Thursday, December 29, 2011

Israel v. Iran

Eli Lake writes an interesting piece at the Daily Beast describing Israeli preparations for an attack on Iran's nuclear weapons facilities. Here's an excerpt:
For much of the last decade, as Iran methodically built its nuclear program, Israel has been assembling a multibillion-dollar array of high-tech weapons that would allow it to jam, blind, and deafen Tehran's defenses in the case of a pre-emptive aerial strike.

A U.S. intelligence assessment this summer, described to The Daily Beast by current and former U.S. intelligence officials, concluded that any Israeli attack on hardened nuclear sites in Iran would go far beyond airstrikes from F-15 and F-16 fighter planes and likely include electronic warfare against Iran’s electric grid, Internet, cellphone network, and emergency frequencies for firemen and police officers.

For example, Israel has developed a weapon capable of mimicking a maintenance cellphone signal that commands a cell network to “sleep,” effectively stopping transmissions, officials confirmed. The Israelis also have jammers capable of creating interference within Iran’s emergency frequencies for first responders.

In a 2007 attack on a suspected nuclear site at al-Kibar, the Syrian military got a taste of this warfare when Israeli planes “spoofed” the country’s air-defense radars, at first making it appear that no jets were in the sky and then in an instant making the radar believe the sky was filled with hundreds of planes.

Israel also likely would exploit a vulnerability that U.S. officials detected two years ago in Iran's big-city electric grids, which are not “air-gapped”—meaning they are connected to the Internet and therefore vulnerable to a Stuxnet-style cyberattack—officials say.

A highly secretive research lab attached to the U.S. joint staff and combatant commands, known as the Joint Warfare Analysis Center (JWAC), discovered the weakness in Iran’s electrical grid in 2009, according to one retired senior military intelligence officer. This source also said the Israelis have the capability to bring a denial-of-service attack to nodes of Iran’s command and control system that rely on the Internet.

Tony Decarbo, the executive officer for JWAC, declined comment for this story. The likely delivery method for the electronic elements of this attack would be an unmanned aerial vehicle the size of a jumbo jet. An earlier version of the bird was called the Heron, the latest version is known as the Eitan. According to the Israeli press, the Eitan can fly for 20 straight hours and carry a payload of one ton. Another version of the drone, however, can fly up to 45 straight hours, according to U.S. and Israeli officials.
Lake has more at the link. Recent news reports have had the Israelis and the U.S. engaged in talks to coordinate efforts in the event that Iran crosses any of several "red lines" that will trigger an attack. Iran, for its part seems determined to see just how much resolve there is in the White House.

It's a dangerous game, but Iran simply cannot be allowed to obtain a nuclear device. It would set off an arms race in the Middle East that would almost certainly result in a proliferation of such devices and also make it extremely likely that one or more will be used, if not by a state entity then certainly by a group like Hezbollah, al Qaeda, or Hamas, any of which will doubtless find someone willing to supply them with a weapon.

Homeschooling and Liberals

David Mills grew up a child of the sixties and although he's no longer quite so liberal many of his friends and acquaintances are, and something about them puzzles him.

In his young adulthood to be countercultural was a badge of honor. To reject the establishment, uniformity, regimentation, and the homogenization of culture was an act of courageous resistance. To walk to the beat of a different drummer was authentic. To flout authority, particularly government authority, was liberating.

That was then. Now many of his leftist friends seem to have unwittingly abandoned those formerly-held convictions. Mills is made especially aware of this by their reaction when he informs them that he and his wife are home-schooling their two youngest children. He writes about his experience in a column at First Things.

Here's Mills:
Thus I was surprised some years later to find the kind of people with whom I’d grown up—the leftists, the intellectuals, the activists, the public-spirited—suddenly alarmed at the growth of homeschooling. (And I first experienced this surprise when we still expected to send our children to the public schools.)

The critics treated it as a threat to the social order and a source of sectarian divisions. Some expressed concern that homeschooled children would find themselves unable to function in a pluralistic society. Many also argued that they would get an inferior education, but that always seemed to be a secondary concern, and grimly amusing coming from advocates of the near-monopoly of a public school system whose failures were beginning to be lamented even by liberal observers.

The critics found themselves so alarmed, of course, because now politically, culturally, and religiously conservative parents were educating their children at home and rejecting the influence of a system in which the critics—so many of them former countercultural types themselves—were heavily invested, and from which, as a Marxist would note, so many of them drew their salaries.

The homeschoolers were no longer a few hippies and leftists, whose numbers were always going to be small and their influence marginal, and who were reliably leftist anyway. Now the homeschoolers were a growing number of average parents, whose countercultural commitments were of the conservative and not the leftist sort, whose numbers might well increase and their influence grow stronger, particularly if the establishment lost its control over the education of children, which happened to be its primary way of reducing parental influence in, to borrow a famous phrase from my youth, the battle for their hearts and minds.

People who have no obvious stake in the matter, like most of the people who have expressed dismay at my wife and my decision to homeschool our children, tend to side with the establishment against the parents. They’ve somehow absorbed the key elements of the ideology, like the concern for “socialization,” which is either a faux concern for the children’s well-being or a real concern for their being educated outside of and probably against the ideas public schools (with exceptions, of course) inculcate and impose.
Mills has more to say about this strange reaction of liberals to the idea of homeschooling in his essay. I know anecdotal evidence doesn't count for much, but I have to say that in the last seven years I have had dozens of home-schooled students in my classes. Many of them were still high school-aged kids taking college courses, and almost all of them were among the best students in the class. They were every bit as sociable, intelligent, and mature - often moreso - as their peers who had attended public schools. What's more, they often brought to class a level of background knowledge that their publicly educated peers lacked.

The idea that homeschooling is hurting kids is true only if by the word "hurting" one means that these students aren't being indoctrinated in the liberal orthodoxies and moral anomie that prevail in many of our public schools. It's ironic, though perhaps understandable, that liberals don't like, and even oppose, giving students a way to avoid those "benefits."