I fear that we are in for a lot of this…