Randaly

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($1000 bounty) How effective are marginal vaccine doses against the covid delta variant?

This, and the Bahrain/UAE cases, seem more likely to be driven by concerns about whether/how well the Chinese vaccines work?

Notes on War: Grand Strategy

On the other hand, look at the US wars in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. The outcomes of these wars were determined much more by political forces (in both of the relevant countries) than by overwhelming force.

Insurgencies aren't a good comparison for conventional wars like the Nagorno-Karabakh war.

Notes on War: Grand Strategy

The overall thrust here seems like an application of Clausewitz's maxim that "war is the extension of politics by other means". However, the specific politics suggested seem very unrealistic.

  • You suggest ways to impact Azerbaijan's internal politics by targeting harm to specific groups. I see no reason to believe that Armenia had any substantial ability to deal much harm to Azerbaijan at all, so this isn't relevant. In general, it would be much harder for Armenia to advance to deal significant damage to Azerbaijan's homeland than it would be to defend.
  • Assassinations are practically universally a bad way to change a country's politics; they usually result in a direct backfire.
  • Your advice seems to lack object-level knowledge of the conflict itself; in particular, Azerbaijan is not a liberal democracy; its current leader has been in power for decades, and won ~86% of the vote in the most recent election.
  • The second Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was indeed a populist war: the two main causes were racial conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and the result of the First Nagorno-Karabakh war, in which Armenia overran and occupied Nagorno-Karabakh. "We will end racism against us" is not in fact a realistic short-term plan; it would take decades to have relevance. Resolving the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh would presumably involve returning Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan; this is not a good plan for retaining Nagorno-Karabakh! More generally, you can usually prevent a war by just giving in, and maybe Armenia should have given that they lost the war. It's also not politically realistic, given Armenia's domestic politics.
  • Your plans for improving Armenia's popularity in Azerbaijan (a) wouldn't stop the war, (b) likely wouldn't help end the war, and (c) are irrelevant to actually existing war, since they assume that Armenia is overrunning Azerbaijan, occupying their citizens, taking significant numbers of prisoners, etc.
  • It is not clear to me how Armenia would go about creating a recession or a famine in Azerbaijan?
  • Pretty much all of these plans are underspecified outcomes, not realistic plans. For example, for "we should do propaganda" you haven't specified what Armenia should have actually done for it to matter. *In practice*, actually Azerbaijan had an *overwhelming* advantage in propaganda, making use of new channels like TikTok and Youtube to quickly disseminate videos of military successes.

So how should Armenia have retained Nagorno-Karabakh?  Given that Azerbaijan is about 3 times its size, and that it has substantial oil reserves that can be used to fund military spending, Armenia would have little chance on its own. Even worse, Azerbaijan is supported by their co-ethnics in Turkey, which is vast and wealthy in comparison to both states; Armenia would not realistically have been able to disrupt this relationship.

Armenia would need a powerful patron to counter this. Three options:

  • Iran supported Armenia in the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, but developed closer ties with Azerbaijan more recently. I don't know how realistic blocking this would be, I'm not very familiar with regional politics.
  • Russia has also historically backed Armenia, but didn't intervene until late in the conflict (Russian peacekeepers are now in the region). This was likely for two reasons: first, Russia is already somewhat overstretched, with concerns in ongoing conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, and Libya. Second, Armenia's 2018 Revolution brought to power a more democratic government that leaned away from Russia and towards the West. The answer here would be for Armenia to become a more dependent Russian client state, although this may have been impossible for domestic political reasons. Armenia will likely now pursue this strategy.
  • Armenia has an extensive diaspora in the West, which it used to mobilize political support; using the diaspora and the Armenian realignment towards the West to secure military aid and security guarantees could have been useful, although in practice I don't think Armenia could have secured anything of much significance.
Covid 1/28: Muddling Through

The source article is here. The numbers are not how much of the total the subgroups make up, they are how quickly each subgroup is growing. The text continues:

The number critically ill with covid-19 in that age group grew by about 30% in the week before January 2nd, and also in the following week—but by just 7% in the week after that (see chart 2). By contrast, among those aged between 40 and 55 (who were vaccinated at a much lower rate at the time) the weekly change in the number of critically ill remained constant, with a 20-30% increase in each of those three weeks.

Covid 1/14: To Launch a Thousand Shipments

I have no idea why Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the head of Operation Warp Speed, was asked to resign and transition things over to someone else. Seems like if someone does their one job this effectively you’d want to keep them around.

While it's possible that Moncef Slaoui's resignation was caused by the Biden transition's request, he'd been publicly clear for months that he would resign in late 2020 or early 2021, as soon as 2 vaccines were approved. Here's a news article of him saying this from November.

Plausibly the Biden transition just wanted him to resign at a certain date, or to resign so that they could replace him?

Covid 9/17: It’s Worse

Blade Runner 2045 movie

2049, not 2045.

Trump continues to promise a vaccine by late October. The head of the CDC says that’s not going to happen. Trump says the head of the CDC is ‘confused.’ The CDC walks the comments back. On net, this showed some attempt by the CDC to not kowtow to Trump, but then a kowtow, so on net seems like a wash.

This is missing the last step, which is that the CDC then walked back its walk back (?!?). See here:

The CDC scrambled to explain; by about 6 p.m., the agency was claiming Redfield had misunderstood the original question and was referring to the time period when all Americans would have completed their Covid-19 vaccination.

The CDC’s initial statement was plainly false: During Wednesday’s Senate hearing, a senator asked Redfield when a vaccine will be “ready to administer to the public,” and Redfield acknowledged the precise question before delivering his response.

“If you’re asking me, when is it going to be generally available to the American public, so we can begin to take advantage of a vaccine to get back to our regular life? I think we’re probably looking at late second quarter, third quarter 2021,” he said.

At around 9 p.m. Wednesday, however, the CDC contacted reporters to rescind its statement walking back Redfield’s prior comments, saying only that it had not been “cleared” by higher-ups.

AFAICT where this wound up was that Redfield then issued a bland statement that a vaccine was important.

Lessons on AI Takeover from the conquistadors

I don't really have a great answer to that, except that empirically in this specific case, Spain was indeed able to extract very large amounts of resources from America within a single generation. (The Spanish government directly spent very little on America; the flow of money was overwhelming towards Europe, to the point where it caused notable inflation in Spain and in Europe as a whole.) I don't disagree that running a state is expensive, but I don't see why the expense would necessarily be higher than the extracted resources?

Lessons on AI Takeover from the conquistadors

(1) Local support doesn't end after the first stages of the war, or after the war ends. I mentioned having favored local elites within one society/ethnicity continue to do most of the direct work in (2); colonizers also set up some groups as favored identities who did much of the work of local governance. For example, after the Spanish conquest, the Tlaxcala had a favored status and better treatment.

(2) Not sure why you'd expect low fidelity control to imply that it ends up as a wash in terms of extracting resources, can you clarify?

Lessons on AI Takeover from the conquistadors

I feel like there's two points causing the confusion:

(1) The assumption that natives are an undifferentiated mass. There were a variety of mutually hostile indigenous peoples, who themselves sough out allies against each other; and, in particular, who sought to balance the strongest local powers. Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest, page 48:

The search for native allies was one of the standard procedures or routines of Spanish conquest activity throughout the Americas. Pedro de Alvarado entered highland Guatemala in 1524 not only with thousands of Nahua allies, but also expecting to be able to take advantage of a Mexica-Tlaxcala type rivalry; the two major Maya groups of the region, the Cakchiquel and the Quiche, had both sent ambassadors to Mexico City a year of two earlier. As a result, for the rest of the decade, a brutal civil war ravaged the highlands as the Spaniards used these groups against each other and against smaller Maya groups, while periodically turning with violence upon these native "allies". Conversely, Spaniards under the Montejos sought desperately to make sense of regional politics in Yucatan in order to exploit or establish a similar division, being forced in the end to make a series of often unreliable alliances with local dynasties such as the Pech and Xio. These Maya noble families controlled relatively small portions of Yucatan, and the Spaniards never achieved control over the whole peninsula...

Manco's great siege of Cuzo in 1536 would probably have resulted in the elimination of Pizarro's forces were it not for his Andean allies. There were initially less than 1,000, but grew to over 4,000 later in the siege as two of Manco's brothers and other nobles of the same Inca faction came over to Pizarro's side...

The taking of native allies from one zone of conquest to the next was a practice established at the very onset of Spanish activity in the Americas. Caribbean islanders were routinely carried between islands as support personnel on conquest expeditions, and then brought to the mainland in the campaigns into Panama and Mexico. For example, Cortes brought 200 native Cubans with him to Mexico in 1519.

(2) This also neglects native power structures, which conquistadors mostly left intact in the years immediately after the conquest; note also that part of the conquered region had previously been conquered by the Aztecs, so there the Spanish were simply substituting one empire for another. The Spanish initially didn't speak the native languages, worked through local elites, and reused existing systems of tribute and corvee labor. The Spanish eventually exercised more direct control, but this took an extremely long time. (Fun fact: the last native rebellion against European control in Mexico ended in 1933).

(I am less familiar with India.)

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