Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Humanitarian Intervention

A Libertarian friend of mine has on more than one occasion defended to me the belief that there is nothing wrong, and indeed something very right, about the United States using force in a foreign land to liberate oppressed peoples. For this reason he defended the Iraq war, regardless of the reasons it was actually fought, because it had the consequence of liberating the people of Iraq. I vehemently disagreed with him, yet somehow was unable to come up with convincing arguments why.

Tonight I watched parts 1 and 2 of the West Wing episode “Inauguration,” in which the President is faced with just such a choice: to send troops into an African nation (I don’t remember the name, but it was meant to be Rwanda) to stop the genocide of one group of people against another. And I believe I have my answer.

Nevermind that we almost never have a real grasp of the nuances of the particular situation, and therefore have every likelihood of making things worse in the region rather than better. Nevermind that no one ever thanks us for helping; that we make no friends by intervening in other people’s business. No, the real reasons to keep our dick in our pants are twofold. First, not only do we not make friends through foreign intervention, we are almost certain to make enemies. For when we intervene for one group of people, we are intervening against another. If we don’t mind having a National Security State; if we don’t mind living in constant fear of attacks from random people who hate us with blinding passion, then this is not a problem. But the larger reason is simply that “liberty,” “tyranny,” “oppression,” and “liberation” can be rather slippery words, especially when other people, with their own agendas, are using them about you. What I mean is that “liberating the oppressed” and “helping the helpless” really have no limit. How “oppressed” do you have to be to rate military intervention by the U.S.? It seems an easy call when there are millions dying, but what about when there are only thousands? Hundreds? Perhaps there is no mass murder, but people are being pulled out of their homes and tortured. What then? What if a people simply lack the right to protest government policy? Is that a legitimate criterion for invasion? The point is that this path can easily lead to world hegemony, with the U.S. (or the U.N.) dictating to all nations exactly how they will treat their citizens. Is this the world we want to live in? If we think people hate us now, wait until we have intervened in half of the regions on Earth.

No, the answer is not intervention. It’s liberty. One of the stories told in the West Wing episode I mentioned was that mothers were stationing themselves in front of attacking tanks in an effort to preserve their people. What if those mothers had tanks themselves? The answer to oppression and genocide is not invasion; it is not intervention. It is simply allowing people to defend themselves, and any individuals who wish (as happened in the Spanish Civil War) to assist in that defense. It is impossible to commit genocide against a well-armed people. Instead of sending them troops, sell them guns! If a people is so oppressed that even this is impossible, then allow American citizens to arm themselves and help out on their own. But the notion of selling oppressed peoples weapons goes against our grain. Why? Is it because we don’t like guns? No, we don’t mind at all if we have them. No, this bothers us for a darker reason: We prefer to do the job for them instead of selling them weapons to do it for themselves because we want to retain control. We want to be in charge. Providing weapons to a people gives them power, and we don’t want that. In fact, we in America would be quite happy if we were the only nation on Earth to possess weapons of any kind. That’s why we prefer intervention to assistance.

No, the only sensible answer is the same most sensible answer to almost any political problem: More freedom. Not enforced freedom, not freedom at the point of a gun, but the freedom for people, individually, to do as they think right.

Wednesday, June 8, 2005


(updated below)

So Apple has decided to ditch IBM and ally with Intel PastedGraphic3-2005-06-8-05-09.png. What's the world coming to? Has Hell frozen over PastedGraphic3-2005-06-8-05-09.png? It's going to be a tough transition PastedGraphic3-2005-06-8-05-09.png, regardless.

I'm not sure I have any new wisdom to add to what is said at the pages linked above, except to make a few minor points. (A lot of this is laid out very nicely in an (as usual) excellent Ars Technica article PastedGraphic1-2005-06-8-05-09.png. Takeaway quote: “It's yet another little thing that Macs used to do, if not always better, then at least differently than Windows PCs. Macs are now slightly less special.”)

  • Forget running OS X on Non-Apple PCs. It's just not going to happen, folks. At least not in a sanctioned way. Despite what some people have said in the past, Apple is not an OS developer that happens to sell computers. Apple's bottom line is and always has been mostly CPU sales.
  • The idea of being able to run Windows natively on a Mac is a neat idea, but ultimately mostly useless. Presuming the technical difficulties (motherboard differences, hard drive format, etc.) are overcome, all you've gained is a little cash and a little desk space (and, admittedly, a prettier office) over just buying a PC. And you lose the advantage of being able to use both at once.
  • What excites me more is the prospect of a really good Windows emulator on my Mac. Since no processor emulation is necessary, Windows apps should positively hum, making buying a separate PC pretty much unnecessary, even, hopefully, for games. And if you just have to have the latest and greatest game and it won't run fast enough under emulation, well, that's when you fall back on the dual boot model mentioned above. This might just work out really nicely. Especially for PowerBooks. Imagine being able to haul around one machine and run any program, play any game…this might be fun.
  • Neat as all this is, this is still not the CHRP PastedGraphic3-2005-06-8-05-09.png platform we were promised ’lo these many years ago. As I recall, CHRP was supposed to allow the running of multiple OS's simultaneously. But perhaps I'm misremembering. I do recall having great hopes for the CHRP platform, and am still sorry it died. Consistency has not exactly been Apple's strong suit. I could probably write a whole website devoted to promising technologies Apple has abandoned (oh, OpenDoc, I miss you so!).
  • I do have a couple of fears, however. As well as the Mac has been doing lately, I worry that Apple has been slowly watering down the distinctiveness of the Mac platform. For years now, Apple has been doing little things here and there to make the Mac more PC-like. You can trace it as far back as Apple changing floppy drive vendors so that the drive no longer sucked your disk out of your hand when you inserted it. OS X has several PC-like features in the interface, not least the requirement that all filenames have a damned TLE PastedGraphic3-2005-06-8-05-09.png on the end. And now Macs will actually have Intel Movie-5%252528dragged%252529-2005-06-8-05-09.png Inside Movie-5%252528dragged%252529-2005-06-8-05-09.png. At what point will consumers decide that it's not worth paying a couple of hundred extra for a PC with a prettier case? It's been really nice (especially since the G5 was released) gloating to all my PC friends about how much faster, particularly megahertz for megahertz, Macs are than PCs. I don't like having my gloating turned back on me. Could this trend lead to the homogenization—nay, the commoditization—of the PC industry? The prospect doesn't frighten me as much as it once did. Admittedly almost entirely thanks to Apple, Microsoft seems to have released its first decent GUI OS ever—Windows XP Pro. I've used it (though not extensively), and it's not half bad. Not good enough, no, but it seems consumers are finally starting to demand something resembling elegance in their mainstream OS's. Add that to the downright cool-looking boxes companies like Alienware PastedGraphic14-2005-06-8-05-09.png are putting out, and though I would still be crushed if Apple vanished or sold out, I would no longer see it as the end of the (computing) world.
  • My biggest fear, though, was summed up by phjones on MacFixIt [dead links]:
"Whilst I think Steve Jobs and the Apple crew would only act in the best interests of Mac users, I still have a knot in the pit of my stomach. From my point of view, the big question is whether Macintel machines will be able to run Windows at full speed. If they do, it's the beginning of the end for MacOS. At the moment, software producers have an incentive to produce MacOS-compatible software because it gives them access to a market that would be otherwise unavailable - admittedly some companies feel the market is too small but that's their decision. If Macintel machines are capable of running Windows, there will be absolutely no incentive for new companies to produce MacOS versions of their software: ‘Those Macies can just fire up Windows if they need to use our software. Ha ha ha (evil laugh).’ Inevitably, less new software will be written for MacOS and existing software will slowly drift away.

I hope this doesn't happen."

        So do I.

  • Lastly—there's something that has been bugging me for years. When the PowerPC processor first came out, basically the entire computer industry was saying that CISC PastedGraphic3-2005-06-8-05-09.png technology was dead. Intel was going to be able to crank out maybe a generation or two more by cramming circuits a little tighter and running a little hotter, but eventually was going to be forced to switch to RISC like the PowerPC or die. This apparently didn't happen. Does anyone know what actually did happen? Let us know.

Update: June 17, 2013

Updated or added few links, in particular changed the Ars Technica link back from archive.org to live—apparently they had taken it down, but have now put it back up. Sadly, they have removed the accompanying discussion forum PastedGraphic14-2005-06-8-05-09.png (that was still up after the original article was first taken down); there was a lot of good stuff on there, and archive.org only has the first page. Also: Ausmac PastedGraphic14-2005-06-8-05-09.png is dead? ☹

I have somewhat more to say on some of the issues raised in this post in Leopard=Windows? In particular, my understanding of Economics has matured.