Program Check Tunisia

I'm now apparently a full-fledged member of anonymous. Someone guided me through the process of creating a jointly-written press release, using a pad which was something I had literally never seen before. Despite it being jointly-written, I've already had to defend it in the comments in the style I'm sure you've grown used to by now. :-)

Anyway, first a programming analogy. When programming, it is often necessary to abstract a problem, and it can be difficult to do in isolation. So what I instead prefer to do is have two examples (at least) to work with, so that the differences and similarities become starker. Perhaps you could call it a lazy way of abstracting. I would say efficient.

So too what we have with the free Middle East countries. It's only when we get feedback from free and fair elections that we can really find out what people want, and how we can live together peacefully. Currently we only have Iraq as a data point. We can basically live with them. I suspect we can live with the Tunisians too, and hopefully eventually the whole Middle East. Even the countries like Egypt that need to be de-Nazified can perhaps have that done over time. If the US is unwilling to take immediate action (ala Germany), there's not much choice. In the meantime, just hope the Nazis don't get up to anything too nefarious.

Regardless, hopefully soon we will have a second data point from Tunisia, so that we can hopefully gain some more knowledge about how to liberate even more people, as well as the joy of the current liberation. And feed in to western security plans too. Not that I see much sign anyone in the west actually has a security plan other than "hope that (ie 9/11) doesn't happen again!".

But the war in Tunisia is far from won. I don't trust this government one iota. And despite the fact that I am in favour of an enhanced separation of church and state (ie anti-dogma enshrined in the constitution), I think in this case, I'd rather see the commies/islamists competing for power. I doubt that either has a snowball's chance in hell, but even if they win, so what? That's an opportunity for people to see those regimes close up, and so long as the democracy doesn't fall, they will quickly tire of their "you beaut alternatives to secular capitalist liberal democracy". Pretty much any sort of democracy is better than the previous political stagnation.

I don't think these people can get up to any mischief, and even if they had a really bad Islamist government, they're 98% Muslim, so the 2% of 10 million = 200,000remaining non-Muslims can get absorbed as refugees in the west if it comes to that. This is not like Egypt where we have to handle 8 million refugees from a definite nightmarish Islamist regime.

So I'd be much more confident that this possible/probable victory for freedom is secured if the Interior Minister was an Islamist and the Defence Minister was a Communist than the current old-regime-centric situation.

And buh - I read your previous comment - I couldn't care less if the Tunisians vote for European-style socialism. Or even Tunisian-style socialism. So long as they have freedom of speech so that I can make my case in the free marketplace of ideas, that is sufficient. Well, obviously I don't want any terrorism either, but the Tunisians are very unlikely to get up to that sort of thing. So open slather - Iraq style! 300 (or probably 150) political parties - take it away!!!

Oh, and another programming analogy. When I document how to do something, I will normally say "type in kill -9 1234" rather than the more formal "kill -9 [process id of process to be killed]", even though the latter is technically correct, and the former is technically incorrect. It is easier for humans to understand/express themselves with a real live example. I have tried to explain the philosophy before, but I haven't done a really good job of it. Here is an opportunity for a clean example.

I mentioned before that Anonymous were doing the morally correct thing (I wasn't - I can only recognize it for what it is). In my theory of what a perfect prophet should be doing (as Jesus is held up to be), is that he should have been doing what Anonymous was doing - freeing 10 million Tunisians rather than trying to break the back of the IBM and Microsoft monopolies. So this is the standard I use myself to judge my own actions in the world, as well as others. I consider human freedom to be the paramount concern. And if this premise is rejected out of hand, well, I don't have much else to say. But to anyone who accepts this non-radical premise, the correct thing to be doing in the world on January 2nd, 2011, was trying to raise the profile of the Tunisian revolutionaries, so that they may hopefully be successful. Anonymous did that. I did not. I was not there, when I could have been. Thus I was not taking the correct moral action, thus I am not perfect (and if a prophet needs to be perfect in your definitions, then I am not a prophet, by definition).

However, I did at least turn up after the event and thank them for doing the right thing. Similar to how I thanked Bush for doing the right thing. If everyone was simply thanking people for good reason, we'd be well on our way to world freedom. The problem has always been people deriding an action that resulted in freedom for millions of people. Not with regards to Tunisia (well, pricks like Gadaffi derided it), but with regards to places like Iraq. And the second-best thing is to at least ask after the event if there is anything that can be done to secure that freedom (or support governments - EU perhaps? - who are willing to take an action to secure that freedom - instead of protesting that it is interference in a sovereign country, or that Tunisians aren't ready for democracy, or whatever crap Gadaffi comes up with, etc etc).

So my expectation is that all these self-proclaimed prophets on the planet should be doing actions like this (and NOT actions like pouring money into a black hole in Africa, or supporting fuckwits like Gates who squander valuable resources like that). The fact that the other "prophets" are nowhere to be seen in places like the Iraqi blogs is the conclusive evidence that they aren't even close. There were non-prophets in the Iraqi blogs too. Distinguishing the two is a lesson for another post.

P.S. Isn't this beautiful to watch too?




Tunisian Takedown

Here's my analysis so far of how this apparent miracle occurred. Although please bear in mind that the fact that I thought of it as a miracle rather than inevitable, shows that my previous understanding was flawed, so perhaps you should take this with a grain of salt. Note that it is a normal part of the scientific process to be proven wrong, acknowledging that, and reexamining assumptions/logic.

First, here is someone else's analysis, and the money quote is this:

"To say that social-media was a key part of the revolution does not necessarily mean that people used GPS-enabled phones to coordinate demonstrations; that is simplistic and misses the point in which social media shapes the environment in general."

And here is Wikipedia's timeline. What's understated is the 2nd Jan Anonymous "press release" where they contacted lots of lazy journalists, who then gave Tunisia pride of place in news coverage.

My guess is that once the Tunisians found that they were important enough to make it to the international news, and if they were going to die, at least their death would be recognized (I think this is crucial), they were more willing to go out onto the streets.

That still doesn't answer how being on the streets was enough though. It didn't help the Iranians any.

I only occasionally and briefly read the news these days for that reason - I'm really not interested in floods and droughts and futile protests when I know the military equation. Basically at some level this is a glorified military coup. Sufficient people in the military made a decision to back the people rather than the dictator. No idea how that happened though. The police seem to have been well-selected for die-hard regime loyalty. Perhaps the US training of the Tunisian military helped put competent rather than loyal people into the right place?

Regardless, I can't remember seeing Tunisia in the news (ie BBC News website), or if it was, then it was some minor thing that I probably didn't even read. Riots and protests are par for the course and usually a complete waste of time and I have better things to do with my time, basically. I've been releasing some major pieces of software. Well, I consider them to be major. But then I consider Message 666 to be major, while others think it is of no significance whatsoever (which pretty much means that either I am a complete idiot for spending decades of effort to come to that conclusion, all for nothing, or they are complete idiots for not even recognizing it for what it is - much less do the analysis themselves).

So it was only when I saw headlines about a friggin president fleeing the country did I realise that this was different. Perhaps at some level - shame on me for not doing what Anonymous was doing on 2nd January. They were literally doing the correct moral action at the time. The perfect moral action, basically - running Tor bridges and DOS attacks on the dictatorship. Even though I wasn't doing the perfect moral action myself (I was instead focussed on breaking the back of the IBM and Microsoft monopolies, as well as providing a universal languages for computing - mission only accomplished on 2011-01-01) at that time, I at least recognize it, and I was in fact ignorant of what was possible, and thus had a defeatist attitude.

I also don't have a problem with people who opposed the Iraq war out of ignorance, but once explained to them, they switch sides. I can remember an American saying something along the lines of "coming to absurd conclusions" on one of the Iraqi blogs, after seeing these happy free Iraqis. So too, I came to an apparently absurd conclusion that nothing could be done to assist a revolution, and thus it needed to wait for the western military to get through their long list of targets. Or in the case of a military coup, once again, nothing could be done. I was also wrong in the fact that you can get some of this stuff onto the media. I can remember the Dec 2003 Iraqi protests being covered up by the media (other than a brief mention on Fox). That was a cruel tragedy in itself. But apparently at some level we can make common cause with the left-wing media.

As far as I know, Tunisia is an unknown, so we can't yet gauge whether we are sitting on a hot-bed of Islamic radicals or diehard commies as to why the left-wing media would be willing to cover it. ie we are both stepping into the void together, but I think it is better to take that step, and hopefully things will resolve in time (the military options of both de-Nazification and nuclear extermination remain available for decades still if it turns out to be a gross error of judgement - not that our judgement has had any influence anyway). I wouldn't have expended the political and military capital on a war of liberation for Tunisia. Not yet. But now that it's happened, all focus should be on solidifying this gain. I don't see any more urgent need at this time unless you're willing to go to war with some dangerous entities like Iran, North Korea and Pakistan. Those countries playing with nukes are the absolute highest priority if they can be taken out. But with western governments forcing western militaries to stand down, no progress can be made on those fronts. Hence - focus on Tunisia.

Can this be replicated? Don't know. Will this be a success (measured as multi-party democracy, not measured against Switzerland)? Don't know. Were the extra hidden factors, e.g. the CIA bribing people in the Tunisian military to take the side of the people? Don't know. Note - that would have been the moral action for the CIA to be taking, if they could do it without jeapordizing any other more critical projects - but I don't see anything jeapordized.

Anyway, there are now some tough choices - can countries like Libya be done next? Anonymous is mulling over that. I'm still deeply skeptical about how successful this can be in the future. Science generally requires more than one data point, which is all we have, before you can start analyzing what the common factors are, so that it can be replicated. But if we can even just secure this one single victory - freedom for 10 million people - that will be enough. It is, literally, history. For facebook etc to have a hand in a successful revolution it really is unprecedented history. We've seen other militaries willing to change sides too, e.g. in Romania. So I'm more keen on making sure we get Facebook 1 on the scoreboard rather than a random result of Facebook 0 and Fall of Middle Eastern Dictatorship 1. But that "bird in the hand" approach is not really science. It's too vague to measure. Too many unknowns. We could be sitting on a golden opportunity if only x, y and z are done. The only thing I know will work for sure is military power, but we have real-world constraints that are preventing that from being used, so if there's a glimmer of hope in x, y and z, then that avenue needs to be explored.

I still haven't made contact with English-language Tunisian bloggers though. The closest I have so far is someone from Tunisia currently studying in France. Still working on it.

Hope, tempered by great danger.

However, one thing that does give me grounds for optimism is actual fighting between the Tunisian military and regime police. Once killing like that is underway, people are more likely to follow through for face-saving or repercussions or whatever (people rarely change their mind). So if the military has already committed itself to fighting on the side of the people, then it's a slam dunk that they will win. Still a very good chance that the head of the military will decide that portraits of himself all over the streets would be a welcome sight. Grrrrr. There are offers of assistance from places like the EU. We know that Afghanistan was finessed. A softly softly and some hefty bribes or something, anything, behind the scenes, may be able to save the day.

But at the end of the day, I'm at a loss as to how to see this through to victory. Iraq was a no-brainer. I explained to morons again and again that the new Iraqi government was an invincible force, but morons again and again persisted in believing goons with headbands could defeat it. Not so Tunisia. The internal angles at play are completely unknown as far as I am aware. There's probably an Al Sadr in there somewhere. And a Saddam. And a Mithal Al Alusi. It always depressed me that the Chinese had so many revolutions in history and never once installed a democracy. I hope Tunisia doesn't end up being another depressing moment in world history. Right now, my money is on Tunisia being a success. I believe that in 10 years from now we'll see a Tunisia with multi-party elections, freedom of speech, and a noisy parliament. Maybe Tunisia can even be better than Iraq. Let's see! Whatever you do, don't pray. See if you can find some action to take!

P.S. Blogger got the wrong daylight saving time. Meant to be 18th



Operation Tunisia

Wow. What can I say, but "wow"?

Investigation of how this takedown took place showed that there was in fact another tool in the toolbox, previously unheard of in the history of liberation.

Normally these things follow a fairly unpredictable path that you can't really do anything to help. But in this case, hackers were able to take out Tunisian government websites at a crucial time, in Denial Of Service attacks. Obviously the Tunisians did the hard and brave part of taking to the streets, but thinking your government has fallen because the website is inaccessible apparently gives people confidence that the regime is unstable enough that you are now in with a sporting chance of winning. That's not a conclusion my logical brain would come to based on an annoying DOS attack, but sometimes it seems logic is not a useful trait. Someone once told me "logical people have shorter lifespans because they only look one way down one-way streets when crossing".

Anyway, I'll try to further absorb this new tool. Tunisia is in no way secured yet though. They've still got a single old-regime-related head of state. What they really need at the moment is for the army to appoint some technocrats along the lines of the Iraqi Governing Council. Once again, Iraq provides a model for a working sequence of steps. So many revolutions are squandered otherwise (like Iran 1979).




Tunisian Trepidation

With great apologies to this caller who says:

"One caller said foreigners, especially the French and Americans, should keep their advice to themselves."

Interesting how quickly we get to hear a Tunisian say that, when it is Americans who are constantly being bombarded with criticism - not even well-meaning advice - from foreigners, and I can't think of Americans telling foreigners they should not have the right to an opinion.

Anyway, I won't be judging all of Tunisia by one Tunisian. I have no idea what to make of them, as we have very little knowledge of Tunisia. This is one of the great dangers of dictatorship - we can't analyze the underlying threat level. Given that at any time a dictator can come to power and start using state resources to do nefarious activities (unleashing biological viruses etc), to ensure the security of our own children (even independent of the benefit to the target population itself), what we need is:

1. A de/non-Nazified population (vast majority) that we can actually live in peace with.

2. A democratically-elected government from those people.

3. Enormous internal checks and balances to ensure that the military etc cannot topple that democracy.

4. External check and balance to ensure that if the internal controls fail, the new dictator can be quickly put down before he engages in some nefarious activity.

Also, if there are any slip-ups in this process, the weapons that the democracy has in the first place should be fairly minimal. E.g. if Denmark decides to start bioweapons research, it'd be nice to know why.

That's the sort of thing I expect for a safe world.

We are far away from that, and instead the vast majority of people see no problem with allowing sovereign dictators to do pretty much whatever they want. Last time Hitler was given a free reign it ended badly, but we've basically run out of dangerous western countries. Theoretically China might become one. And no-one seems to have raised sufficient eyebrows when Pakistan got "the Islamic bomb".

The situation in Tunisia is far from being anything that is required for the benefit of either the Tunisian people or Western security. Fortunately thanks to Iraq, we now have a MODEL!!! No more bullshit about having to make a tough choice between democratically-elected Islamic radicals or a secular dictator. We can have both. And no need for the third option to be inevitably instigated some time after the first option is chosen - a war of extermination.

The only "information" we have from Tunisia is that the previous president was "elected" with 89.4% of the vote, and I notice the journalist has the audacity to use the word "legitimate" - as if someone who rules by force of arms can be considered any more legitimate than a street rapist "legitimately" having sex with a victim.

We have no way of even knowing if that figure was true, and the rioters in the street are a mere 10.6% of the population. We know from Iraq that these people likely have 300+ political parties lurking beneath the surface if they are given a free hand. Currently there's next to nothing to fill the political vacuum. But mostly there is no confidence that the military will do the right thing and ensure democratic elections. With Iraq there was no doubt whatsoever that a genuine democratic vote would take place. There was no-one who could prevent it from happening. With Tunisia it comes down to the whim of some general. It'd be nice if they could at least get a committee of generals going, who realise that they don't speak with one voice themselves, and thus don't want to take responsibility for the country's direction, and thus throw it open to the people to choose their own destiny.

We also know from Iraq that the political timeline can be fasttracked. I liked the way the Iraqis had the transitional governments and referendums to create a clean slate. ie in Iraq, there is not a single word created by America. Every law, ever letter of the constitution, was done by Iraqis and approved by Iraqis. The Americans just ensured that it happened. The Tunisian military could easily take the place of the Americans and ensure that it happens. The Tunisian military is completely undefeatably by any internal power. I have no basis on which to trust the Tunisian military though. I'd MUCH prefer to see someone, e.g. Iraq or Japan (or a coalition of them plus the Germans) ensuring this has a happy ending.

By the way - will all the deaths arising from the current mayhem be blamed on:

1. The revolutionaries, who took no poll whatsoever to find out if they represented the majority (admittedly, like the Americans in Iraq, it wasn't possible to get a poll anyway - and even if it was, minorities have rights too).

2. The Tunisian army who didn't magically prevent every single lawbreaker from breaking the law.

3. The criminals who break standard Golden-rule-based laws.

If Iraq is anything to go by, it'll be number 2. But that would require consistency from the left-wing media, and it'll be a cold day in Hell before we see that.

Anyway, in principle, this is a fantastic thing. If we do in fact get a democracy in North Africa out of it, perhaps along with southern Sudan, it will have been done without requiring the massive expenditure of the US military, and without the responsibility and (the bulk of the - it won't be long before the CIA starts getting blamed for anything bad in Tunisia) accusations either.

I'm not sure that there's anything we can actually do though. Ideally we could bribe the head of the Tunisian military to hold the democratic elections. Give him $10 million and a lifetime Disneyland pass if he does what would otherwise have to be done by a massive US military commitment. But if he was bribed by America, that would somewhat diminish the resultant democracy. Ideally this should be done totally indigenously. There is something we can - and should - do if the generals decline democracy - external military intervention. But Tunisia is not the best country to be expending scarce liberation opportunities. Best to get a country that is also a security threat.

Well - normally it wouldn't be. But this is an opportunity to leverage off the indigenous forces. Similar to what was done in Afghanistan. And similar to Haiti in fact! If the generals don't make their intentions very clear that they will be installing a democracy, and implement checks and balances to ensure that they follow through with that commitment, then we should try to get a UN intervention. The UN intervention would be the alternative to the $10 million bribe mentioned previously. It doesn't have to be a large force - just big enough to ensure that the head of the military realises its not worth his while to go back on what he's already promised.

Basically at some level, there are friends of mine in Tunisia. They have names like Sarmad, Alaa and Ali. I don't know whether they are in a majority, or at least, have "preferred associates" who are in a majority that will give them a large chunk of what they want. At some level I have a desire to speak to them and ask "what can I do to help you obtain/secure your freedom?". I doubt that they will have any actionable answer to that question any more than the Iraqi bloggers did, or that I have myself. I know how to technically accomplish things via the military, and I understand the huge finessing that was done in Afghanistan to rope in pricks like Rabbani and Khan and probably Fahim.

But in the absence of tools, with which to formulate a strategy around, I don't see a lot of options but to "hope" that the generals do the "right thing". And it's pretty sad to have to sit back and just hope about whim. Quite frustrating in fact. Most of the world liberation program has been full of such frustration. There was very little that an individual could do at any step of the way. How do you advocate freedom or capitalism during the Cold War when you already such thing? The activism was always from the communists who were trying to take that away. The most you could do was argue with the activitists at an individual level, but I wonder if that had any effect anyway - they never had the numbers required to come anywhere near overthrowing our capitalist systems.

Same as Kyrgystan in fact. Not much you can do to ensure a good political outcome other than hope. It'd be nice to have more tools in the toolchest other than the blunt military. I'll see if I can redo some of the research to see if there's any avenue I have overlooked. I'm keen to meet the Tunisian Sarmad anyway.


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