Monday, March 13, 2006

Stanching the Flow

Omar at Iraq the Model tells us that:

Sheikh Usama said today that the "Nakhwa" 4,000 man-strong tribal force he's supervising has succeeded in capturing yet another 169 infiltrators coming mostly from the Jordanian borders during the past week.

The sheikh also spoke of disbanding 9 terror groups working with Zaraqawi's al-Qaeda in Iraq and confirmed that the recently captured infiltrators were mostly non-Iraqi Arabs with some Iraqis guiding them in and providing logistics and that they brought weapons, explosives and sophisticated maps with them with a selection of targets pointed on those maps.

"Our main problem is the vast size of Anbar as well as having shared borders with 3 countries; Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria and recently we have that more and more infiltrators are coming through the borders with Jordan rather than the other two countries...We have rid about 90% of the province of Zaraqwi's criminal thugs and we are coordinating our work with the ministries of defense and interior and we had several meetings with Iraqi officials as well as General Casey. Now we believe Zarqawi had escaped to Salahiddin province and we are cooperating with the tribes of Salahiddin to find out where this criminal is hiding."

Our question is what happens to all these infiltrators once they're captured. Are they returned to Jordan? Are they turned over to the coalition authorities? Are they sent on their way to their assignation with seventy two virgins? What?

Iran Prepares For War

Iran is convinced that the West lacks the will to block its production of nuclear weapons but is nevertheless preparing for a half-hearted gesture in that direction:

Iran's leaders have built a secret underground emergency command centre in Teheran as they prepare for a confrontation with the West over their illicit nuclear programme, the Sunday Telegraph has been told. The complex of rooms and offices beneath the Abbas Abad district in the north of the capital is designed to serve as a bolthole and headquarters for the country's rulers as military tensions mount.

The recently completed command centre is connected by tunnels to other government compounds near the Mossala prayer ground, one of the city's most important religious sites. Offices of the state security forces, the energy department and the Organisation of Islamic Culture and Communications are all located in the same area.

The construction of the complex is part of the regime's plan to move more of its operations beneath ground. The Revolutionary Guard has overseen the development of subterranean chambers and tunnels - some more than half a mile long and an estimated 35ft high and wide - at sites across the country for research and development work on nuclear and rocket programmes.

The opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) learnt about the complex from its contacts within the regime. The same network revealed in 2002 that Iran had been operating a secret nuclear programme for 18 years. The underground strategy is partly designed to hide activities from satellite view and international inspections but also reflects a growing belief in Teheran that its showdown with the international community could end in air strikes by America or Israel. "Iran's leaders are clearly preparing for a confrontation by going underground," said Alireza Jafarzadeh, the NCRI official who made the 2002 announcement.

As the United Nations Security Council prepares to discuss Iran's nuclear operations this week, Teheran has been stepping up plans for confrontation. Its chief delegate on nuclear talks last week threatened that Iran would inflict "harm and pain" on America if censured by the Security Council.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hardline president who has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map", also said that the West would "suffer" if it tried to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions. As the war of words intensified, President George W Bush said that Teheran represents a "grave national security concern" for America.

In Iraq, which Mr Ahmadinejad hopes will develop into a fellow Shia Islamic state, Iran is already using its proxy militia to attack British and American forces, often with Iranian-made bombs and weapons. As tensions grow, Teheran could order Hizbollah - the Lebanese-based terror faction that it created and arms - to attack targets in Israel.

The regime is also reviewing its contingency plans to attack tankers and American naval forces in the Persian Gulf and to mine the Strait of Hormuz, through which about 15 million barrels of oil (about 20 per cent of world production) passes each day. Any action in the Gulf would send oil prices soaring - a weapon that Iran has often threatened to wield.

The Pentagon's strategic planning is focused on the danger that Iran might try to mine the strait and deploy explosive-packed suicide boats against its warships. In May, American vessels in the Gulf will take part in the Arabian Gauntlet training exercise that deals with clearing mines from the strait, which has a navigable channel just two miles wide.

The naval wing of the Revolutionary Guard has in recent years practised "swarming" raids, using its flotilla of small rapid-attack boats to simulate assaults on commercial vessels and United States warships, according to Ken Timmerman, an American expert on Iran.

The Pentagon is particularly sensitive to the dangers of such attacks after al-Qaeda hit the USS Cole off the Yemen with a suicide boat in 2000, killing 17 American sailors. Last month the White House listed two foiled al-Qaeda plots to attack ships in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

US intelligence believes that if Iranian nuclear facilities were attacked by either America or Israel, then Teheran would respond by trying to close the Strait of Hormuz with naval forces, mines and anti-ship cruise missiles. "When these systems become fully operational, they will significantly enhance Iran's defensive capabilities and ability to deny access to the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz," Michael Maples, the director of the Defence Intelligence Agency testified before the Senate armed services committee last month.

A senior American intelligence officer said that the US navy would be able to reopen the strait but that it would be militarily costly. Hamid Reza Zakeri, a former Iranian intelligence officer, recently told Mr Timmerman that the Iranian navy's Strategic Studies Centre has produced an updated battle plan for the strait.

Its most devastating options would be to use its long-range Shahab-3 missiles to attack Israeli or American bases in the region or to deploy suicide bombers in Western cities under its strategy of "asymmetric" response. "The price to the West for standing up to Iran is clear," Gen Moshe Ya'alon, the former Israeli defence chief said last month in Washington. "It includes terror attacks, economic hardship... and consequences resulting from fluctuations in Iranian oil production. Indeed, the regime believes that the West - including Israel - is afraid to deal with it."

Indeed, the West should be afraid to deal with Iran, but then courage is the doing of that which one is afraid of doing. Attacking, and destroying, Iran's nuclear program and replacing its government and fearsome tasks, fraught with all manner of peril, and should be our next-to-last resort.

The last resort is letting the mullahs and Ahmadinejad have the weapons they seek.

Bad Advice

Professor of Anthropology Chris Toumey has some advice for his colleagues:

Our discipline of anthropology ought to take the intelligent design agenda seriously, and should actively oppose it, for two reasons: First, it is wrong for our public schools to mislead students. Secondly, intelligent design is a prominent feature of the so-called culture wars. Each victory for intelligent design in the classroom or the courtroom makes it easier to discredit the accounts of human origins that we generate in anthropology, along with the methods and concepts that guide our work.

I thought scientists opposed hypotheses because they believed them to be false, or because they lack the explanatory power of the favored hypothesis, not because they discredit their own position.

In any event, Mr. Toumey goes on to list four themes that anthropologists should stress in debating ID proponents. All four of them are irrelevant to Intelligent Design. For anti-IDers to employ any of them would be as smart as picking up a rattlesnake by the tail:

Gaps Argument: The core of intelligent design theory is the belief that, because we do not know the entire natural history of a complex phenomenon, it must be a miracle. This is too goofy to be either science or science education.

This is precisely wrong. ID is not predicated on what we don't know, it's based on what we do know. What we do know is that specified complexity (information), such as we find in living things, is not generated by blind, purposeless processes or random chance. It's generated by intelligent minds.

Are All Creators Equal? Intelligent design advocates pretend not to identify the Intelligent Designer, but use a wink and a nod to point to the conservative Christian portrait of the Judeo-Christian creator. Let there be a price to pay for being too cute. Just as the creationist effort to authenticate Noah's Flood makes the Babylonian hero Utnapishtem and the Sumerian Ziusudra just as real as the Biblical Noah, so the intelligent design effort to steer people to a creator god makes Kali, Allah and other non-Christian gods just as valid as the Christian god.

This is as dumb as saying that evolution advocates pretend not to be driven by atheistic materialism, but we know they are, so evolution is false. The designer may be the God of the Bible, many ID advocates believe that it is, but ID itself doesn't lead to that conclusion. For all we know the designer could well be an inhabitant of some other universe in the multiverse that physicists speculate about. If there can be other worlds why is it so difficult to accept that one of those worlds could contain beings capable of creating this world?

Evidence of Incompetent Design: The supposed proof of intelligent design consists of biological structures or behavior that work perfectly, or nearly perfectly. In other words, a simplistic biological functionalism. The counterproof includes vestigial structures that don't work anymore, or that put a creature at a disadvantage, plus anything else in anatomy or behavior which is not perfect.

This is an argument, such as it is, against belief that the designer is the omnipotent, omniscient God of the Bible. It has nothing at all to do with ID. After all, even an incompetent designer is still a designer. Parenthetically, even if the designer of this world didn't get everything right, it still turned in a pretty impressive performance.

Question the Single Alternative Science: Advocates of intelligent design say they want to broaden the public school science curriculum by adding "alternatives to evolution." Challenge them also to take the next logical step and add alternatives to astronomy and chemistry, and see whether conservative Christian parents are willing to include astrology and alchemy in their children's science courses.

This tactic is an indicator of the paucity of good arguments available to ID's opponents. Neither astrology nor alchemy are live options in the physical sciences. In the biological sciences, however, there are two alternatives: Either the information which fills the biosphere is the product solely of material forces or it is, at least in part, the product of intelligent agency. There are no other options, and both of these are live.

In the physical sciences there are also two options: Either the parameters, constants, forces and other properties of the physico-chemical universe are the product of purely naturalistic coincidence or they are the product of intentional engineering. There are no other options besides these, both of which are live. Throwing other creation myths, alchemy, or astrology into the mix is simply an attempt to blow smoke in peoples' eyes so that they won't see the real alternatives with which we are confronted in this debate.

Teach students the facts about the fine-tuned structure of the universe and then ask them which they think it is, chance or intelligence, that is responsible for the phenomena. Show them the computer generated videos of protein synthesis such as are found in the video The Mystery of Life's Origin and ask students whether they think this process is solely the result of chance and natural forces or whether they think it required some intelligent agency.

The vast majority of young people will agree that to believe that it's just a matter of chance and physics takes more faith than what they can muster. That's why secularists don't want students to know that there actually are alternatives to the materialist orthodoxy. They know that their metaphysics requires a superhuman exertion of will on the part of young people to believe it.

Here's a prediction I might have made before, but I'll reiterate: Because the evidence of intentional design is so strong in both the physical and biological world, as time goes on, materialists will increasingly encourage science teachers to down-play in their classes the wonders with which they seek to dazzle their students. The more teachers fill their students' minds with the fantastic truths of nature, the materialists will implicitly argue, the harder it will be to keep the young ones from wandering off the materialist plantation.

Of course, if they are ever successful in "sanitizing" science, it will mark the beginning of the end of scientific investigation and discovery because fewer students will be inspired to study it.