Thursday, April 9, 2015

Struggle upon Struggle: A multifactor INTJ Problem


So Iran keeps its extensive nuclear infrastructure. That's the end conclusion of 12 years of negotiations. This wasn't the initial plan: after discovering the illicit Iranian nuclear program, the Security Council insisted on a complete enrichment ban in the Islamic Republic. Only then could sanctions fall and negotiations even commence.

The United States did not insist on such rigid conditions. That was the consensus decision by the entire Security Council.

Thing is, we couldn't actually stop Iran from getting a nuke, if she really wanted one. Under the  sanctions, so horrible that Iranian had to turn off oil wells (and thus permanently damage them), Iran developed a huge stockpile of 20% enriched uranium. Which is awfully damn close to full weapons-grade uranium. Every day they turned on hundreds more centrifuges, and neared completion on their Arak heavy water reactor.

Basically, we weren't accomplishing a damn thing. The defiant Iranian hard-line regime continued on, rubbing our faces in the fact that they could do whatever they want with nary a US response.

So we got this deal. Not that we didn't give some other methods a good ol' college try.

Enter Stuxnet. Now forgotten, this mystery virus erupted onto the global scene just a few short years. Unlike most malware in the world, this virus specifically targeted Iran: more than 50% of Iranian computers were infected with the Stuxnet virus on Day Zero, with some minor infections in India and Indonesia.

Almost immediately, Computer Security experts concluded this virus was an intelligent design by a state apparatus. There were some naysayers, of course: no evidence of US government involvement! But the code apparently was hysterically complex, reflecting years of work by someone, simply far more complex than any other virus.

And it wasn't just the complexity, but the features! Stuxnet, if you got it, wouldn't even affect your computer, unless it detected certain Siemens industrial software. Hell, I could have gotten it: I wouldn't know, because Stuxent would have infected my computer, saw I didn't have Siemens ERP, and then rendered itself inert.

Even more alarming, every Stuxnet virus erased itself in June 2012. What. The. Hell?

Stuxnet targeted a specific vulnerability in the Siemens industrial systems. Which happened to be used by Iranian centerfuges in Natanz, Iran's enrichment facility.

And sometimes sped up the spin cycle...and sometimes slowed it down..and sometimes sped it up...and who cares if it did that to my laundry machine or something?

But to a nuclear centerfuge spinning at high speeds, those fluctuations are fatal. For months, the Natanz reactor was entirely shut down and enrichment ceased.

Oh yeah. Think about all the design features of this. It is specifically targeted at one specific industry, one specific site even, and has numerous safeguards programmed into it, so it didn't accidentally turn all the Ford robots into Killer SkyNet Death Machines.

Now, Stuxnet is pretty much universally regarded as a Israeli-US designed bug. A very complicated one. Even today, because Stuxnet is so pervasive in Iran, Iranian engineers have to be careful what USB sticks they plug into their computers.

But ultimately, even this failed. Iran wiped their computers. They installed patches. And they got pretty damn close to having enough fissile material for a weapon. Well-integrated systems are hard to break down.

This is actually why Saudi Arabia, despite wanting to copy Iran's development, probably won't get anywhere close. They aren't going to get a Heavy Water reactor or plutonium reprocessing, which would be the easiest way of getting a bomb. Iran doesn't have it, Saudi Arabia won't get it.

So Saudi Arabia would need to go the Uranium-enrichment route. Only....

Saudi Arabia doesn't have any damn uranium.

Right now, they don't even have the infrastructure to mine the most basic ingredient of a nuke program, uranium. Granted, Jordan actually produces a fair share, around 2% of the world's reserves. Jordan and Saudi Arabia have a small nuclear agreement, but the US is pressuring Jordan to act like the UAE and rule out uranium enrichment.

Probably not likely given the above deal with Iran, but if US safeguards go into place, Saudi Arabia will not have a source of its own uranium. That means they will be perpetually be at a disadvantage to Iran, vis a vis nukes. Iran controls every step of the nuclear process and can develop their own bombs if they really, really want to. Saudi Arabia, cannot.

It's just a multi-factor problem, with multiple points of failure, and Saudi Arabia can't control them all. We had to unleash Stuxnet on Iran just to slow them down. For Saudi Arabia, the US just needs to blockade the country. UN sanctions would permit seizure of all ships heading into the country, and deals with Jordan and Egypt would limit smuggling.

It's an inherent disadvantage. Saudi Arabia does not have a native capacity to enrich uranium.

So what's the best option for Saudi Arabia? Here's we introduce a little concept called "lock-in." Lock-in means you have a relationship that you cannot easily leave. The modern example is the Apple iTunes eco-system. Once you get an IPhone, all your music comes in iTunes format.

Do you want an Android in 2 years? Well, fine. Now you need to export all your songs, and import them to your new Android phone. That's a huge hassle for the standard IPhone user: they got Ipods back in 2001 because they were cool and MP3s too hard. You think these kids will sit at their computer for hours, trying to figure out how to file-transfer 100 gigs of illegally downloaded music?


Saudi Arabia is in a similar relationship, but this is with the United States. The US and Saudi Arabia have a long-standing relationship, going back to the 1950s. We kept them afloat and empowered them for a long while, because they were counter-weights to the pro-Soviet Arab nationalism. Yemen and Oman both had civil wars involving communist insurgencies in the last few decades: Saudi Arabia was a great ally.

This relationship is close enough that the US even briefly suspended aircraft sales to Israel, when Israel protested the US providing advanced AWACS to Saudi Arabia.

It's a pretty deep relationship.

And they are pretty locked-in. They have an extensive economic, software, and military network built on alliance with the United States. That means their easiest method to improve security is to cooperate with the United States. Does the US want to base some radars in Saudi Arabia? Let them, and maybe you'll be covered by SM-3 missile defense systems. Maybe you'll get some F-35s (since the Eurofighter project is such a disaster Saudi Arabia cancelled its order).

Certainly you'll get intelligence support! Saudi aircraft are bombing the hell out of Yemen right now, guided by US satellite and US drones.

Unfortunately, this kind of relationship might be something Saudi Arabia does not want. US influence can be beneficial, but the viral nature of democracy undermines everything it touches. Egypt was a key US ally, but the US tossed Mubarak to the side when it had the chance. Our post Cold War history is full of relationships with dictators, but also forcing dictators out of office or changing governments. South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Panama, these governments were all dictatorships at one point or another, and US pressure and the power of media toppled them all.

You'll notice that this doesn't happen to Belraus, or Myanmar, or North Korea, or Uzbekistan, which have not been forced to democratize, regardless of whatever pressures the universe throws at them. Why are Ukraine and Belarus so much poorer than Poland and Lithuania?

Goes into a little something called  Path Dependence. Ukraine and Belarus were extremely close to Russia. Poland was considered an essential objective to be integrated into Europe at almost all cost, with Solidarity, an extremely strong anti-Communist Party institution. Plus it had some serious distance from Russia.

This more or less meant Poland was guaranteed admission to all sorts of European institutions. Ukraine, with its numerous nuclear warheads, unguaranteed borders, and the entire Soviet navy, was destined to stay in the Russian orbit, at least for a while. The decisions the nations made in the past, mattered for decisions made in 1991, and into the present day.

Saudi Arabia staying a US ally means that Saudi Arabia will inevitably change, and that scares the hell out of at least some parts of the Saudi royal family. We really don't know where this will lead, not until a moment of decision, when pressures become too great to resist. At that point, Saudi Arabia will choose to democratize, like South Korea, collapse like Iraq, or become hardline like China (or more likely North Korea).

Iranian nukes make the world dangerous for Saudi Arabia. Ironically, if Saudi Arabia remains locked-in to the United States, pursue a strategy of LIMITED confrontation with Iran, and eventually democratizes, this is actually a GOOD thing for us!

Contrast this with Israel, which has had a totally different degree of path dependence that created their modern nation-state. At its founding, France thought Israel an immensely powerful tool to enforce its strength in the Middle East. So Israel got unrestricted access to French nuclear technology, which was a pretty big deal back in the day. Dimona is still run on heavy water procured by the French, which means Israel can make as many nukes as it wants.

Again, that option is not even on the table for Saudi Arabia even more!

Israel had a small nuclear supply in the 1970s, as far as we can tell, which may have saved its bacon in '73. But what really mattered is Ronald Reagan.

See, the US wasn't too fond of Israel, back in the day. We didn't like all these nukes. We didn't like the settlements. We didn't like their treatment of the Palestinians. Kissinger threatened to "reset" relations in the region, which ushered in an extremely dark time for Israeli-US relations.

This changes dramatically with Ronald Reagan. Reagan was big on regional partnerships. That's why Saudi Arabia got AWACS in the 1980s. It's also why Israel earned the unique right to spend US defense dollars on its own defense industry, instead of US military goods. By most accounts, Israeli nuclear technology expanded greatly in this period, we absolutely knew about it, and we covered it up, because why not?

Israel now has a small nuclear deterrent. Not enough to deter any of the big guys: Russia or China would wipe them off the face of the Earth. But it's enough to make any invading Arab army think twice, which is all Israel really wants.

Saudi Arabia isn't going to get that deal. It's from a long degree of historical accident and Path Dependence. Nope, Israel and the US and Saudi Arabia all have a locked-in relationship, but it's locked-in on totally different terms.


Why do I mention INTJs in the title....

Over at Just Four Guys, we've had a lengthy discussion about personality types, whether personality types even bother telling us anything useful, whether we can put people into neat little categories.

For Christmas, my Wife bought me an "INTJ" t-shirt. I wore it a New Year's Eve party, so you can tell I thought it a fitting gift!

There, we met a friend, a quiet, glasses-wearing Asian guy, who spent some time on a cooking show. He doesn't like Gordon Ramsay much, but that's a story for another day.

He said, "oh, wow, you're an INTJ. I am also an INTJ. I did notice something odd about you."

Then my Wife looked at our friend the cook, back at me, then at our friend again, then back at me.

The lightbulb turned on over her head.


The two of us look substantially different, at least at first. He's a committed amateur chef, who rarely gets more than a few hours of sleep per night. He has immense knowledge in practically every facet of the kitchen, from your range to what cleaner to use on your Butcher Block (which you shouldn't have anyways). He's also single, experimented with a lot of experimental drugs, and works in IT, and moved several times in the past year.

I'm a married man, living on a road so straight and narrow it might well be a planck-thickness super-string, work in accounting, and have not changed locations or jobs very frequently in my whole life.

Plus, at first glance, we look so different! I drink a lot, am quite touchy, and share a ton of jokes. He is quiet, reserved, stereotypically nerdy, speaks deep and calm.

These differences blinded my Wife to our obvious similarities, which both myself and my INTJ friend could pick up on, almost immediately. It's why we are relatively good friends, despite knowing each other for only a few months. It's why he comes over and cooks, and I give him books on Asian Economics, and then we sit down and talk about Tom Wolfe.

There's a lot of mental similarities and a lot of overlapping interests that generate a lot of common ground. That means we can establish a pretty good friendship.

But it's important not to overlook those key differences. I'm a married White guy and there's better than even odds I'm voting Republican. He's a single minority guy and odds are good he's voting Democrat in 2016. We probably have divergent opinions about religion and music and a whole host of other things. You can't just say "INTJ" and presume you know everything about a person, much like you can't say "Middle East" and presume you know everything about a nation.

The interesting parts come when you look into those mental processes, and see how they interacted with the environment to create the people we see today. I lived at home all throughout my years at college, while he dormed. We both had insomnia problems, but I never had any compulsion to use my kitchen, not when Mother Dearest made home-cooked meals every night, so instead I learned a LOT of history and economics. He headed to the kitchen and learned everything about souffles, at a chemical level.

We both had some issues fitting in when we were younger, and both had some temptations with illegal substances in college. He indulged massively: i indulged lightly. I had to drive home....he partied until 7 the next morning and that difference created a hugely different personality.

I found Roissy. He didn't. A multi-year effort to overhaul my personality created a marriagable man. He tried flirting with Jenna, and got shot down within minutes.

There are differences, yes, but a lot of these differences are predictable based on environment. I'd say it's Nature vs. Nurture, but that's wrong. It's Nature VIA Nurture: the environment pulled out different parts of our Nature and created different people. But we have very similar natures, at least based on our cognitive stacks.


How to wrap this up? A lot of people think Neo-Masculinity (aka the Red Pill) is some sort of binary thing. You are Alpha or you are Beta. All women are whores (unless we have a Madonna-Whore complex). And obviously the depth of human experience cannot possibly be captured into these two categories.

Therefore Neo-Masculinity is wrong! Hallelujah!

My point is that the intellectual thought behind this movement, if not the scientific rigor, represents an extremely deep well.  There is no One True Alpha, there is no Absolute Loser Beta. We tend to believe in continuums and distributions more than categories, and believe this is a multi-variable problem. This is both on the masculine side, and the feminine side: women are not all uniformly "whores" that are all equally likely to cheat on us at any given moment.

No, this is fiction of the highest sort. No Neo-Masculine man believes that, just like few Neo-Masculine men believe women should not hold the franchise.

What we object to are Blue Pill delusions and deliberate obfuscations, designed to prevent debate. We can acknowledge the differences between my INTJ friend and I, but we are interested in how these differences emerged despite similar mental faculties. We are particularly concerned with the difference in relationship outcomes, and obviously my exposure to Roissy must be fundamental to that, and must not be a negative if I could have ended up married and he still single.

These are avenues we would like to explore, with the full depth of our reason. We are not simple-minded hawks, demanding the bombing of Iran "because," nor doves that demand a negotiated deal no matter what "because," nor are we relationship "takers" that demand women have no rights. But also we are not relationship givers, who conitnually demand be held to single-sex standards and uniquely obligated to sacrifice all their collective interests to appease those of women.

This is an ideology of thought, concern, and nuance. When we use terms, rest assured, we know the dangers of categorization. We know about path dependence, about distributions (normal and otherwise!), we know about lock-in, we know about growth mindset, and all that.

Put aside the simple-minded binary Blue Pill thinking that brought you to ruin. You'll find something a lot more thought-out here.

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