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War Watch
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
By Orson Scott Card December 23, 2002

Anti-missiles, Material Breaches, and Segregationist Feelings

President Bush has decided to deploy anti-missile missiles that are only effective five out of eight times.

The sneer from critics of the administration was audible clear to Cuba.

"Why deploy a system that is that ineffective?" they demanded. "What a waste!"

Well ... is it?

First, how effective do they think any weapons system is? What standard of perfection are they hoping to meet? Five out of eight would be a really low effectiveness rate for, say, a submarine -- eight out of eight is the only acceptable standard.

Parachutes and gas masks need to be at a very high rate, because you can only use one of these at a time, and failure means 100% death for the person using it.

But we accept the fact that some bullets misfire and some shells don't go off and some land mines don't explode. Tanks can only go a relatively short distance before something goes wrong, simply because of wear and tear on the complicated and enormously heavy mechanism.

Second, you have to consider what the mission is. If we were trying to deploy anti-missile systems to block all incoming warheads from a massive attack by an enemy with thousands of missiles, then it would be horribly expensive to deploy a system that is only effective five out of eight times.

Either it would leak like a sieve, or you'd have to have three times as many anti-missiles as incoming warheads. And some would still get through.

But these days our likeliest enemies will have only a relative few missiles -- perhaps only three or four.

North Korea and Iran are the most likely enemies to try to launch a nuclear-armed missile against us or against our troops. (Iraq, with any luck, won't have a nuclear program by the time our anti-missile defense is deployed.)

Suppose North Korea launches five missiles against us. If we have deployed a hundred anti-missiles that work only half the time, the odds are we can bring down all the missiles aimed at us.

China has lots more missiles. But we have the possibility of massive retaliation -- and the fact that whatever else they are, China's leaders aren't insane or fanatic. So they aren't likely to launch an attack that would surely lead to their utter destruction.

We have no such assurance with North Korea or Iran -- the former is ruled by mad Kims, and the latter is ruled by fanatic ayatollahs.

North Korea already has nukes (or so they claim) and missiles to deliver them, at least as far as, say, Japan. Iran will soon have both if it doesn't already. But in both cases, nothing is to be gained by retaliation. Our only protection is to kill their missiles before they get far enough to hurt anybody.

North Korean or Iranian nukes might be launchable very, very soon.

So ... which would you rather have -- a 62.5% that is deployed now, or a 90% system that isn't deployed until after we -- or allies -- have lost a couple of cities?

I think the math works in favor of immediately deployment -- along with continued testing and improvements.


Why was Colin Powell the one to make the statement that Iraq's supposed "report" was so deficient as to be a "material breach" of the UN resolution?

Because Powell is the one perceived as the opponent of war in Iraq.

But that is a misconception. None of Powell's actions depict him as opposed to going to war with Iraq.

Rather, he has opposed going to war with Iraq before making every reasonable effort to show the world that we tried to deal fairly with them.

I thought the danger from Iraq was too great to be worth giving Saddam more time. So far, though, Powell seems to have been right -- Saddam hasn't been able to pull any rabbits out of the hat, and so it's better to prove our willingness to give him another chance.

After all, France and Russia do a lot of oil business with Iraq. They had to show that they were trying to prevent war. We've given them the chance to show that.

Besides, it's obvious Saddam knew that his report was full of holes and outright lies. If he had really believed his report was full and accurate, and if he really didn't have any weapons programs in violation of the ceasefire agreement, he would know that there would be no invasion coming.

He would have no reason to be sabotaging his own runways to keep us from using his airbases after we take them over.

But he knows his report is a pack of lies and omissions, he knows he'll be invaded, and so he's making preparations.

He thinks he can survive by winning the propaganda war. He'll claim that he's innocent, that we attacked him without provocation, and that we are slaughtering his helpless people like baby seals. Then the rest of the world -- or our own citizens -- will prevent us from continuing the war.

But what if we aren't bombing Baghdad? What if our armies are not taking over crowded cities block by block?

Poor Saddam. He's the victim of his own viciousness.

You see, Saddam is famous for killing any of his underlings who so much as makes a suggestion. So he is not being provided with any useful advice or information. This is why defeating him is going to be relatively easy.

He thinks he's fighting the last war. So he's going to hide behind the civilian population just like he did before.

But we aren't going to fight the last war. We're going to take over his country without engaging his troops any more than is absolutely necessary.

In 1991 we had to expel a huge Iraqi army from Kuwaiti soil -- without killing all the Kuwaitis. It required massive preparatory bombing and maneuvering of huge numbers of troops.

This time, though, we're perfectly happy to leave his troops wherever they are. We don't have to clear out his armies where they are strongest. We are not waging General Grant's campaign against Lee, two huge armies grappling in bloody combat.

Instead, we can accomplish our purpose by clearing and holding sections of Iraq whose citizens are overwhelmingly anti-Saddam, and by performing quick raids and surgical strikes wherever we see anything dangerous happening.

In a relatively short period of time, we can be in control of most of Iraq's people and neutralize, by maneuver or quick strike, most of Iraq's conventional forces.

We don't have to fight, street by street, to take Baghdad. We merely have to cut the city off from its hinterland and let Saddam stew in his juices.

Saddam is the one who will be forced to attack us. We will have air superiority and defensive positions and extraordinarily mobile forces that can attack his supply lines and destroy his armor any time, anywhere.

His armies will beat themselves to death trying to attack our positions. That is, if they choose to fight at all. Large numbers of them will be perfectly happy to come up to our lines and surrender, since POWs in American custody fare much better than "free" citizens of Iraq.

Saddam's only choices will be (1) attack us conventionally in our safe havens, (2) let us take over his country region by region, or (3) try to use the weapons of mass destruction that he "does not have."

If he goes for the third choice, not only are we prepared to deal with the attack, but also the world will see that we were right about him all along. So much for the propaganda victory.


Good for Trent Lott. He made the right choice -- to step down as Republican leader in the Senate, but to remain in his Senate seat.

As a result, he will have the gratitude of his Republican colleagues. Over time, if he works hard, he can prove his change of heart and put his segregationist past behind him. In a decade -- or five years or even sooner -- he might reemerge as a leading Republican. Especially if he can do it as a leading advocate of erasing racial barriers in American life.

Meanwhile, though, in our own North Carolina, we have a Congressman who makes Lott's remarks about Strom Thurmond look like a stroke of genius.

Cass Ballenger of the House of Representatives actually said that a black Congressman from Georgia had annoyed him so much that "I must admit I had segregationist feelings."

Now, "segregationist feelings" is one of those classic phrases that simply boggles the mind, like when an aide of Jim Bakker said that the TV preacher had once given him a "homosexual look."

What in the world are "segregationist feelings"?

Never mind. We know what he actually meant.

He was claims he was trying to say that a lot of whites in the South are irritated by the political agenda of black activists.

And since much of that agenda is self-defeating, it's ridiculous not to be able to have a clear discussion of racial issues without having the words "racist" and "segregationist" and "apartheid" thrown around all the time.

But Ballenger went way farther than that.

He's like the kind of guy who rails at "women drivers." He can't help how he feels -- he wouldn't feel that way if women weren't so dangerous behind the wheel.

How does he know women are dangerous behind the wheel? Because every time a driver does something really stupid, and it's a woman, he takes note of it and contemptuously says, "Woman driver!"

Of course, when a male driver does something stupid, he doesn't think, "Man driver!" He thinks, "What an idiot."

In other words, he collects his evidence selectively. He sees only what he expects to see.

There are a lot of irritating people in Congress. When an irritating Congressman is white, Ballenger thinks, "What a bonehead."

When an irritating Congressman is black, he thinks, "Those black people just don't know when they're well off."

The Congresswight who annoyed him might indeed be annoying. But such annoyance should make a person have "angry feelings" or "cussing feelings" or even "shin-kicking feelings" -- not "segregationist feelings."

Unless Ballenger really thinks that all people who annoy him should be required to ride in the back of the bus, use separate restrooms, be deprived of the vote, and be subject to lynching -- regardless of color.

What Ballenger's got is what they call "racism."

Not the loose charge leveled at all who disagree with the black activist agenda. But the real thing.

Ah, North Carolina. No sooner does Jesse Helms step out of the Senate than we have another North Carolina Republican proving to the country that Jim Crow ain't dead -- it lives on among the dumb.

Copyright © 2002 by Orson Scott Card.

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