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They're Hurting, Too

| 73 Comments

Back when I was 30 pounds lighter (30 years ago, coincidentally...) I raced bicycles. I was (for those of you who know anything about the sport) a pretty good sprinter, a decent pacer, and - like most sprinters - pathetic as a climber (see this for definitions).

Climbing was all about suffering, and the suffering was worse as I watched everyone else slowly (or not so slowly) pull ahead of me. It mattered to my team that I make it to the top, because part of my job was helping control breaks by other sprinters, so one day the leader - the senior, best racer and an excellent climber - rode next to me as I sweated up a hill and cursed and said "You know, it's hard for everybody. Everybody's hurting right now. You just have to be willing to keep hurting until you get to the top of the hill."

"Everybody is hurting" became my mantra, and it helped motivate me to keep turning the pedals over. Later, in my short-lived career as an amateur motorcycle road racer, I changed it "he's scared too" to keep myself headed into the corner alongside antoher rider for another second before braking at (what seemed to me) the last possible moment.

It's important to keep that in mind. We always focus on our own fear and weakness, without realizing that the people we are competing with - riding, running, or for a business deal - are weak and afraid too.

That's on reason I keep emphasizing sitzfleisch (an iron butt, or the willingness to just stay in the game) in talking about Iraq.

We don't think about what it must be like for the other guys, until we get a glimpse - from a captured letter, for example - of how they think they are doing.

Recently, a letter claimed to be found in Zarqawi's bombed house was released. It doesn't paint a pretty picture of what's going on in the insurgency.

I want to take a moment to divert and talk about the response to this kind of document by otherwise sensible people. Marc Lynch - Abu Aardvark - has commented here and he and I have had constructive disagreements.

His response to the letter, though, was just risable:
So about that "treasure trove" of documents allegedly found with Zarqawi which proves that the insurgency is on the run, that American military strategy is working, that the Iraqi security forces are developing into a formidable force, and that all in all everything is going America's way.... well, how can I put this?

Let's just say that were I a strategist for a military which had just killed an insurgency leader such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and seized a bunch of documents full of actionable intelligence, I might not choose to, you know, release them to the media. On the other hand, had I just killed an insurgency leader such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and I wanted to follow up on that operational success by sowing confusion and disarray among his followers (and maybe even scoring some points with the domestic public opinion which my Secretary of Defense has identified as a principle theater of conflict), I might very well release a bunch of "documents" showing that the recently deceased was highly pessimistic about his prospects and that his movement was on the run. (I might also announce that said movement had just declared some random character as its new leader, just to sow more confusion.)

Oh, enough delicacy. These documents seem like a fairly obvious bit of strategic communication, psy-ops, whatever you want to call it. Nothing wrong with that as a way of pressing a temporary advantage against the jihadi wing of the insurgency, spreading confusion, that sort of thing - kind of a textbook move, even. Just as long as nobody serious is silly enough to actually believe any of it. Wouldn't want blowback now, would we?

My issue with this is simple; the only evidence he presents that this is disinformation is that he wishes it were so. He wishes it to be so because it disagrees with the way the he sees things.

It's an inconvenient truth, so it must be false.

It's certainly not impossible. But there's no data that supports his contention, and in fact there is significant other data - specifically other correspondence that has been intercepted or captured and released without disclaimer - which generally fits the points, tone, and issues raised in the new letter.

Back to the new letter.

I'll skip over the operational details, but it's clear that it makes one simple point: "Everybody is hurting."

We certainly are. The Iraqis certainly are. But so are the bad guys.

And we'd do well to keep remember that.

73 Comments

(Comment padding to move url out of summary that shows on the home page) Michael Ledeen thinks it might be a fake for other reasons.

Conspiracy theories aside, there is a material success that comes for AQ being gutted. Lets look at the 'spiral of violence' and how Zarqawi strategized: AQ blows up a bunch of innocent Shiia with as big a bomb as they can find, Shiia militia cant get at AQ but they can get at Sunnis who they are sheltering amongst, so Shiia militias grab a bunch of Sunnis and kill them, Sunnis respond in kind, --> Civil War. At least that was the plan. Without AQ to be that catalyst, the plan is less likely to be effective. If less Shiia are being killed in the streets, possibly less Sunni will be killed and the Shiia death squads will lose their reason de entre. We shall see.

Sorry about screwing up the main page formatting!
:-(

i was waiting for ledeen or somebody to pick up on that.

But Ledeen doesnt tell us where it DID come from. Or how he knows it wasnt from the house. Hes basically accusing the Iraqi govt of passing on Iranian propaganda - a pretty serious charge. Id like some back up.

AL,

Excellent analysis and metaphor, with this exception.

Divorced from the spin of the Western media, "they" in this case are hurting infinitely worse than we are.

Their operations are in tatters; ours undergo stress but continue uneffected. Their resources are greatly diminished, ours are increasing. They lose hope, our morale is maintaining high levels.

They have no operational successes to point to, except suicidal missions with no operational gain. We keep up a steady erosion of their forces, capabilities, key terrain, support amongst sympathetic populations.

In fact, the only area "they" have been hurting as much as us (but not worse) is in media portrayals and press reporting.

Which is a point of grand frustration. Western media act as willing outlets for propaganda. Thye get a free pass. Our military must fight for every inch of (positive) message placement, against high skepticism if not outright hostility.

Baghdad Bob could rail about the imminent destruction of Coalition Forces by Iraqi Republican Guards forever.

A distorted and unwarranted media equivalency does not at all mean "they" haven't been severely weakened.

It isn't that "they're hurting too," it's that they're sucking wind throuhg multiple chest wounds, and we have a few scratches.

AL,

Something to keep in mind is Marc Lynch can think whatever he likes, but a week ago an Al-Quida operation to explode a bomb in the US or Europe with false Iranian fingerprints, as described in their plan, might have worked. Today it won't.

Another thing to consider is how much this is an object lession in why you don't want the details of your operations under public scruteny.

I bet Marc's also the kind of guy who can't understand why we can't have a public debate on NSA programs, or the details of our Iraq strategy - Even as he expounds on the need to keep the enemy's battle plans confidential.

the only evidence he presents that this is disinformation is that he wishes it were so.

Err.. No AL. The evidence he presents is that rather than classify the papers and utilize them in the ongoing effort against Al Qaida, they almost immediately released them to the public.

Care to address that point which you somehow missed? It's certainly out of character for DOD and especially for the administration.

Um, Davebo - what's the operational value of the document they disclosed? They weren't handing out documents that said "the RPG's are stored at 444 Burqa Burqa Drive, tell them Mohammed Jihad sent you".

It's not at all unreasonable that you'd sift through the pile of documents (or directories of files) and pass some to the CIA, some to the Marines, and some to the press. In fact, that's far more likely than that you'd capture a bunch of documents, make the claim "we got a bunch of great documents" and then when the press asks for a peek, deny them access.

What do you think Marc would be saying then?

A.L.

When you want to use a doc to paint a picture it is helpful if almost all the points that can be verified are true. And the rest are plausible.

So even if this is a plant, if it is a good one, it will be mostly correct.

Separate questions.

How much of what it says is true?

Was it written as disinformtion, and by who?

Second question first. It isn't plausible to me that it was written as disinformation by the US military. Too much of what it says goes against our doctriones. Michael Ledeen is right that -- in our eyes -- it makes shias and iranians look good. Zarqawi could have said those things intending that we not read them. But we wouldn't have written them for release.

The iraqis released it. Presumably they found it. They could fake it if they wanted to. Or an iranian agent in the iraqi government could. Apparently it came out of a computer. No fingerprints or handwriting etc to work with. the dates etc could be munged. US forces have more important things to do than test whether it's a forgery.

I have to consider it an open question whether it was written by Zarqawi or by some iranian sympathiser. I haven't heard of anything in it that's impossible for Zarqawi to have said. It looks like shia disinformation but that doesn't mean it is. It could go either way.

Now about how true it is. It could be largely true even if it's disinformation. A forger could have slipped his own lies into a real computer document -- that's both easier and more authentic-looking than writing the whole thing from scratch. And just because somebody wants us to believe it doesn't mean it isn't true.

However, Zarqawi and al qaeda in iraq weren't the insurgency. Things could be going bad for them without reflecting on the insurgency.

Al qaeda depends on foreign suicide bombers. Provided they can get those into the country and supply them with suicide bombs, they can continue their operations until they get sick of it. There will be plenty of suicide bombers to use. They're doing it for personal reasons. I'll expand on that.

One of my friends married a girl who had been engaged to somebody else a month before. Her father was a BMW dealer and he threw a wedding for her that surely took several months to plan. Her ex-fiancee came to the wedding and got drunker and drunker. About the time the happy couple drove off he passed out. If at some point somebody had suggested they could help him sneak into eastern europe and blow up a russian checkpoint, he's probably have been all for it. "That'll show her."

In ancient rome the temple of Cybele had a custom -- a young man who wanted to be a priest of Cybele would go to the temple and in front of a cheering crowd he'd cut off his own testicles. He would then grab them and run through the town, and throw them into some girl's house. Her parents were then by tradition required to pay for his vestments. If we'd had a Temple of Cybele in Annapolis what's the chance that ex-fiance would have done it? "That'll show her."

Some guys in that circumstance join the Marines. It isn't a particularly good reason to become a Marine, but if they can make it as Marines they have something better to do than mope about a girl. There are surely worse choices.

Arab cultures aren't the same as ours, but they have analogous situations. The number of people ready to commit suicide fluctuates some but never goes down much. Of course they welcome a chance to not just suicide but do it nobly. Even if it all goes bad, As long as iraq is the place to go for that, they'll be going there. Al qaeda's job is to help them get in and give them bombs. Whether they do anything effective or not.

On the other hand, nobody much likes al qaeda in iraq. People want some security, they want a chance to defend themselves. And all al qaeda can do is attack, they're useless at defense.

I'll skip over the operational details, but it's clear that it makes one simple point: "Everybody is hurting." We certainly are. The Iraqis certainly are. But so are the bad guys.

Al qaeda might dissipate as their nonsuicidal membership gets discouraged at the lack of results for all the death. They can sneak out of iraq and go wherever they want and do whatever they want. But most of the insurgency doesn't have that choice. They have weapons, but they don't have the money to get out of iraq. We can get out of iraq. The poor iraqis don't have that choice. If they're faced with genocide they have no choice but to tough it out and hope they can survive. The jews in europe mostly had no way out, but they couldn't quite believe it could happen to them. So a whole lot of them didn't try to fight. The sunnis in iraq have no such illusion.

If we want iraqi sunnis to surrender we have to give them the faith that they'll actually be treated better if they give up their arms than if they try to defend themselves. It doesn't come natural for them to bet that way.

A.L.:

What I don't understand is this: What's to be gained by observing that the letter released might be disinformation, if you're on the same side as the "disinformationers"? Kudos, or being recognized as a "real clever guy?" What's so clever about potentially undermining your own side's information warfare campaign (assuming, for the moment, that the contention is credible).

Just another reason I no longer consider voting Democrat. It's like having a sign on your back: "I may be dumb as a post, but I'm sure cute."

["Cute" in this case meaning something close to crooked or warped.]

Demosophist, you raise an interesting point.

If people are lying, and you're on their side, shouldn't you help them lie and tryto get everybody to believe them? When people have no moral sense this sort of question is going to come up a lot.

Well, it depends. The lie might get real inconvenient later. That won't be a problem if everybody's ready to do doublethink and switch to the new party line on a moment's notice when the old lie gets inconvenient, but without that control the old lies could really get in the way.

When you get people to believe a lie, they are living in a fantasy world. They might make choices based on the lie, choices that will hurt them. Or even hurt you. Reality is likely to sneak up and bite them on the ass, and probably they still won't understand what happened. So in general, it's better to lie to your enemies and not your friends. If I catch you lying to me, I get the strong impression you don't care about my welfare.

So there's the question who the disinformation is aimed at. If it's aimed at enemies of the USA, I tend to quietly question it -- better to try to avoid blowback, we don't want to believe our own lies. Will the enemy listen to me? I hope not.

But when disinformation is aimed at US voters, that's bad for the USA. The more that US voters live in a fantasy land where they make bad choices, the worse off I am. People who lie to the US public are not my friends. Even if they're lying in ways that are good for me in the short run.

HTH.

That's on reason I keep emphasizing sitzfleisch (an iron butt, or the willingness to just stay in the game) in talking about Iraq.

Modern mass media and communication plays hell with sitzfleisch. It's no wonder that people lose patience with Iraq when they get no break from it. The media (including blogs) can make a three-day event seem like an eternity. Every detail is played out in gruesome slow motion.

Davebo,

"Care to address that point which you somehow missed? It's certainly out of character for DOD and especially for the administration."

This wasn't released by the DoD or the Bush administration. Perhaps that fact was why the point wasn't addressed.

Modern mass media and communication plays hell with sitzfleisch.

More important, we get a choice.

Imagine you find yourself in a contest, say it's a gameshow or something. You sit on a hot stove, and if you do it longer than the other guy you win a prize. Your competitor is a homeless man, and the oprize is his former home. You can quit whenever you want but he's strapped down and can't get off the stove no matter what.

Who's going to win?

I don't see what all the fuss is about. Clearly US intelligence should release whatever information would be beneficially released, restrict what would be best kept secret, and take the opportunity to add to the enemy's confusion and mutual distrust.

I'm inclined to believe that this release was both useful and based on documents recovered in the raid. Having given them so much publicity, it would be foolish to risk trying to pass off a forgery. The disinformation would probably be passed through less public channels. Most likely small variations will be introduced. This would both add credibility and allow the information channels to be traced.

I note that J Thomas' analogy presumes that we are in Iraq to conquer it and dispossess the natives.

What I really wanted to pass along, though was a quote from Lawrence of Arabia, and I found it in a cycling forum, of all places: "Of course it hurts. The trick is not minding that it hurts."

I don't care if the documents are all a big PsyOps ruse. I do care about what will happen to the world if we start minding that conflict, and especially liberation, hurt so much that we just can't bring ourselves to go on.

Jay, don't take the analogy too far.

The point is, when it's a competition to see who can stand the pain the longest, it's extra hard when the other side doesn't have a way to quit. Who's likely to last longest then?

If we give up on iraq, we don't get bases (which we might not anyway) and we don't get control of the oil (which possibly we don't even want) and we don't get a place to attack iran from (which maybe we also have no intention of doing) and we don't get a shining example to use to spread democracy over the whole middle east (which might not have worked regardless) and some of our iraqi friends get caught up in a very bad situation. In the worst case iraq becomes more of a terrorist haven and training ground than it already is. We have that possible pain to balance against the pain of staying.

If the sunnis give up and disarm, their worst case is they get genocided as soon as we leave.

Who has the bigger fears to keep them going despite the pain?

J Thomas:

"If the sunnis give up and disarm, their worst case is they get genocided as soon as we leave.

Who has the bigger fears to keep them going despite the pain?"

If the sunnis don't give up, their worst case is that they get genocided as soon as we leave.

I don't see the difference here.

Sam, you say you don't see the difference.

If you really don't see it, I'm not sure I can explain it to you. But I'll try. If we had surrendered to the USSR and disposed of all our nukes while requiring nothing of them in return, the worst case was they'd nuke us.

When we maintained a nuclear force of our own that made it costly for them to nuke us, still the worst case was that they'd nuke us.

Do you see a difference this time?

Their own situation with the shias probably looks to them much more like ours with the USSR did to us.

When you think somebody wants to genocide you, it's very natural to get weapons and try to get ready to defend yourself. It feels much less natural to give up your weapons and throw yourself entirely on their mercy. I expect that's as true for them as it is for us.

But of course they don't think the same ways we do, so if they do decide to disarm and accept whatever we or the shias choose to give them, I'll be pleasantly surprised.

"Pain is temporary quitting lasts forever"

JT - your argument is based on two fallacies:

1) that this is a widespread Sunni/Sh'ia civil war - it's not, although the leadership elements of one side are Sunni (because, by a happenstance of history they are the ones who were empowered by Saddam);

2) that they have no options other than fight or die. I'll suggest that it's pretty obvious that they do - and further that the 'genocide' option becomes more likely the more they fight as the stronger majority finally tips over to the "**** 'em, let's just kill them all" mode.

yes, it's true that there are a small number of people strapped to the stovetop. For them, the question is death rate v. replenishment rate.

Back to you.

A.L.

AM, I suggest that we don't know how much those things are true.

We have no good estimates of the casualties in what may be the beginning of civil war. If it's around 50 per day, which is about the absolute minimum it could be, that isn't really significant except to get people upset. If it's more like 2000 a day which is around the absolute maximum it could be, that's civil war. As a guess, split the difference? 400 a day? That's getting kind of serious.

It isn't clear that the shias could genocide the sunnis. Areas which are solidly sunni already are likely to stay that way -- without massive airstrikes or massive artillery, it would cost too much to clear them out. They can't be ethnic-cleansed without us doing the heavy lifting. Mixed areas can be ethnic-cleansed, and that's happening now. It isn't clear whether one side is tending to win at that, or whether it's one side winning some places and the other side in other places.

All-sunni areas can't be ethnic-cleansed by guys with automatic weapons and trucks because those areas have strong militias that can put up a good defensive fight, starting with IEDs. The issue at hand isn't for sunnis to find a way to suppress all the insurgents. The issue is for them to disband their militias and turn in the weapons and weapons caches. At that point they can be easily ethnic-cleansed. I don't think they're ready to do that, under the circumstances.

Maybe the shias will accept highly-armed sunni militias that aren't fighting anybody at the moment, and accept them for years or decades. That might allow time to defuse the situation. It isn't absolute dead-certain that there's no peaceful solution. I just haven't seen any signs of that solution yet, except the amnesty offer which, while it's inadequate in itself, might be a first step toward negotiation.

What a pity. The great Iraq Adventure has now just become an exercise in wading deeper into the Big Muddy. All that remains is the hope that the war party can win another American election over the not-war party by painting them as cowards and quitters.

While you were reading this mysterious trove of documents, buried deep in the back pages was this memo. Not only have we accomplished near-zero in terms of Iraqi prosperity, security, and infrastructure, but as people with nothing turn their women into chattel, we have actually worsened the position of women in Iraq. Of course, that would mean nothing in payment for the pro-USA, pro-Israel Iraq we expected, but instead we have our very own angry Lebanon. Don't miss the part of the memo where our ambassador admits the Iraqi nationals employed at the embassy have to hide their place of employment from their own families. Who exactly is going to fill that World's Largest Embassy we are building? I don't think the Heritage Foundation will be sending its interns back.

Will is greatly overstated in these matters. No army raised on this continent had more will than the Army of Northern Virginia, but will is no substitute for goals, strategy, and a means for carrying them out. Our leadership thought the war was over years ago
This blatant sycophancy reached jaw-dropping heights (or depths) around Bush’s Mission Accomplished photo-op. It was a low point for the American press, with journalists like NBC’s Brian Williams saying, “two immutable truths about the president that the Democrats can’t change: He’s a youthful guy. He looked terrific and full of energy in a flight suit. He is a former pilot, so it’s not a foreign art form to him. Not all presidents could have pulled this scene off today."
Having wasted what window of opportunity they had after the fall of Baghdad, Bush and company are now reduced to nothing but taking out their frustration on those Americans whose analysis was vastly more accurate.

Andrew,

Like those American analysts who predicted burning oil wells, tens of thousands of American casualties, Stalingrad redux in Baghdad, hundreds of thousands of refugees, etc?

Whether you agree with Andrew's interpretation (or throw up your hands at continued obsession with the Mission Accomplished triviality in some circles), the question he asks and source he cites deserves attention. If the full attention and might of the United States (we are assured) cant bring electricity and fuel to the heart of the most energy rich region on Earth, someone had better damn well start explaining why.

Well, Mr Buehner, I hope you have led an unSwiftBoatable life, because I think you will find that Defense of America depends on Defense of George W. Bush depends on the cult-like delusion that we are making some sort of "progress" in Iraq. And that those who deny this are ridiculed as cowards and quitters.

Let me ask a broader question. Just what is it that will tell us we have "succeeded", that our will has been sufficient, that we have overcome the doubters and scoffers? It can't be the discovery and disassembly of Saddam's WMD and their fearsome, attack-on-Europe imminent delivery system, as those did not exist. (Has, for example, Charles Krauthammer ever apologized to the people who pointed out that Iraq suffers from Congo Hemmorrhagic Fever and the "weapons" labs working on it were legitimate science?)

Neither, however, is our cue to leave Iraq the establishment of a new Iraqi government, as we appear to have finished the final stage of this process, after various elections, Conventions and Handovers and like photo ops. Remember those purple fingers?

So presumably we are staying in Iraq waiting for something else. It can't be the restoration of Iraqi civil society; we have blundered on that. We are pretty much finished with reconstruction, having accomplished, by our own measurements, a small fraction of the original plans. Iraqis are dying for political reasons at a rate far higher than Saddam's last decade. The middle class is fleeing and those who remain are self-segregating along religious boundaries. Outside the Kurdish region (if there) the battle for Iraqi hearts and minds is lost. I'm sure WoC commenters will ascribe this to the once-ridiculed anti-Bush faction to which I belong. No. Defeat used to be an orphan, but the DNA of this debacle is clear: the Republicans control every branch of government and Bush received every dollar, every soldier, and (save the actions of the Supreme Court) every extraconstitutional power he wanted. And what part of "stay the course" under the doofus navigation of the Bush Administration will result in accomplishments that have heretofore not been attained? We have a defense secretary whose response to setbacks is "Stuff happens." Well, if that's your QA motto, it happens again and again.

It has become de rigeur for Bush's remnant claque to invoke the memory of Neville Chamberlain, to see themselves allied to President Young Churchill in the battle where it is always 1938. I draw a different conclusion. Chamberlain remained PM after the outbreak of the war, all the way through the Fall of Norway and the recognition of the upcoming defeat of France. British sentiment turned against him not because he was a coward but because he could not produce results as a war leader. Why the conservative movement insisted upon following George Santa Anna Bush into the quagmire is a mystery that will occupy generations of future historians.

Andrew, you amaze me sometimes.

Yes, things suck in Iraq right now. yes, they suck a lot more than many people hoped - and some people predicted (not me, I'll add). They don't suck nearly as much as they could; not nearly as much as Lebanon in their civil war or Algeria in either one of theirs.

We're in the middle of a painful process called war. Things are always worse, every day of every war because more people die or are maimed, more is destroyed and things get worse and worse as the complex web we call civilization frays.

Iraq is a key engagement in a conflict with a civilization trying to decide whether to listen to the relatively few voices that have declared war on us or not. That decision isn't made yet, and won't be for years if not decbades.

The conflict had been going on for decades, but we weren't paying attention. Some people are nostalgic for those days, thinking - like the days before you get a diagnosis of cancer - that life is fine and that the biggest problems you face are whether you get the contract or promotion or date with the cute girl. Then the diagnosis comes, and things get dark and serious.

They were, in the factual world, always dark and serious. You just didn't know it.

People - and I think you're one of them - want to go back to the world where we weren't engaged in the struggle. Some say we can do it by withdrawing from Iraq, paying reparations, and abandoning Israel. that may buy us decades of peace.

But the conflict will still be there, we will be - decades later - sitting where we were in 2002.

Has Bush handled the war in ways that make me happy? No. Is the war that I can conduct in my head - the one with more troops from the first day, a plan for publicly dealing with captives, an Arab-literate intelligence corps, a huge commitment to public diplomacy and shaping the media battlespace, a huge commitment to enagaging bipartisan support - by appointing members of both parties to key Cabinet positions, and a bigger commitment to explaining the war and rallying public opinion to engage in the long war every week from 2002 onward - a better war than the one George Bush conducted? I honestly think so.

But George Bush's war is a vastly better one than the one that would have been conducted by Al Gore or by John Kerry, and there really is no arguing that (of course there is; but the arguments will be stale and partisan. I genuinely believe that Bush did a far better job than either of them could have done, but not a better job than some Democrats might have done).

So it's only all about Bush to you.

A.L.

TJ, I was merely commenting on the worst case, since that is what you were commenting on.

With the current state of the Iraqi army, I have no doubt that the Iraqi army could genocide the Sunnis IF THEY WANTED TO. I don't believe (and sincerely hope it is the case) that the Shiites want to kill all the Sunnis.

With the current state of the Iraqi army, I have no doubt that the Iraqi army could genocide the Sunnis IF THEY WANTED TO.

I have considerable doubt about that. To do it militarily, they'd be OK provided they used US planes with US pilots, and US artillery with US gunners, and US tanks with US tankers, supported by US logistics. Otherwise the issue is in considerable doubt. After we see how it goes, it will look like it was inevitable but it depends on things we don't now know.

Shias might be able to cut off food to majority-sunni areas. If they'd done that 2 years ago it would have been a catastrophe. I don't know whether or how sunnis have adapted to make that less of a trump.

Then there's the issue of gasoline. If shias can cut off supply to sunni areas then sunni vehicles won't run and shias will have all the mobility. They can slaughter sunni villages one at a time, bringing in overwhelming force despite their limited logistics.

We'll have to wait and see how the ethnic cleansing actually goes. When libya invaded chad no one particularly expected the chad technicals to be so devastating. But iraqi technicals were worthless against us during our invasion of iraq, except against unprotected supply lines. When we're gone they'll come out again, presumably on both sides. Things like gasoline supplies might make all the difference. This is a war that depends heavily on things we don't know yet.

But if the US military provides enough support to shias genociding sunnis, in that case the issue isn't in much doubt, I think.

Iraq is a key engagement in a conflict with a civilization trying to decide whether to listen to the relatively few voices that have declared war on us or not. That decision isn't made yet, and won't be for years if not decbades.

I don't think iraq is a key engagement in that, unless it's a self-imposed defeat. Saddam was quite successfully holding that sort of thing down, and now he isn't.

But look at the bigger picture. All over south america there are a few voices that have declared war on us and are trying to get the rest to agree. And our response is, basicly, so what. We aren't afraid of south america, and besides most of the people haven't decided to go along with them. It helps that we haven't done anything to, say, brazil.

There are a few voices trying to get india to fight us. They aren't making much headway, partly because we haven't done much of anything to india.

Similarly with china. I don't know whether china is doing economic warfare against us -- what they're doing can be interpreted either way -- but they haven't done anything overt except make a big increase in military spending after we threatened them. Thirty years ago they were chanting "Death To America" (which they haven't done since 1999) and they took the british embassy hostage (we didn't have an embassy there) and so on. Now they're calmly doing whatever they're doing.

Why do we take a tiny minority of arabs seriously when we ignore the tiny minorities of south americans, indians, indonesians, chinese, africans, russians and europeans? The central answer is 9/11. A lot of americans are still driven insane by 9/11, they haven't recovered their balance.

What can we do to persuade the vast majority of arabs not to declare war on america? Judging by everywhere else, I'd say the first step is to take great care not to look like we're attacking them. And for that effort iraq is a great big self-inflicted wound.

People - and I think you're one of them - want to go back to the world where we weren't engaged in the struggle. Some say we can do it by withdrawing from Iraq, paying reparations, and abandoning Israel. that may buy us decades of peace.

I dunno. If somebody's made a mess of cooking an omelette, it isn't very easy to unbreak the eggs. If we look like we've suffered a major defeat and we've gone home to lick our wounds, probably most of our enemies will concentrate on the new biggest threat. But that isn't exactly peace. I think our best chance for a long temporary peace comes if we can develop cheap alternative energy. Then we aren't so dependent on oil, and neither is anybody else. The middle east still has a profitable petrochemical business that can bring in decent revenue for generations, but with cheap alternate energy they can look at developing other parts of their economies. Everybody wins more by doing that than by fighting, it's stupid to get into arms races when there are better things to do. Maybe we'd have a degree of peace until the new econnomies stabilised.

Just admitting that we aren't a superpower and withdrawing from the current hype-war wouldn't be enough. If we look weak then there might be somebody who thinks they can get good PR by kicking us. That's been true for various other ex-superpowers, notably spain.

Has Bush handled the war in ways that make me happy? No.

We're agreed on that much. But how much of it is Bush, really? There was the decision to invade iraq in the first place. That was Bush. There was the decision to occupy iraq instead of pulling out. That was Bush. There was the decision to put Bremer in. That was Bush. There wss the decision to put off the destruction of Fallujah until after the November elections. That was arguably Bush.

There was the decision to run the war on the cheap and not ask for any sacrifice from the public. That was Bush.

But beyond those, I don't see that Bush actually had much to do with it. The US military has not developed counterinsurgency all that well. We haven't developed the civilian counterparts for military counterinsurgency. Neither of those are Bush's responsibility, and if he'd noticed the problem and tried to fix it, it would have taken years -- not in time for this war. Bush got us into it when we weren't ready, but he couldn't have gotten us ready.

But George Bush's war is a vastly better one than the one that would have been conducted by Al Gore or by John Kerry, and there really is no arguing that

There is, but let's don't do it and pretend we did. The data isn't there. If there was some way to use a time machine and go back and try it out the other ways, it would still take 10+ years to be sure whether their results were actually better than the current swamp. And there's no way to do the experiment.

So it's only all about Bush to you.

It appears to be all about Bush to Bush. It appears to be all about Bush to a lot of Republicans. Whyever wouldn't it be all about Bush to Democrats too? When the war was popular Bush tried to get as much political credit for it as he could. Now that it's unpopular of course Republicans want it to stop being a political issue. There's very reason for Democrats to do their best to chain it around the necks of prominent GOP war-supporters, like a big old dead albatross. They got every single thing they wanted and this is the result. Of course anybody who's anti-Bush to begin with is going to do their best to tell undecided voters, "This is what you get when you vote Republican.". Because this is what they got when they voted Republican.

This is the way American politics is supposed to work. If this same exact war had happened when Democrats owned the administration and the legislature, do you think the GOP would be nearly as restrained as the Democratic Party has been?

For myself, it's all about the failing war. If we're still bogged down there in 2009 I'm not sure a democrat will know how to get us out. Look at Nixon who campaigned twice to get us out of vietnam "with honor". A Democrat got us in there, but Nixon didn't do a good job getting us out.

Four years from now we might have a Democrat president and a Democrat legislature and the GOP will be going after them hard about the war disaster. "We were winningi but it was a long commitment. You messed it up and now you refuse to pull out. It's all your fault."

It isn't all about Bush any more than vietnam was all about Johnson.

"Why do we take a tiny minority of arabs seriously when we ignore the tiny minorities of south americans, indians, indonesians, chinese, africans, russians and europeans? The central answer is 9/11. A lot of americans are still driven insane by 9/11, they haven't recovered their balance."

Well at least we've gotten to the root of the disagreement, because you see for many of us 9/11 was indeed a paradigm shaking event. Balance has nothing to do with it, 90% of the country drew perspective and 10% buried their heads in the sand. It wasnt Indians or Columbians or Chinese that murdered 3000 Americans in Manhattan and took a sledgehammer to our economy one afternoon. It wasnt any of these guys that blew up our embassys or poked holes in our warships or chased our troops through the streets of Mogadishu or murdered our marines in Beirut. The fact that you dont recognize that pattern is just amazing. To call those who do unbalanced or crazy is disturbing.

You dismiss Arabs as inconsequential. Well Arabs alone perhaps are (despite sitting on a critical strategic region posessing vast wealth), but what about the rest of the 1 billion Muslims in the world? Look, obviously you want to go back to 9/10 and skip along as though this is a fight we could avoid. What you arent registering is that 9/11 if nothing else proved this is a fight we cant avoid. Perhaps we can surrender. The fight is being brought to us, either we hide under the sheets until the night falls, or we try to build our sand castle around Fortress America with the tide running, or we figure out some way to proactively go out and win. We've done the latter and though we havent always done it flawlessly or even effectively, you will never here me condemning the choice.

Al Gore would have run a different War on Terror, and I suppose to those who still see the invasion of a random third country not run by the Taliban as a masterstroke, it would have been a lot worse. You have to understand, the damage to America's superpower image has already been done. The insurgents have tied us up for three years already—do you think this lesson is lost on the Iranian mullahs? The image of the US as capable at counterinsurgency is broken, all the more so that there is no sign of any change in plan. After all, "Stay the mislaid course" has become an objective, a test of will and strength, all by itself.

But I also wonder what it is about the Bush Administration that persuades you they do a better job than everyone else. Is it the budget deficit that Bush campaigned wouldn't happen? Is it the excellent design of Medicare Plan D? Perhaps it's the performance of FEMA in New Orleans. The Clinton Administration staffed FEMA with professionals and the MSM's narrative was about Gore in debate making an utterly trivial error about where he had met the FEMA director. Bush staffed FEMA with Republicans who had no training or qualifications. And we know how that went.

Some of the disastrous decisions of the Iraq War have Bush's (or Cheney's) fingerprints all over them. Would President Gore have vetted the doctors we sent over right after the invasion to toss out those who were pro-abortion? Would President Gore have blackballed reconstruction help from European countries that didn't participate in Operation He-Tried-to-Kill-My-Daddy? These instances of right-wing pandering and vindictiveness look a lot like Bush's handiwork to me.

Who exactly do you think should be held accountable for the vast shortfall in security, infrastructure repair, and even Iraqi attitude towards the United States if not C-in-C George Bush? Rumsfeld? Zarqawi/ GI Joe?

Mark, you are reacting precisely as Bin Ladin wanted you to. This is a strategic mistake, although it's an understandable mistake. I can't blame you for being driven insane by 9/11, but I hope you'll recover soon.

Look, when we heard about Jim Jones, and the Branch Davidians, and the abortion clinic murders, we didn't start worrying about how many christians there are in the world. We knew that it was tiny splinter groups that don't at all represent the rest of us. That's true for al qaeda too -- less so as we get documented making more attacks against muslims.

It took al qaeda lots of years and money to plan that stunt. They appear to have mostly shot their wad, more recent stunts have been even more low-tech, done by local amateurs who use the al qaeda name.

There's simply nothing all that special about them, except 9/11. Sure there are a bunch of guys who collect everything they can find to make al qaeda look special, and blow it up and do groupthink about it to reinforce their particular sort of craziness. But they're just part of the problem. Once we get an actual credible enemy -- like china -- we'll drop the muslim threat like a dead mouse we just happened to be carrying to the trash can. They are potentially a major nuisance, but not worth nearly the attention we pay them. We do it because we're bored, because we don't actually have a credible enemy so we have to create an incredible one.

Why do we take a tiny minority of arabs seriously when we ignore the tiny minorities of south americans, indians, indonesians, chinese, africans, russians and europeans?

Because, other than a few homegrown nutcases (i.e. the Oklahoma federal building bombing), the major attacks on Americans and American soil have been executed by that tiny minority of Arabs, who coincidentally adhere to a fanatic ideology that is markedly missing in, say, Hugo Chavez's ravings. When 19 Venezuelans dive bomb a plane into an office building, you can bet your last dollar that the US will go on a new campaign against "radical socialism" as well.

The central answer is 9/11...

QED, no?

...A lot of americans are still driven insane by 9/11, they haven't recovered their balance.

Considering the pre-9/11 "balance" consisted of ignoring or excusing attacks on Americans because the body count wasn't high enough to be interesting, I'd say that "unbalancing" looks an awful lot like "clear-eyed sanity". Remember that 9/11 was the second attack on the WTC in 10 years' time... perhaps a certain set of Americans decided that apathy was a poor response to repeated aggression. And rather than wait for the next attack wherein they might be killed, maybe we should try something stronger than Ward Churchill-esque handwaving.

Speaking of which: if we had some hawks who, after the 1993 WTC bombing, started a campaign to aggressively pursue Islamic radicalism, to stamp out state-funded terrorism, to start a new Homeland Security agency, etc... would you have called him "unbalanced" for the next 8.5 years? Would you still think he was "unbalanced" on September 12, 2001?

If Gore was President, the U.S. would have committed to an extensive military campaign in 1998 over the opposition of the Security Council. He was largely responsible for getting Democratic support for Iraqi regime change through Congress. Circumstances (Kosovo, Embassy Bombings, Lewinsky) and Clinton's primary interest in the Israeli peace process stayed the hand.

I think the evidence is pretty good that in the 2000 elections, Gore was more hawkish on Iraq than Bush. Circumstances change.

The unfinished Presidency of JFK, the non-Presidency of Al Gore; stuff dreams are made of.

"Al Gore would have run a different War on Terror, and I suppose to those who still see the invasion of a random third country not run by the Taliban as a masterstroke, it would have been a lot worse."

We have little idea what he would have done. If general democratic rhetoric is anything we should take seriously (questionable) he may well have dropped hundreds of thousands of troops into Afghanistan to scour the Earth for OBL. History suggests this would have made Iraq look like a teaparty.

"You have to understand, the damage to America's superpower image has already been done. The insurgents have tied us up for three years already—do you think this lesson is lost on the Iranian mullahs?"

I think the lesson that the US using a fraction of its true resources can put a world leader in chains and basically run the country as it sees fit has sunk in. It certainly sunk in on Gahdafi. That there is a price to that is obvious. Militarilly we are in a tenable position (not to mention our military is a fraction of what true mobilization would attain), it is politically that we are wilting. Agreed that the reason we are wilting is largely because of ineptitude on the ground, but that doesnt change the point. I doubt the Mullahs assume we are militarilly beaten, and if they do they are making a terrible mistake.

"The image of the US as capable at counterinsurgency is broken, all the more so that there is no sign of any change in plan. After all, "Stay the mislaid course" has become an objective, a test of will and strength, all by itself."

Is there any reasonable argument that an insurgency can be broken in 3 years? Historically the median seems to be about a decade. How cutting and running enhances our image is lost on me entirely. Look at it this way- we bail out that is 100% chance of us looking like defeated chumps. We stay in Iraq and weather the storm, whatever comes out afterward must certainly look better than that. So why intentionally incur the worst case scenario from a purely pragmatic POV (obviously saving soldiers lives speaks in a moral voice, but im talking geopolitics here which suggests if 2500 US soldiers over 3 years is too much for US vital interest to bear, you are correct, we are a lost cause. Of course all not going into Iraq would have done is obscure that fact- not materially change it)? Therein lies the problem I have with the left right now- they want to intentionally bring the worst case scenario down on our heads, one can only assume so they can blast Bush for it. That is irresponsible beyond words and Kerry, Kennedy, Boxer, Fiendgold et al should be ashamed to suggest it.

"Would President Gore have blackballed reconstruction help from European countries that didn't participate in Operation He-Tried-to-Kill-My-Daddy"

This is the kind of stupid head in the sand bull-s&^t that your side simply cant resist engageing in. Do you have any idea how much it hurts your credibility with the vast majority of the nation? Its that kind of raw emotiotionalism and hatred that prevents a serious discussion and more importantly makes the American people tune you out- forget giving you power, they arent even listening when they hear this kind of stupidity!

Note- you cant frame yourself as a realist with solid ideas worth considering when you are frothing at the mouth. You put out the image of a nonserious flack who's first priority is to see Bush suffer, US interests be damned. Im not saying you feel that way, im saying thats how you are perceived.

"Mark, you are reacting precisely as Bin Ladin wanted you to. This is a strategic mistake, although it's an understandable mistake. I can't blame you for being driven insane by 9/11, but I hope you'll recover soon."

Everything we know about Bin Laden from his own mouth, suggests the opposite. It was our reaction to the embassy bombings, the Cole, and Somalia that spurred his strategy for 911. By his own words, he expecting the United States to pack up its bags and vacate the Middle East. He took up residence in Afghanistan because of all places he felt the US would never come after him there and risk a Russian scenario- and if we foolishly did we would blunder into a disaster. Please somehow show me how ignoring OBL and AQ would make them go away? Oh, and when exactly was the last attack on US soil?

"It took al qaeda lots of years and money to plan that stunt. They appear to have mostly shot their wad, more recent stunts have been even more low-tech, done by local amateurs who use the al qaeda name."

That stunt had far more serious repurcussions than you are willing to acknowledge. It seems far more likely to me that our actions since is what has prevented a replay- not raw luck as you would have it.

"There's simply nothing all that special about them, except 9/11."

Yeh. There was nothing special about the Serbian's except their assassination of Archduke Ferdinand either.

Your insensitivity to the victims of 911, Madrid, and London (not to mention Iraq) is staggering. Ask some of those folks how inconsequential AQ is. Or better yet, just run on your retarded platform: "Hey America, 911 wasnt that bad- deal with it". Almost fits on a bumper sticker, run with it.

Speaking of which: if we had some hawks who, after the 1993 WTC bombing, started a campaign to aggressively pursue Islamic radicalism, to stamp out state-funded terrorism, to start a new Homeland Security agency, etc... would you have called him "unbalanced" for the next 8.5 years? Would you still think he was "unbalanced" on September 12, 2001?

Yes, of course. We can't very well stamp out state-funded terrorism when we do it ourselves. We want our enemies to quit while we keep doing it. That will happen when our state enemies are all defeated.

Islamic radicalism thrives on persecution. We'd do better against them by ignoring them directly (apart from criminal prsecution for their crimes) but getting a dialogue going with islamic nonradicals. Something better than we've managed with christian anti-abortionists, who tend to say "Yes, people who murder abortionists are wrong, but surely you can understand how they feel and why they'd do it even though it's wrong. Surely you can sympathise with them.".

I think it would have been a good idea to start something vaguely like DHS in 1993 or even earlier. Build it slowly and get its duties clear. Trying to build giant government agencies quickly usually has bad results. Probably better to start with FEMA and add duties and personnel slowly. Terrorism is only one of the problems we need to prepare for, after all.

Interesting. If you say "yes, of course"--that you would've called those hawks unbalanced--you would have been proven utterly wrong on Sept 12; the hawks would have had the correct POV for 8.5 years while you derided their mental state. So what makes you think the "insane" and "unbalanced" charge makes more sense after 9/11?

Islamic radicalism thrives on persecution...

While that's partially true, you're leaving out vital parts of the narrative. But let's assume that persecution is the sole impetus for attacks; now if only someone would come along with a plan for providing the Islamic world with self-determination, freedom, and (dare we suggest it) democracy...

We'd do better against them by ignoring them directly (apart from criminal prsecution for their crimes) but getting a dialogue going with islamic nonradicals.

It's a little late for us to prosecute the 19 guys whose crimes drew intense focus to the WoT. It's also a bit late for us to save the thousands who died as a result of that crime. There's a time and a place for post-crime justice to be meted out, but it hardly rules out trying to prevent those crimes in the first place via pre-emptive action.

To stretch the metaphor a bit, you're basically saying that because we have a court system, we don't need burglar alarm systems or guns in our own houses. We can just prosecute the criminals after the fact. Well, Americans have a historical aversion to just letting criminals walk all over them, with or without post-crime justice systems; and on Sept 12, America woke up and decided we didn't want to accept the price of letting terrorists walk all over us, even if we did convict 1 out of 20 of them 5 years after their attacks.

Yes, an important consideration is the inter-Islam war between the moderates and the radicals. But this war, in one variation or another, has been going on for over a thousand years while the West largely ignored it; now it's spilled out of the Middle East and spilled American blood. And the West is noticing the nominal good guys, i.e. moderate Islam as represented even in "civilized" Europe, are not actively fighting to resolve that conflict. I'd say it is rather presumptuous to think the Americans can sail into a millenia-old conflict armed with words and and liberalism and a value system not shared by the combatants, maybe sprinkle a little multiculturalism here and there, and solve it. Quite frankly, we've seen no evidence that such a disengage-and-talk-religion strategy would work better than the Bush Doctrine; I'd be interested to see any sources you have that indicate it's a better option.

Unbeliever, you have bought into the belief system.

You say that if some unbalanced hawks had been paranoid about arabs for 8.5 (or 12.5 or 20.5) years before 9/11 then 9/11 would have proven that they were right. But it wouldn't prove that. Then you say that if they were right on 9/10 why does that make the people unbalanced by 9/11 wrong. Your question makes no sense. You are making assumptions that don't work.

You ask for a way to bring freedom (and democracy) to arab nations. I dunno. "No slave was ever freed, unless he free himself." Wherever people are ready to give up their freedom, someone will show up to collect it. That gets demonstrated here in the USA. People get so scared, so afraid that they might die, that they give up their freedoms to a government that gives every indication it's incompetent to protect them. The worst of both worlds. Wherever people are unwilling to fight for their rights, those rights become privileges that someone may or may not choose to allow them. Don't we see that here too? People are willing even to have auditless voting -- the moral equivalent of no voting -- and they do very little to correct it. Why would we think we could bring democracy to others when we won't even maintain it at home?

I dunno. Maybe look for islamic scholars who argue that democracy isn't incompatible with islam. Then see what kind of democratic structures they build that reflect their own cultures.

It's a little late for us to prosecute the 19 guys whose crimes drew intense focus to the WoT. It's also a bit late for us to save the thousands who died as a result of that crime. There's a time and a place for post-crime justice to be meted out, but it hardly rules out trying to prevent those crimes in the first place via pre-emptive action.

Sure. In general we want to stop criminals before they act, and especially so when they might commit multiple murders.

America woke up and decided we didn't want to accept the price of letting terrorists walk all over us, even if we did convict 1 out of 20 of them 5 years after their attacks.

Let's review the bidding. 9/11 showed the whole world that we were vulnerable to unconventional attack. So it makes sense that anybody who wants to attack us to weaken us, might as well use these techniques because they work. They don't work as threats -- threaten us with a worse 9/11 and we'll get mad and maybe launch a devastating conventional attack. But if somebody -- anybody -- wants to just weaken us by, say, damaging a few of our nuclear power plants to give us a few Chernobyls, they can probably do it. And they can try to make it look like it was al qaeda doing it so we'll froth at the mouth at arabs instead of our real enemy. And since 9/11 nobody in the world has done that to us.

Think about that. Sure, it's worth something to work at stopping al qaeda from launching another attack. After all if they do launch another serious attack next time it might be a whole lot worse. It might actually be a significant attack. Something that makes 9/11 look like the minor thing it was. But it isn't enough to stop al qaeda. We have to be ready to stop every enemy who might choose to do an al qaeda-style attack. Al qaeda has probably mostly shot their wad. We probably have blocked their bank accounts. We probably have mostly disrupted their communication. We probably have found all their cells in the USA. But everybody in the world saw they caught us with our pants down. And now -- before anybody in the world decides they want to attack us -- we need to pull up our pants.

People talk like it's infeasible to develop defenses. So we have to destroy arab radicalism in the rest of the world before they attack us here again. This is fine if what you're interested in is revenge, but I hope you see why it doesn't work beyond that. It isn't enough to go after radical islam. You have to go after every secret terrorist group and every government that might perform or sponsor state terrorist incidents against the USA. Ideally we need to attack all of those before they hurt us. This is even less practical than setting up defenses.

Quite frankly, we've seen no evidence that such a disengage-and-talk-religion strategy would work better than the Bush Doctrine

We wouldn't know how well it could work until we tried it. There's the question what it means for it to "work". Try this: Right now, al qaeda has a membership of well under 0.001% of muslims. But some places their popularity approaches 50%. A lot of people kind of approve of them who aren't willing to help them. I consider it winning if al qaeda membership stays under 0.001% of the population, and if their popularity drops under 25% or preferably lower. Winning involves persuading most muslims that it's wrong to attack innocent civilians. But for us to benefit from that, we have to avoid being seen attacking innocent civilians. They get a lot more sympathy killing our innocent civilians when they see us killing their innocent civilians. And for that to work, we do a lot better not to attack muslim nations.

Say we had argued our case with the Taliban. We tell them why we think bin Ladin had done crimes that justified giving him to us even though he was their guest. Chances are they would have sneaked him out of the country and then told us he was no longer there, and we'd have had the chance to catch him elsewhere. Taliban agreeing that bin Ladin was a criminal would have been far more a victory in WOT than defeating Taliban. As it is, after 4 years in afghanistan we're doing airstrikes today. And to muslims, our airstrikes look like we're killing innocent civilians. But we couldn't have done done the rational argument thing at that time. We had been driven crazy and we wanted a war.

If we sufficiently pretend that muslim governments are attempting to do the right thing, to some extent it will become true and to some extent they'll lose the respect of their people for not making it true. But we need to do the right thing ourselves.

Be just a little more patient than anyone should expect, and then attack with a precise goal. Accomplish that goal and quit for awhile. Arrange for our fights to be mild, decisive, and quick.

I don't know whether our UN commitments would get in the way, but if we reach the point that some particular muslim government doesn't allow coexistence, I like the idea of declaring the conquered nation a US territory. Proclaim that we intend to establish order and then quickly set up elections for local government followed by regional government followed by national government. That as soon as a government is in place they will have a plebiscite whether to become independent, ask for statehood, or keep the status quo. There's a lot less incentive for insurgency when they can get us out just by voting to. The puerto rico insurgency has never completely died down but they don't do much violence any more -- they keep losing the vote.

But there's no point discussing what sort of strategy might work. Because the first thing a US strategy has to do, is to appeal to people who were driven crazy by 9/11. If it doesn't extract enough retribution they won't accept it. No point looking at how to get cooperation when the goal is to get enough noncooperation to justify airstrikes.

You say that if some unbalanced hawks had been paranoid about arabs for 8.5 (or 12.5 or 20.5) years before 9/11 then 9/11 would have proven that they were right.

You're misreading. I'm saying that if the hawks had been warning about an attack and advocating action back in 1993--a very specific choice of year, btw, since it was the year the WTC got bombed the first time--you would have called them unbalanced. And come 9/12/2001, they would be right and you would be wrong.

Incidentally, "paranoid" is another of your own assumptions, not mine. And a rather strange one, given that the "paranoia" turned out to be rather accurate come 9/11. (As the saying goes, it ain't paranoia if they really are out to get you.) At what point does "paranoia" become "justified suspicion"? At what point will you stop labelling your opponents as "insane" and admit their worldview got the big picture right?

But it wouldn't prove that.

Funny, I would've thought that sounding alarm bells about Islamic radicalism would be rather justified in the face of 3000+ dead. What exactly would it take for the hawks to be right?

Then you say that if they were right on 9/10 why does that make the people unbalanced by 9/11 wrong. Your question makes no sense.

Uh, no, you were the one who said 9/11 made some people insane or unbalanced. My position is that they were correct back in 1993, they were correct on 9/10, and they were both correct and proven correct on 9/12. Re-read your comment in #31: "The central answer is 9/11. A lot of americans are still driven insane by 9/11, they haven't recovered their balance." You are the one who said the post-9/11 hawks are unbalanced and/or wrong, your assumption (apparently) being that the hawk position is that of the insane.

And my question to you is this: how can you believe that, given that the hawks' position was vindicated in a horrific manner on 9/11?

You are making assumptions that don't work.

The assumptions are yours, I'm just mocking them. Note how I put the scare quotes around "unbalanced" in my reply. And yes, your assumptions don't work: post-9/11 hawks are not irrational or unbalanced because, as much as you may want to write it off, 9/11 did happen, and it is plenty justification for the hawks, for the same reason that the 1993 bombing provided justification for such policies. And if you continue to dismiss the hawks as "insane" or "unbalanced", you risk finding out they were correct, once again, a decade down the road.

You're basically trying to set up a narrative where a group of people act irrationally based on a one-time event. Such a narrative may have made sense between 1993 and 2001, but it does not make sense any more because the 1993 bombing was demonstrably not a fluke; it was not a one time, non-repeatable event. You cannot dismiss 9/11 as an irrelevant outlier data point--history did not start on 9/10, and the hawks you claim are "unbalanced" realize this. You've structured your own assumptions in such a way that it brooks no dissent from your pre-determined worldview, apparently unchanged by 9/11 or any of the previous attacks by Islamic terrorists.

The dogmatic belief system is yours, my friend, and it's as fundamentally untenable as it appears to be.

I dunno. Maybe look for islamic scholars who argue that democracy isn't incompatible with islam. Then see what kind of democratic structures they build that reflect their own cultures.

You miss the point. These theoretical scholars were not in charge of Afghanistan in 2001, nor of Iraq in 2003, nor in Iran, nor Syria, etc. And these countries showed no sign of moving towards such an idyllic Islamic democratic state on their own. It does precious little good to conduct some sort of global committee on "how to introduce democracy to Islam" (and wouldn't CAIR love to release a press statement on THAT title!), when the reins of power are not held by the reformers.

Ah, you say, but the point is to discover how to introduce democracy without needless invasions; democracy from the ground up, revolution, power to the people! To which I'd reply: Iraq, 1991. Our credibility on the "foment revolution" front was irrevocably shot. When you get right down to the gritty details, invading Iraq was a dirt cheap way to clear the strongman out of power and setup a democracy, as opposed to a 5, 10, 20, or 50 year struggle by the native population against a foe with a history of violent supression and genocide.

And you know, I can't help but think it is remarkable that you're hoping for some uniquely Islamic structure for democracy, with the implied assumption that Islamic culture would need a special "brand" of democracy to be successful; yet you seem to reject the possibility that the same Islamic culture requires a different manner of providing that democracy. This will be a wildly controversial statement, but I'll suggest it anyways: isn't it possible that a top-down imposition of democracy (possibly following an invasion and deposition of the local strongman) is the best way to achieve democracy within Islamic cultures, rather than the bottom-up revolution model that is "traditional" in Western cultures?

I'd say it's too early too tell, given that the Afghani and Iraqi governments are still in their infancy. You seem to push the disengange-and-talk-religion angle, with no more justification than "we wouldn't know how well it could work until we tried it". But once again, you're ignoring history--we tried the disengagement and talks option for decades, most famously with Bill Clinton hugging Yassir Arafat for eight years. And it got us 9/11.

It's particularly ironic that you say the hawks are crazy or insane. The tongue-in-cheek definition of insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, and expecting a different result. For years we tried talks, understanding root causes, and negotiations with morally bankrupt governments (Taliban) or strongment (Arafat); we got a series of attacks for our troubles. Now you're saying we should try more of the same, and hope to reduce anti-Americanism; that looks like insanity to me. The hawks are the ones trying to break the cycle, and as I said back in #35, that's the first glimmer of clear-eyed sanity we've had in our foreign policy in a long time.

Speaking of which, this is just plain risible:

Say we had argued our case with the Taliban. We tell them why we think bin Ladin had done crimes that justified giving him to us even though he was their guest. Chances are they would have sneaked him out of the country and then told us he was no longer there, and we'd have had the chance to catch him elsewhere. Taliban agreeing that bin Ladin was a criminal would have been far more a victory in WOT than defeating Taliban.

Ye gods, NO. This kind of weak response is exactly what emboldened bin Laden to declare for years that America is weak, a paper tiger, who would not dare to fight back. Knowingly letting the Taliban off the hook for harboring him would have emboldened every single anti-American state out there, secure in the knowledge that America would turn a blind eye to their wink-and-nod dealings, that a mere diplomatic statement full of prevarications could forestall the might of the American military.

Such an action would not be a victory in the WoT, it would be a resounding defeat--and if that had been our primary response to 9/11, there would not even be a War on Terror; that action would have been an unequivocal surrender, until the next attack.

Which ties back into your previous paragraphs, similarly ignoring recent history:

9/11 showed the whole world that we were vulnerable to unconventional attack. So it makes sense that anybody who wants to attack us to weaken us, might as well use these techniques because they work.

No, the 1993 bombing showed the world we were vulnerable. As did the attack on the USS Cole. And our responses to those bombings showed the world that we were weak and unwilling to fight back, i.e. that you could hit the US without fear of serious reprisal. Following your suggestion to imitate the responses to those previous attacks would only serve to reinforce those perceptions.

This is fine if what you're interested in is revenge, but I hope you see why it doesn't work beyond that.

Revenge is carpet bombing Afghanistan without ever setting a boot on the ground. Long-term strategery, on the other hand, is invading with the explicit goal of minimizing civilian casualties and giving the country back to the people. Quite frankly revenge is the easy path to choose, and the Bush Doctrine is nowhere near that level. Your repeated characterization of hawks as "crazy" or bloodthirsty is, shall we say, "inconvenienced" by the facts on the ground.

Surely you can see why diplomacy is not a weapon al Qaeda fears--and if you can't see why, trek to New York for a reminder of what happens when you let your enemies think you're too cowardly to chase them.

I'm saying that if the hawks had been warning about an attack and advocating action back in 1993--a very specific choice of year, btw, since it was the year the WTC got bombed the first time--you would have called them unbalanced.

Ah! OK, I didn't see what you were getting at. Yes, it makes sense we should have prepared for more attacks, and mostly we didn't. We under-reacted.

As the saying goes, it ain't paranoia if they really are out to get you.

Well, it depends. If you get all bent out of shape then what good does it do you? Paranoia is a state of mind.

At what point will you stop labelling your opponents as "insane" and admit their worldview got the big picture right?

When we establish that America can't survive being America, and we have to turn into something unamerican or be destroyed. A lot of people seem to believe that 9/11 proved that. They accept defeat from one attack on two buildings. They're ready to give up being americans because of 3000 casualties. I disagree with that approach.

What exactly would it take for the hawks to be right?

If we see that we can't survive without technology that lets a few terrorists kill us. Then we have no choice but to die, or to kill all potential terrorists everywhere in the world. Or surrender to all potential terrorists everywhere in the world, which is, ah, difficult. But killing all the potential terrorists is pretty difficult too.

You are the one who said the post-9/11 hawks are unbalanced and/or wrong, your assumption (apparently) being that the hawk position is that of the insane.

And my question to you is this: how can you believe that, given that the hawks' position was vindicated in a horrific manner on 9/11?

Well first of all, 9/11 just wasn't that bad. And it appears al qaeda wasn't trying to make it as bad as it was. There's a bin ladin interview where he says they didn't expect it to acually knock down the towers --they believed the same engineering reports we did, that thought the fireproofing would work adequately. They were trying for a publicity stunt that might have killed, say, 10,000 people maximum. (That is, the people above the crash sites. Not everybody in the building.) If they had been really trying to hurt us they could have aimed at one or more nuclear power plants. Not with airliners -- the power plants are designed to withstand an airliner strike, just like the WTC was. But if they could have given us 4 to 20 Chernobyls near US cities, that would have been bad. And they didn't even try. As it turned out, we lost fewer people 9/11 than we do to traffic accidents in a month. And it was idiotic of us to arrange our economy so we'd be badly damaged by losing one office building in NYC. What could they have been thinking! That stuff should have been decentralised.

The media vastly overdramatised 9/11, and you're still overdramatising it. Al qaeda wasn't trying to hurt us very bad, they hurt us worse than they intended and it still wasn't bad. Pick up your socks and get over it. Learn from it before somebody -- anybody who wants to hurt us -- hits us a lot worse.

Ah, you say, but the point is to discover how to introduce democracy without needless invasions; democracy from the ground up, revolution, power to the people!

Well, no. I'm saying that democracy is not the ground state. How many nations have maintained a democracy as long as we have? Iceland, switzerland, maybe england? What's the half-life of democracies, I haven't tested it but could it be over 40 years? Look how many democracies fall to coups. Sure, you can say that's largely the CIA organising coups, but they have to be vulnerable or the CIA etc couldn't do much. Democracies are fragile things, they depend on citizens to maintain them.

You can't give people democracy. You can't bribe them to it, and you can't threaten them into it. What you might do is spread the idea and see where it takes root. Now, if we need to make other people democratic so we can have security, then we're screwed. It doesn't work that way.

Sure, we can conquer other countries and get rid of their governments, and if their people happen to be ready to set up a democracy then that might give them a head start. But it's hard to guess about that ahead of time. So for example, before he took over cuba, Castro claimed he was working for democracy. He published plans for elections, they were going to ask Rotary and maybe Lions Club supervise the first elections since those were regarded as apolitical organisations that were widely trusted. There are people who argue that Castro was telling the truth and we drove him to accept russian aid and a stalinist government. Others claim he was a stalinist from the start. Either way, if we had helped him is there any particular reason to think cuba would have had 20 years of democracy? 10? Cubans were unable or unwilling to require free elections that Castro might lose.

When you get right down to the gritty details, invading Iraq was a dirt cheap way to clear the strongman out of power and setup a democracy, as opposed to a 5, 10, 20, or 50 year struggle by the native population against a foe with a history of violent supression and genocide.

Let's talk about whether it's dirt cheap after we find out how much it costs. At present it's somewhere in the $1-2 trillion range and counting, and 20,000 casualties and counting -- supposing the casualty lists are correct.

Let's talk about whether it's a way to clear the strongman out of power and set up democracy after we find out whether they wind up with a strongman or a democracy or something else.

isn't it possible that a top-down imposition of democracy (possibly following an invasion and deposition of the local strongman) is the best way to achieve democracy within Islamic cultures, rather than the bottom-up revolution model that is "traditional" in Western cultures?

I can't say it's impossible. Ideally to test it we should try out invasion on 30 islamic nations and leave another 30 alone and see which are more democratic in 50 years. But we don't have enough armies or enough islamic nations to do the test. We don't know. But my concern is less establishing democracies than maintaining them. Democracies worldwide have tended to be unstable. We have far more examples of democracies that fell in less than 50 years than democracies that lasted longer than 50 years. It's possible we might force democracy on other nations, but if they won't fight to keep democracy then what good is it? Invade them again each time they get a government we don't like? Like honduras or the dominican republic?

But once again, you're ignoring history--we tried the disengagement and talks option for decades, most famously with Bill Clinton hugging Yassir Arafat for eight years. And it got us 9/11.

You keep acting like you think 9/11 is a trump card that wins every trick. But how do you call this history? You claim decades when we disengaged? It isn't clear what you mean by disengagement, and I'm not at all sure I'd approve, but what possible meaning can you have for the word that you'd say we've done it for decades?

Aha, the major point of disagreement emerges:

Well first of all, 9/11 just wasn't that bad.

To be inordinately flippant: if 3000+ innocent civilians being slaughtered was "not that bad", and the resulting recession and monetary losses were "not that bad", then I don't see what your complaint is when we lose ~2500 soldiers to liberate 2 countries from regimes which were, by any objective standard, evil. It may shock you, but the rest of America considers 9/11 to be rather a BIG DEAL--hell, larger wars were started for less; only 128 Americans died in the Lusitania sinking, and that helped drag us into WWI.

In short, if you truly believe 9/11 was a minor deal, I suggest you either misunderstand the seriousness of bin Laden's declared war against America, or the basic concept of defending a sovereign nation. You certainly don't understand the American people as a whole, nor the 200+ year old mindset and history which drives them.

Yes, it makes sense we should have prepared for more attacks, and mostly we didn't. We under-reacted.

Glad you agree. So answer my question: after 8.5 years of "under-reacting", why on earth do you think the post-9/11 hawks "overreacted"? Why shouldn't they go into the active, prepatory, preventive mode that we should have entered in 1993 to attempt avoiding a 9/11 style attack? What on earth makes you think the trend of escalating attacks by Islamic extremists ends with 9/11?

(And for the record, not everyone "under-reacted" to the first WTC bombing, but the American people as a whole, and their government by extension, definitely did. It was a mistake which should never be repeated.)

Learn from it before somebody -- anybody who wants to hurt us -- hits us a lot worse.

FFS, what do you think 9/11 was? That was somebody hitting us a lot worse than the 1993 bombing! My point is, if you had copy/pasted your current line of argumentation back in 1993 to try to dissuade the hawks, you would be proven wrong in 2001 because the hawks did not set policy after 1993. Once again--2001 was not the starting point, it was yet another attack in a series of attacks; you can't claim that mimicing America's post-1993 reaction will prevent a worse attack, because that worse attack has already happened.

Given what the next "step up" is likely to be, we'd like to avoid that attack--and using your methods, which were already discredited given the history of Islamic radicalism, would be an indefensibly bad idea.

"Yes, it makes sense we should have prepared for more attacks, and mostly we didn't. We under-reacted."

Glad you agree. So answer my question: after 8.5 years of "under-reacting", why on earth do you think the post-9/11 hawks "overreacted"?

In 8.5 years we did essentially nothing to improve our defenses. In 4.8 years since then we have done essentially nothing to improve our defenses. We have *mis*reacted.

Why shouldn't they go into the active, prepatory, preventive mode that we should have entered in 1993 to attempt avoiding a 9/11 style attack?

They should have, and they have not.

Given what the next "step up" is likely to be, we'd like to avoid that attack--and using your methods, which were already discredited given the history of Islamic radicalism, would be an indefensibly bad idea.

Well, no. I think you've been reading what you expect to see and not what I wrote.

You keep pretending the issue is islamic radicalism. It is not.

Look, I don't know quite how to say this so you'll understand, but I'll try.

Imagine that a US soldier is dealing with soldiers from a bunch of other countries, plus a bunch of interested civilians. The soldiers are all armed and it isn't certain when one of them might open fire on another, it depends partly on how they've been getting along. Here's the british soldier, our good friend, with body armor and a precision sniper rifle. Here's the french soldier, not our good friend, with body armor and a nice handgun with a couple of clips of ammo. Here's a russian soldier wearing body armor and rags carrying an RPG launcher. Here's an arab soldier wearing rags with a knife, and so on and so on. Imagine all these soldiers and interested civilians. And they trade cigarettes and various stuff.

And then there's the US soldier with an M16 and a grenade launcher and a flamethrower, he has the best body armor and a couple of claymores on his back, and a com system he can use to call in airstrikes or artillery. But his armor doesn't reach his butt and he has neglected to wear his pants.

The american says that since he's the best fighter and the most moral philosopher and so on, everybody ought to do things his way. And a number of the others agree that he's generally a pretty good guy and they usually back him up when he takes a moral stand. They grumble some and they don't always give him their full support, but they agree he's mostly a good guy.

So OK, this arab civilian who doesn't like him sneaks up behind him and kicks him in the ass and he falls flat on his gas mask. The arab runs and hides. The american gets all upset about it. He says he's got to find that arab and beat him til he learns never to do any such thing ever again. And also beat all his arab friends who laughed, who might also attack. And also any arab soldiers who might try to protect arab civilians. And he goes around muttering about it all. He'll be doing all those arabs a favor beating them up because if they don't learn better he'll have to kill them.

His friends think he isn't acting like a good guy any more. They're concerned. He's acting stupid. Because -- what if somebody actually wanted to hurt him? He's still walking around with no pants and he doesn't seem to notice. Wouldn't it make sense to put some armor around his butt first, and maybe beat up on arabs later?

Congratulations, I think you just won some kind of award for Worst Analogy Ever. For starters, replace the "kick in the butt" with "stabbed in the back with intent to kill", then see what happens when the Arab hides but promises to return with a bigger knife. And switch his target from the American soldier to the American civilian, who was just standing around minding his own business. And precede this act with the Arab making an outright declaration of war--which pretty much obligates the American soldier and any true allies to retaliate in a war-like manner, if they want to continue to be taken seriously as soldiers.

Or better yet, scrap the whole silly thing and start reading up on Osama's not-as-cute speeches which promise death and destruction and the establishment of a global Caliphate. Your analogy is unworkable given the facts of the last 15 years, which is unsurprising since the belief system it's based on is unworkable (for the reasons outlined above).

You keep pretending the issue is islamic radicalism. It is not.

Then what is it, bin Laden's pissed that his soccer team lost a match or something? Do you read this stuff before you hit post?

You continue to downplay the deadly seriousness of the issue. Bin Laden, the late Zarqawi, etc are not "mischievous Arabs" running around pantsing people for fun, they are on a very specific campaign to bring about terror, chaos, and death to whoever does not conform to their views. This includes the United States, Europe, a bunch of our allies--heck, even some of the more "moderate" Islamic countries as well. 3000+ people dead is not just "testing the waters", it's an outright act of war. You can deny that war exists and continue to take casualties unanswered, which is the equivalent of surrendering to the enemy (nebulous and hidden though he may be); or you can get out and try to win.

The hawks are fighting. You're advocatng pre-emptive surrender. I re-iterate my point that you don't understand America if you think we're A-OK with that kind of surrender, or if you think such an abdication is more "American" than standing up for ourselves "with extreme prejudice". And you're grossly underestimating the enemy if you think that surrender would spare us any further attacks--just as you would have been spouting the same line back in 1993.

Unbeliever, you keep telling me that I'm saying things I am not saying. I don't know where you come up with this stuff.

You're talking like 9/11 was stab in the back, or an attempted stab in the back. It was not. They attacked two symbols, WTC and Pentagon. The Pentagon, a military target, could have done us some sort of significant damage but mostly didn't. WTC was essentially no economic loss. We lost stockbrokers and insurance agents. The effect on our military strength was nil. The effect on our production was nil. Theoretically it could have had an effect on our ability to mobilise resources, to organise production, but mostly it did not. Perhaps they could have hurt us less if they had hit a Vegas betting establishment.

9/11 was a tremendous insult, but it did essentially nothing to damage our strength. We didn't lose a single power plant. We didn't lose a single nuke. Not a single railroad engine. We did lose 4 commercial airliners.

Not a stab at the heart. Maybe a little stab in the butt.

You're so busy overdramatising it -- still, after nearly 5 years -- that you lack all sense of scale. Compared to Katrina, 9/11 did insignificant damage. Compared to Chernobyl it was utterly insignificant. And al qaeda could have tried to give us our own Chernobyls. So far they haven't made any attempt to do us significant damage. Sure, we need to stop them before they do. But we need to stop everybody else who wants to seriously damage us too. We can't stop everybody by going after al qaeda. That only stops al qaeda, and only if we succeed. We can't stop everybody by going after muslims. That only stops muslims, and only if we succeed. But we have to stop every enemy, or lose.

There was a time when wars were mostly fought on battlefields. The moving battle lines might roll over a city, but that wasn't the point of the fighting unless they were capturing the capital. That was sort of true as late as WWI. But then we got strategic bombing. Now when we attack a country we take out the power plants and the phone networks first thing, with airstrikes. It's how we fight. Other countries can't do that to us because they can't reach us. If it's worth flying a weapon to a US city then it's worth making it a nuke. But if they can do it with sabotage, why wouldn't any of our enemies take out our power plants and phone networks and water works? Burn our refineries. Blow up natural gas storage. Disrupt our ports. Why not? If they can leave signs pointing to al qaeda, so much the better. It isn't like we don't do it to our enemies, the difference is only that we do it from the air.

And somehow our defense consists mostly of attacking muslims. Like muslims are the only enemy we anticipate having for the next 20 years. Like we don't care how many muslims we turn into enemies. "Trillions for offense, hundreds of billions for graft, not one red cent for defense."

Is it getting a little clearer?

You're talking like 9/11 was stab in the back, or an attempted stab in the back. It was not. They attacked two symbols, WTC and Pentagon.

You're forgetting the fourth plane, Flight 93, which was allegedly aimed at the White House, and which would have caused quite a bit of damage if its most famous resident had been home. So in case you missed the significance here, that's a strike at our economy, our military, and our national coherency (secure line of succession notwithstanding, the assassination of the head of state is a huge blow to any country). This is not an idle insult, this is an act of war following a declaration of war; any response short of fighting and winning that war invites more attacks of the same nature.

Not a stab at the heart. Maybe a little stab in the butt.

Interestingly, I never said "in the heart", I said "in the back". The implication is that 9/11 was not some mischievous prank, it was an intentional attack with intent to do harm in an area which is hard to defend.

(I'll permit myself a nearly irrelevant tangent in the interests of anatomical accuracy: the back of the torso is a large place, and there are several target regions you could aim at for varying results. If you wanted to kill someone you'd actually do better to aim for the kidneys--since a stab there will shock the body and hopefully paralyze it--or at the nape of the neck, in order to sever the spinal cord. But if you wanted to just hurt someone badly, the rest of the torso is a good place to aim for as well.)

You're so busy overdramatising it -- still, after nearly 5 years -- that you lack all sense of scale.

On the contrary--you are the one trying desperately to minimize its significance, because only by belittling the horror and destruction of that day can you find some small justification for your narrative.

Sense of scale? The attack on Pearl Harbor "only" killed ~2400 Americans, and it got us into WWII. 3000 Americans died on September 11, 2001. Where is your sense of scale, or your understanding of history? Were we "unbalanced" when we entered WWII as well--did Roosevelt "overdramatise" when he called it "a day which will live in infamy"?

There was a time when wars were mostly fought on battlefields. The moving battle lines might roll over a city, but that wasn't the point of the fighting unless they were capturing the capital. That was sort of true as late as WWI. But then we got strategic bombing.

Indeed. And recently our opponents adopted "strategic bombing" as well; terrorists attack strategic targets with the weapons they have, as they did in 1993, or on the USS Cole, or on 9/11 (when they turned commercial airliners into weapons). And just because those bombs are not dropped by expensive B-2 bombers, does not make them any less an act of war.

Wars are not won by ceding the Sudetenland to crazed despots, nor by issuing UN resolutions, nor by letting an evil regime in Afghanistan harbor terrorists whenever it's convenient for them, nor by letting a strongman destabilize an entire region. If you want us to ignore acts of war against the US, and huddle behind internal defensive barriers while waving the bloody shirt of pacifism, just come out and say it. But don't pretend you're "keeping a sense of scale", or that you're acting in a supra-American manner over those who follow our tradition of fighting for our lives.

Compared to Katrina, 9/11 did insignificant damage. Compared to Chernobyl it was utterly insignificant. And al qaeda could have tried to give us our own Chernobyls. So far they haven't made any attempt to do us significant damage.

You seem remarkably willing to rely on al Qaeda's good graces to not attempt such an attack. Recall your comments in #41 where you said it would've been better to leave the Taliban in place and let OBL be ferried to another safe haven. Given al Qaeda's willingness to inflict as much harm on us as they can, what makes you think leaving them a safe refuge from which to train, plan, and raise money is such a great idea? That is not a vigorous pursuit of an enemy, that is willingly playing his game.

Is it getting a little clearer?

Oh, your position has been quite clear from the beginning, thank you. And it's equally clear that it's naive, unrealistic, and totally at odds with both the facts on the ground, and the facts screaming at you from the pages of history.

J, aside from your argument being idiotic, your facts are shaky at best.

"The attacks had a significant economic impact on the United States and world markets. The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), the American Stock Exchange and NASDAQ did not open on September 11 and remained closed until September 17. NYSE facilities and remote data processing sites were not damaged by the attack, but member firms, customers and markets were unable to communicate due to major damage to the telephone exchange facility near the World Trade Center. When the stock markets reopened on September 17, 2001, after the longest closure since the Great Depression in 1929, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (“DJIA”) stock market index fell 684 points, or 7.1%, to 8920, its biggest-ever one-day point decline. By the end of the week, the DJIA had fallen 1369.7 points (14.3%), its largest one-week point drop in history. U.S. stocks lost $1.2 trillion in value for the week"
wiki

The United states lost more wealth in stocks alone than the combined GDPs of the entire Middle East put together.

Pearl Harbor is an excellent comparison. 2400 Americans died at Pearl Harbor, 400,000 died in the war. I guess that makes WW2 about 167 times stupider than the current war huh?

You're forgetting the fourth plane, Flight 93, which was allegedly aimed at the White House, and which would have caused quite a bit of damage if its most famous resident had been home.

You have got to be joking.

Look, if somebody had managed to kill Hitler in 1939, would germany have been weaker or stronger? Almost certainly stronger. Hitler made stupid decisions and it's quite likely the next guy would have done better.

If somebody had managed to kill Stalin in 1940, would the USSR be weaker or stronger? Same thing. The USSR would have been much stronger without Stalin.

Similarly, Bush has been a large net liability to us. The USA would be far, far stronger with Bush as a martyr rather than an inactive President.

Sheesh, you're grasping at straws.

Sense of scale? The attack on Pearl Harbor "only" killed ~2400 Americans, and it got us into WWII.

If our aircraft carriers had been in port it would have crippled the navy. As it was, they hit 8 battleships, a couple of obsolescent light cruisers, 3 destroyers, and a bunch of planes. If they hadn't concentrated on the ships in the drydocks they might have done a lot of damage to the repair facilities at the port which would have done much more damage.

Against that you have the WTC, a building that had no business being built in the first place. And about 2700 people, including 1700 who worked in finance, insurance, and real estate. Then there were 300+ firemen and 100 police and security guards. I don't want to downplay the anguish for the families involved, but this was not a significant attack on the USA, certainly not comparable to Pearl Harbor. It killed 0.001% of the population. We lost a bunch of stock salesmen, who are easily replaced. The firement and police are somewhat harder. At Pearl Harbor we lost capital ships to the point we thought the japanese fleet was stronger. It took over a year to repair most of the ships and get organised to build new ones fast. After WTC the stockbrokerage firms barely hiccupped. A whole lot of people had respiratory problems -- because WTC was built on the assumption it would never burn.

Our big losses from 9/11 were symbolic losses.

If you want us to ignore acts of war against the US, and huddle behind internal defensive barriers while waving the bloody shirt of pacifism, just come out and say it.

Of course not. 9/11 was probably not an act of war because there was probably no nation behind it. The allegations that israel was behind it have no solid evidence. Only nations get to declare war. The Ku Klux Klan or the Symbionese Liberation Army or Al Qaeda can say they're declaring war, but they aren't nations, they're only criminal organizations.

Of course we want to prevent such major crimes, with the cooperation of every established nation. A nation that intentionally shelters such criminals could be argued to be committing an act of war and in the most extreme case we might declare war and attack them. But the central push has to be to create defenses, because we lack defenses.

Until the mid-1950's the USA was safe. We could fight WWII and destroy our enemies' refineries and oilfields and even factories, and our enemies couldn't reach our oilfields or refineries or factories. We could outproduce them. Then a few countries got nukes and missiles and we weren't as safe. But we never got into a direct war with anybody who could do that, and maybe if we had MAD would have protected us. But now anybody in the world who can find suicide saboteurs can hit us far worse than al qaeda did.

Al qaeda is only the one we know about. Anybody with the funding and the dedication can play this game. We can't afford to put too much effort into one single terrorist NGO. They have no monopoly on what they're trying to do. Anybody who can gather together a lot of money and a relatively few fanatics can copy them. The better the technology they command the fewer fanatics they need.

Any well-funded terrorist NGO could become a player, but governments have some edge in funding and technology. I've criticised the Bush administration for putting most of their attention on state actors, but maybe that's where they'll find most of the action.

I'm no pacifist. I say, we have enough enemies just now that we'd do better not to put too many resources into fighting any one of them. If they tended to unite against us, then sure, try to take them out one at a time. But we can't afford to get bogged down in any one country just now. And that's what we've done, we're bogged down in two countries at once and talking about going for the trifecta.

If we speak softly and intervene less for awhile, various of our enemies will notice that we aren't their primary concerns. They have other enemies closer to home. If that works it's worth 20 divisions to us. If we try it and think it isn't working we can go back to talking loud and threatening everybody with our big swinging sticks.

You seem remarkably willing to rely on al Qaeda's good graces to not attempt such an attack.

Once more, al qaeda is one example of an organization using the kind of attack we must learn to defend against. Giving too much attention to al qaeda is like trying hard to track down thep particular mosquito that bit you. If they don't matter much, just accept you'll get bit some. If they might give you malaria etc, then you want to do what it takes to not get the disease. That might involve draining the swamp (equivalent to arranging world prosperity etc). It might involve putting screens on your windows and doors and wearing protective clothing (border control, port security etc). It might involve spraying lots of insecticide. (Cruise missiles, airstrikes, carpet-bombing, nukes, etc.) It might involve drugs or vaccines so the disease won't work in you. (internal homeland security.) Going after one mosquito or one family of mosquitoes (like focusing on al qaeda) isn't real useful.

"Similarly, Bush has been a large net liability to us. The USA would be far, far stronger with Bush as a martyr rather than an inactive President."

So wiping out the president and the white house wouldnt have been a major blow to the US. Are you on crack son?

"If our aircraft carriers had been in port it would have crippled the navy"

If the Joint Chiefs were wiped out in the Pentagon, if the President was killed in the White house, if Congress had been hit in the Capital. You really wanna play the if game? Oh, thats right, none of those things would have a major impact on US security. In fantasy land.

"Against that you have the WTC, a building that had no business being built in the first place."

Building was askin for it.

"And about 2700 people, including 1700 who worked in finance, insurance, and real estate."

No big loss for the might USofA.

" Then there were 300+ firemen and 100 police and security guards."

The cream of the first responders in the largest city in the nation. Big deal.

"I don't want to downplay the anguish for the families involved,"

Heavens no! Who could get that idea?

"but this was not a significant attack on the USA, certainly not comparable to Pearl Harbor."

Why? The carriers were not hit at Pearl. The battleships that were proved not nearly as much use in the new age of warfare anyway. you cant play the 'what if' game one-sided. The truth is Pearl Harbor had a minimal impact on US power- witness the fact that within about 6 months we had bombed Tokyo, met the Japanese toe-to-toe in the Coral Sea, and decisively beaten them at Midway. If anything in the world was symbolic it was Pearl Harbor.

This conversation is going no-where but down the gutter. You are entitled to your own opinions. Not your own facts.

The United states lost more wealth in stocks alone than the combined GDPs of the entire Middle East put together.

Well, no. Mark, the USA lost no wealth when the stock market dropped. The USA lost a little wealth from 9/11. We lost the future earnings of close to 3000 employed people, offset somewhat by the people who had similar skills who were underemployed before. The owners of the WTC lost however much of their investment wasn't covered by insurance, and insurance companies lost the rest. We were out 4 airliners. Etc. But most NYSE companies were worth about as much on 9/12 as they had been on 9/10. Airline companies were a big exception -- people didn't want to fly.

If you owned stock on 9/10 and it lost value, and you needed to sell in the next couple weeks, then you were one of the losers. You had to sell cheap. But the guy who got to buy your stock cheap got the benefit you lost.

This is an important Econ 101 thing. It's worth saying it again. Imagine you have a property that can be expected to bring in a million dollars a year. You got a firm offer of $20 million for it last year, but you didn't accept. Today you find that the best offer you can get for your property is $10 million. How much money have you lost? None. Last year you had a property that brought in a million a year. Today you still have a property that brings in a million a year. All that has happened is your opportunity cost of keeping the property has been cut in half.

Suppose that you did sell the property last year for $20 million. And today you see the new owner is desperate to sell, and you offer $10 million and they accept. You're $10 million ahead. They're $10 million behind. The economy as a whole chugs along pretty much unchanged.

If a greater fool with $50 million offers you $50 million for your property, does that mean the total value of the USA has increased by $40 million? No. It just means there's a greater fool. The value of the US economy does not depend on what gamblers on the stock market will pay for it. When the price is high sellers get a good deal. When the price is low buyers get a good deal. No big deal.

But when part of the economy is destroyed, then we've actually lost something. There isn't as much there to trade back and forth. On 9/11 at the WTC we lost 2700 people, largely salesmen. We lost a big building, and we lost 2 airliners, and we lots a lot of air quality in NYC. Those were real losses. When the Dow Jones index fell 14%, that meant it was a much better time to buy those particular 30 stocks than it had been 2 weeks before. (Not counting any airline stocks etc that might happen to be on that index.) No wealth is created when the stock market has a bubble. When the bubble pops no wealth is destroyed. Any more than wealth is created or destroyed when you play in a ca sino, or invest in antiques.

HTH.

Gee, J Thomas, miss the point much?

" Then there were 300+ firemen and 100 police and security guards."

The cream of the first responders in the largest city in the nation. Big deal.

I separated those out because they were the ones that looked to me like a loss out of proportion to their numbers. I didn't mention the 100 secretaries or the 100 "computer scientists" who were mostly doing things like technical stock analysis. Those were not a loss out of proportion to their numbers.

"but this was not a significant attack on the USA, certainly not comparable to Pearl Harbor."

Why? The carriers were not hit at Pearl. The battleships that were proved not nearly as much use in the new age of warfare anyway. [....]

If anything in the world was symbolic it was Pearl Harbor.

OK, you have a good point there. People consistently talk like Pearl Harbor was a giant military disaster, they point out that the japanese fleet was stronger than the US pacific fleet after Pearl Harbor. They don't usually mention that the japanese fleet was stronger than the US fleet before Pearl Harbor too, that our losses at Pearl Harbor were not particularly significant. But from everything I've heard, your point makes sense. I'm not a military historian myself, and I wouldn't feel qualified to defend your stand. But if somebody wants to argue with you about it I'll back you up as well as I can unless they present convincing evidence you're wrong.

At any rate, we didn't do WWII just because of Pearl Harbor. The conquest of the philippines surely had something to do with it. We lost at corregidor (and somehow we lost a lot of planes on the ground there, and doesn't it make sense we shouldn't have?) and then there was the Bataan death march. Pearl Harbor may have been mostly a symbolic attack, but Manila was very much for real. Even if Pearl Harbor took us by surprise, Manila shouldn't have. When we lost the japanese fleet, and they were doing full radio silence and all, there shouldn't have been much doubt they were about to attack us. The surprise came when they attacked us at Pearl Harbor too. We had every reason to expect an attack on the philippines, but we folded up there like we were utterly unready to hold out.

This is all side issue, but weren't those first bombing campaigns mostly a publicity stunt? They made us feel better but they weren't exactly practical. Later we did bombings that really meant something.

At any rate, we didn't do WWII just because of Pearl Harbor. The conquest of the philippines surely had something to do with it. We lost at corregidor (and somehow we lost a lot of planes on the ground there, and doesn't it make sense we shouldn't have?) and then there was the Bataan death march.

Isn't it getting annoying yet how those pesky little things called historical facts keep tripping up your theories?

We did enter WWII becaue of Pearl Harbor, as evidenced by the very simple fact that Congress declared war on Japan the very next day. When Roosevelt addressed Congress, he specifically asked that the state of war be retroactively declared to start when Pearl Harbor was bombed:

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger... I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

The Philipines were not conquered until months afterwards (by the time of Congress' war declaration, Japan had "only" done some air bombardment of MacArthur's planes, and did not actually invade until days later). The Bataan death march did not take place until 4 months after the US declared war, and the loss at Corregidor was 5 months after; none of the three had anything to do with our decision to enter WWII.

In other words, you are hopelessly, utterly wrong on this point.

In case you had not divined it yet: when Mark said "if anything in the world was symbolic it was Pearl Harbor", he was being sarcastic. Pearl Harbor was an act of war and causa belli for the US entering a long, difficult war; 9/11, where the loss of American lives was greater, was as well.

Unbeliever, you are right. While the invasion of the philippines was inevitable at that point (and perhaps its eventual loss), FDR did use Pearl Harbor as the symbol to unite the country into war.

In case you had not divined it yet: when Mark said "if anything in the world was symbolic it was Pearl Harbor", he was being sarcastic.

Do you think so? But that would invalidate his argument. He was saying that Pearl Harbor was a giant physical loss, and that WTC was even more of a loss. I argued that at Pearl Harbor we lost capital ships and trained military sailors. But the majority of the people we lost at WTC were stock salesmen, which damaged us about as much as it would to lose 1500 bookies or Vegas blackjack dealers. Then he argued (correctly, I think) that the ships we lost at Pearl Harbor weren't actually important, which lets him argue that WTC was a big deal compared to Pearl Harbor.

Maybe he was bing sarcastic, but that leaves his argument pretty confused. Are you sure you understand him?

Pearl Harbor was an act of war and causa belli for the US entering a long, difficult war; 9/11, where the loss of American lives was greater, was as well.

War against who?

Maybe he was bing sarcastic, but that leaves his argument pretty confused. Are you sure you understand him?

His argument is not confused. Mark was responding to your contention that "this [9/11] was not a significant attack on the USA, certainly not comparable to Pearl Harbor". Your implication being that Pearl Harbor was a good justification for war, while 9/11 was not.

Mark was saying that if you're going to call 9/11 merely "symbolic" by your bizarre logic, you'd also have to call Pearl Harbor "symbolic". However Pearl Harbor was not a symbolic attack, therefore neither was 9/11. Neither one was a red herring causa belli that took us into a needless war. As Mark put it in the same paragraph, "you cant play the 'what if' game one-sided".

The reason you're confused is because you're still applying your own twisted logic to the scale of both attacks.

War against who?

Everyone on the State Department FTO list, for starters, with primary focus given to those organizatinos who pay "special attention"--in the form of bombs or threats--to US citizens and assets. Schedules for retaliation to be released at a future date. Target countries TBD. I don't see how you can be unsure, though, considering how many times Bush has made this point over the past 5 years.

However Pearl Harbor was not a symbolic attack, therefore neither was 9/11. Neither one was a red herring causa belli that took us into a needless war.

By my way of thinking, both were mostly symbolic. Try the analogy with individuals. Somebody wants to pick a fight with you, and they first gently step on your toe and then gently slap you in the face. Your ability to fight is not compromised, but they have made their intentions plain. Symbolic. If they slap you hard enough that you're stunned, it's less symbolic and more physical.

Alternatively, they stomp your instep crushing the bones, and sock you hard in the temple. This is not symbolic at all, they are beginning the process of killing you.

The battleships we lost at Pearl Harbor would have been useful for shore bombardments etc, but they weren't a critical loss. Mostly symbolic. Losing our philippines base was a critical loss. Not symbolic.

Attacking the WTC did essentially no damage to our military capabilities or economic strength etc. But it drove a lot of americans crazy. Symbolic.

"War against who?"

Everyone on the State Department FTO list, for starters, with primary focus given to those organizatinos who pay "special attention"--in the form of bombs or threats--to US citizens and assets.

That's silly. That's like declaring war on the Mafia, or the Crips. It's giving these guys unneeded dignity. They aren't governments, they're only criminals.

Target countries TBD.

To be determined? I ask who you want to go war with, and you respond TBD?

This is senseless. It's just crazy.

I don't see how you can be unsure, though, considering how many times Bush has made this point over the past 5 years.

Bush has said a collection of things that do not parse. They naturally leave me unsure of his meaning. So instead of looking at what he says I look at what he does. But that's even more confusing. His actions do not make sense either.

By my way of thinking, both were mostly symbolic. Try the analogy with individuals. Somebody wants to pick a fight with you, and they first gently step on your toe and then gently slap you in the face. Your ability to fight is not compromised, but they have made their intentions plain. Symbolic.

Your analogy still fails. You're claiming the "symbolic" attack (which is still an utterly ludicrous designation) drove Americans crazy, yet now you're claiming those symbolic attacks "have made their intentions plain". If we can now see their intentions are to kill us, how is responding to that intent "crazy"?

And let's not forget, the real world attacks we're discussing here were not meant to be irrelevant "slaps". The perpetrators fully intended to cripple the United States, whether militarily (Pearl Harbor) or economically (U-boats sinking merchant ships) or both (9/11). Each strike was intended to be a killing blow, and should be treated as such when considering how the US should respond.

If they slap you hard enough that you're stunned, it's less symbolic and more physical.

If you let them slap you hard enough to stun after they "gently slapped" you already, you are an idiot. Your response should have been to block the harder attack, and followup with a disabling blow. Meekly standing there trying to talk to your assailant--the equivalent of your suggested responses to 9/11--just invites more attacks and distracts you from the goal of actively preventing further harm.

Go ahead, ask any self-defense or martial arts instructor how to respond to attacks and dangerous situations. The answer will invariably be: don't escalate a situation where only words are involved--i.e., don't talk trash back at a violent person who is flinging insults at you. Verbal threats alone do not (usually) warrant physical response. But the very second that person makes a move at you, block that first move and take him down hard. Personal self-defense emphasizes speed in ending encounters, and overcoming opposition by nullifying the danger to the point where your opponent cannot harm you, is utterly unable to cause further damage. You won't find a single instructor out there who will tell you to debate motivations with a dangerous thug after he takes a swing at you, regardless of whether the thug merely brushed you or even if he missed entirely.

Now depending on the martial artist you query, you'll get varying answers on how and when to employ killing moves, vs maiming moves, vs temporary disabling moves, vs "pain" moves. You can end a typical bar drunk's assault with pain and control techniques, while military forms tend to emphasize maiming and killing moves which could be used in combat. But none of them will tell you that ignoring the first aggressive physical strike--which is what you have been proposing--is a viable option. And although most forms teach defensive blocking moves as well, they also teach that if all you do is block eventually you'll be defeated. (Not to mention the fact that these blocks are generally intended to be the opening to a strong counterattack, not as a prelude to retreat.)

Alternatively, they stomp your instep crushing the bones, and sock you hard in the temple. This is not symbolic at all, they are beginning the process of killing you.

Once again, if you ignored the slap and let them get to this point, you failed to defend yourself and you should be ashamed. If they've stepped on your foot gently, then harder, then harder still, then finally managed the crippling blow, then that first attack was the beginning of the process and you should have stopped your enemy immediately afterwards. Ignoring each successive attack while saying "but they're not trying to kill me yet" is sheer idiocy, and shows you lack the will to protect yourself or to ensure your own survival.

And it may surprise you to learn that Americans value their survival rather highly.

In other words, you have no clue how to properly defend either yourself or a country. Your "individual" analogy ignores thousands of years of personal defense realities, your "symbolic attack" designation ignores the entire history of warfare, and your suggested lack of response in both cases is the worst possible solution that could be offered.

That's silly. That's like declaring war on the Mafia, or the Crips. It's giving these guys unneeded dignity. They aren't governments, they're only criminals.

Those criminal organizations have not declared war on the United States, they only act against individual citizens for non-state-related reasons. As such they pose no national threat (sometimes called "existential" threats), and do not warrant mobilizing the military or putting the government on wartime footing. Al Qaeda, on the other hand, is a foreign entity which has declared war on the United States itself, on the sovereign country-entity; they have demonstrated the capability and the intent to execute para-military actions against the US; and as such they warrant different designation than mere "criminals", and a stronger response as well.

(Also note that when dealing with a foreign entity, the enforcement agencies the US utilizes are the CIA, the NSA, and the military; all of whom are forbidden to take on regular criminal matters. The Mafia and the Crips are organizations internal to the country; as such they fall under the jurisdiction of the local police, or the state police, or federal Marshals, or the FBI. However none of those four internal law enforcement organizations have the ability to act against foreign organizations.)

It should probably be noted that when I say "declare war on them", I am not speaking of a formal Congressional declaration of war, which is generally reserved for war against countries. I am speaking of mobilizing military and intelligence capabilities to actively pursue, capture, and kill the enemies of a sovereign country. These are external military actions, and such an extended campaign is deserving of the title "war". This is hardly a concept without precedent--in fact one of the very first "wars" fought by our country, the First Barbary War, was fought against a group of pirates and not against a country, without an explicit Congressional declaration of war. Your disapproval of the concept comes 200 years late, and is completely at odds with the actions of the Founding Fathers themselves.

Now during the course of this campaign, our military assets or strikes will ipso facto need to cross into the territory of other sovereign nations. If those nations agree to cooperate with these actions, we call them "allies", we call the military maneuverings "joint actions", and carry on; if they refuse, and we determine it is necessary for us to enter that country anyways, it may become necessary to label them "enemies", seek out a Congressional declaration of war against that country, and invade. The WoT encompasses actions against both non-state entities and the states which knowingly harbor them. Which brings me to your next bit:

To be determined? I ask who you want to go war with, and you respond TBD?

No, I responded with a list of non-state entities who are our primary enemies. The list of state entities is TBD, but that doesn't make it any less of a war.

For example, Afghanistan made the target list after refusing to help apprehend al Qaeda operatives within its borders. But Libya is off the target list because of Khadaffi's dismantling of its nuclear weapons program. Iran is still TBD, but given their recent antics it's not looking so great for them.

This is senseless. It's just crazy.

As senseless as advocating an utter lack of response? As crazy as letting a non-state entity cow the strongest nation on the planet? As "unbalanced" as writing off the deaths of 3000 of your fellow citizens--and the worst single attack on our soil in the nation's history--as a mere trifle unworthy of response? Compared to your suggestions and arguments, the WoT, and the concepts behind it which date back to 1801, is the most solid bit of foreign policy our country has seen in years.

The perpetrators fully intended to cripple the United States, whether militarily (Pearl Harbor) or economically (U-boats sinking merchant ships) or both (9/11).

Tht's silly. How could 9/11 cripple the USA either militarily or economically?

They said they didn't intend to destroy the WTC. (Not that they wouldn't have if they could, but they didn't expect it to work.) Suppose it had actually worked better and faster than it did, and we lost 30,000 stockbrokers etc. Would that have crippled the USA? No. We can train stockbrokers in 6 weeks although a 6 month training course might possibly result in guys who're better at clinching a sale. 9/11 could not cripple us except by driving us crazy, making us respond in ways that cripple us.

"If they slap you hard enough that you're stunned, it's less symbolic and more physical."

If you let them slap you hard enough to stun after they "gently slapped" you already, you are an idiot.

I'm talking about a first attack. Physically, 9/11 was a minor pinprick. Symbolically it hurt us badly. We had believed things like that couldn't happen here, and then it did.

"Alternatively, they stomp your instep crushing the bones, and sock you hard in the temple. This is not symbolic at all, they are beginning the process of killing you."

Once again, if you ignored the slap and let them get to this point, you failed to defend yourself and you should be ashamed.

If the dangerous attack comes first, you may lose a lot before you know you're in a fight. That didn't happen 9/11. It got us very upset but we didn't lose anything we couldn't easily afford to lose, except our minds. We didn't lose a single city. Not one. Not one power plant. Not even a significant factory.

Someday when we find out such things, it's likely to turn out that the purpose of 9/11 wasn't even to affect us. Maybe they had one or more financial contributors who wanted evidence that the money was actually being spent on something effective. And so they did 9/11 to prove to him that they were doing something and not just wasting the money on wild parties and corruption. Not unlikely they were thinking about their funding and not about us at all. I've heard that some of the IRA actions were that way. They wanted to show their supporters in the USA that they were for real more than they wanted to hurt the british or the orangmemen.

...your suggested lack of response in both cases is the worst possible solution that could be offered.

You keep misreading me. I'm not suggesting lack of response. I've never suggested lack of response.

You keep treating this like a fight between equals, and it isn't. Not so much like two guys having a fistfight. More like, you're sitting down at your desk job trying to get some work done, and a mouse runs up your trouser leg, squirms up your thigh and bites you in the scrotum. Almost does some real serious damage before he gets away, hurt. You look around and see mouseholes everywhere, no telling how many mice are here. What you want is to be able to sit down and get your work done but it's hard to concentrate on work when something like this can happen any time. Ideally you'd like to get rid of the mice or at least arrange things so they can't attack you. If you find out somebody's been training the things to attack you, you'll want to do something about that threat too. But it's crazy to spend very much of your effort going after the particular mouse that bit you so you can defeat him man to mouse. Waging a vendetta against a mouse is stupid.

If you're living with a bunch of attack mice, it's far more important to get rid of them or -- failing that -- make their attacks ineffective, than it is to kill the mouse that got your attention. The other office workers will think you're crazy if you insist on tramping through their offices looking for the mouse that bit you like it was a white whale or something.

Analogously, al qaeda is like a mouse. So weak they have to hide, no fixed address, they can make a serious attack if we aren't ready for them. When a bunch of other small organisations have similar skills we need to be ready for attacks from any of them at any time, not just track the one. Ideally we'd get rid of them all so we can concentrate on getting our work done, but that's hard. Small groups can breed anywhere including among our own citizens. So we have to adapt. Sure, let's harrass and maybe destroy al qaeda, but it can't be the main effort or even a major effort.

Al Qaeda, on the other hand, is a foreign entity which has declared war on the United States itself, on the sovereign country-entity; they have demonstrated the capability and the intent to execute para-military actions against the US; and as such they warrant different designation than mere "criminals", and a stronger response as well.

Don't treat them like they're important. It only encourages them. They're only criminals. They've committed murder. They claim political reasons for their murders but they've been utterly ineffective at achieving their political goals through murder.

At least, that's how it ought to be. Actually they've gotten all the publicity they could ever have hoped. The US government has given them tremendous importance, and talks like they're a major strategic threat. To the extent they're a political force in the muslim world, it's mostlyv because of our stupid response.

Also note that when dealing with a foreign entity, the enforcement agencies the US utilizes are the CIA, the NSA, and the military; all of whom are forbidden to take on regular criminal matters.

Also Interpol. And the State Department.

I am speaking of mobilizing military and intelligence capabilities to actively pursue, capture, and kill the enemies of a sovereign country. These are external military actions, and such an extended campaign is deserving of the title "war".

We mostly don't want other nations to think we're doing that stuff inside their borders. Get their active cooperation to track down murderers who happen to be in their country. Use our intelligence services to quietly find out how much they're actually working at tracking down those murderers, but try not to get caught at it -- we only let them know we're doing intelligence in their country if in fact they aren't adequately acting against the criminals. Then we want them to know that we know that. Preferably we might do something like help the media stumble over evidence that they aren't catching these serious criminals, and still don't reveal our intelligence operations in their country. A basic politeness that also helps keep our agents effective.

Now during the course of this campaign, our military assets or strikes will ipso facto need to cross into the territory of other sovereign nations. If those nations agree to cooperate with these actions, we call them "allies", we call the military maneuverings "joint actions", and carry on;

Well, no. First we give sovereign nations a chance to do it themselves. If our military goes bulling around in their country it causes trouble that may be avoidable. If they say they can't do it themselves then we look at joint actions. Usually countries that truly can't catch their own terrorists are disorganised to the point the terrorists can't do much there. I mean, they can set up training bases, right? So they train people in how to use cell phones to communicate without getting caught, but they have to use dummy cell phones because there's no cell phone service. They train people how to sabotage a subway system but they have to use a dummy subway system because there's no subway and no railroad. They train people how to sabotage a power plant but there's no power plant. They try to fund terror operations but there's no bank.... Etc, etc, etc. It kind of rankles to admit there's maybe a place a terrorist can hide, but if terrorists are hiding in a place where they don't have any plumbing maybe chasing them around there shouldn't be our highest priority.

if they refuse, and we determine it is necessary for us to enter that country anyways, it may become necessary to label them "enemies", seek out a Congressional declaration of war against that country, and invade.

Agreed. Better to give them a good solid chance to cooperate first, though. We want them to catch murderers who have killed innocent people. A hundred secretaries. A hundred cafeteria workers and janitors. Fifteen hundred stockbrokers -- maybe not innocent exactly, but they didn't deserve to be killed. Catching those murderers is the right thing to do. If they want to try them in their country under their laws that's fine, provided the end result is they execute them. (Sharia is particularly good for that, better than our laws.) Rule of law. Every wavering nation that then agrees to do the right thing is a great big improvement over another invaded country. Invasion nees to be one of the last choices, just in front of nuking them. It's way too much trouble for far too little good result. But if they insist on being an effective haven for murderers, then invasion may be the right thing to do.

For example, Afghanistan made the target list after refusing to help apprehend al Qaeda operatives within its borders.

We were way too quick to invade afghanistan. But we were upset and we wanted to invade something. If Taliban had agreed to turn Bin Ladin over to us and did it, that would have been a far better outcome than we actually got. If they'd agreed to do it and he escaped that would still be better than we actually got. If they decided to try him themselves and killed him, that would have been great. And if we'd given them a few more weeks to think it over, and they really decided not to, then the result is at worst mixed. They might have fought better, and they'd have had that time to prepare. We'd have had longer to subvert leaders and stockpile weapons and ammo etc to give the guys on our side. We got inside their OODA loop; they couldn't have decided to go after him in the time we gave them. You want to make events go that fast in an actual attack, but not when there's reason to hope they'll cave in before the attack.

"This is senseless. It's just crazy."

As senseless as advocating an utter lack of response? As crazy as letting a non-state entity cow the strongest nation on the planet?

I don't know where you get this stuff. You keep talking like you think I'm saying it.

to draw a minor distinction between myself and J Thomas, I think we gave the Taliban plenty of time to hand over Osama bin Laden. What's more, I think the quid pro quo where bin Laden killed Masood for them was pretty obvious.

And as a second distinction, I think the military losses at Pearl Harbor were significant. No one knew then the ability the US would soon display at construction of ships. (As the South African Alan Paton put it, while on a weeks-long train journey through America in 1948, "What ever could the Japanese have been thinking?")

But I'd like to get behind his general idea, that (with the significant exception of their dispersal in Afghanistan) the pests of Al Qaeda are now and have always been better thwarted by police than by invading third countries. Shall we have a narrative of the Falklands War where it's really about the IRA? But, pity for the USA, Pres. Bush just couldn't wait to try on that flight suit. Somehow an FBI SWAT uniform just wasn't good enough.

"What ever could the Japanese have been thinking?"

They'd looked at colonialists and colonies. They chose to be colonialists. They had no resources themselves, they didn't have much choice but a mercantilist economy. They had to get other nations to send them raw materials that they could process and sell as finished goods. So they set up their co-prosperity sphere.

We told them no, we wouldn't let them do that. Their choice then was to be imperialists without an empire or a colony without resources. So -- kind of like in a bridge game where you assume the opponents' cards fit the distribution you need because if they don't you lose no matter what, but if the cards fall the way you need you might win -- they looked at what it would take for them to get us to back down. And their answer was that if we were the kind of people who'd back down given a sudden sharp strike, then they could get by. Otherwise they'd lose no matter what they did.

I think if I was in their place I'd have tried to negotiate first. Ask the US guys what their plans are for us, and point out that we'd starve that way, and see if they come forward with something workable. Supposing they do, then there's the question whether to trust them -- because whatever plan they agree to that allows our survival surely won't leave us as strong, and if we have to fight better to fight now. What can we do if they doublecross us? But if they make it plain they want a war and give us no viable alternative, then what can we do but give them one?

Tht's silly. How could 9/11 cripple the USA either militarily or economically?

Economically: by shutting down NY, one of (if not the) major financial centers of the United States. By creating major fear, uncertainty, and instability in the country--which, in case you forgot, is a main tenet of using terrorism as a military strategy. By introducing a terrorist premium into all our transactions, including commodity prices and globally-linked foreign investments. By combining all these effects with an already ailing economy, to slide the US into recession or maybe even depression. Militarily: by potentially destroying crucial infrastructure at the Pentagon, along with high-value personnel targets (SecDef, Joint Chiefs, high ranking generals, etc). By taking out the White House and the Commander in Chief, which thankfully never happened because Flight 93 was downed before it reached its target.

This point was in reference to the attackers' motives, which were not to simply "annoy" the United States, but to greatly harm it. You're looking at the attacks in hindsight and saying "well they obviously weren't trying to hurt us badly, because they didn't manage to hurt us badly." Just because the were not as successful as they hoped, does not mean they should be treated as anything less than outright enemies.

I'm talking about a first attack.

FFS, if you get nothing else out of this argument, please get this through your head: 9/11 was not the first attack. It was not our first interaction with Islamic extremists, it was not the first time lives had been lost to terrorists--hell, it wasn't even the first time the WTC towers themselves had been attacked! The 1993 WTC bombings, the USS Cole, the Khobar towers, the variouse embassy bombings--these all occurred before 9/11. The body counts on those attacks were relatively low, but the trend line is glaringly obvious: Islamic extremists have demonstrated the desire, the means, and the will to carry out an escalating series of terrorist attacks on the United States, and if you ignore the escalation, calling responders "unbalanced" and "insane" like you have in this thread, you are an idiot.

If the dangerous attack comes first, you may lose a lot before you know you're in a fight. That didn't happen 9/11.

(1) No matter how many times you try to downplay it, we lost quite a bit in 9/11.

(2) Quite a number of us knew we were in a fight before 9/11. That attack served to relay the fact to the American population at large, and illustrated that we were in a life-and-death struggle which would not go away if we ignored it.

(3) You once again failed to respond to the point. Even if you think 9/11 was unimportant, you cannot deny it indicates we are in a fight with an opponent who is trying to kill us. Negotiations will not mitigate that fact--they historically have made the situation worse--and simply standing there allowing your opponent to attack, waiting until he actually does hurt you, is the worst idea you could advocate.

It's a little like saying you should ignore the guy who just shot a gun at you four times, because he merely grazed your arm each time while getting a little closer to your head each time. He's made his intentions perfectly clear, even if he's a bad shot. When you see the same guy aiming at you for another shot, the solution is not "look around for a bullet proof vest", the answer is to shoot him first.

You keep treating this like a fight between equals, and it isn't. Not so much like two guys having a fistfight.

No, I'm not. (You, on the other hand, implicitly put both sides on an equal footing when you started with your unworkable "individual defense" analogy.) I'm treating it like a fight between a big power and a little power. And if we were engaged on an open battlefield, that would be one thing; but the enemy has adopted terrorism as its tactic. The whole frickin' point of employing terrorism is to allow a lesser power to bring down a larger power; you are the one claiming a lesser force can never defeat a larger force, flying in the face of thousands of years' history of warfare.

Seriously, do you grasp the concept of asymetrical warfare at all? Are you somehow deluded to the point that you think the Big Guy always wins, so fights with the Small Guy are never worth fighting?

You look around and see mouseholes everywhere, no telling how many mice are here... But it's crazy to spend very much of your effort going after the particular mouse that bit you so you can defeat him man to mouse. Waging a vendetta against a mouse is stupid.

Which is exactly why Bush said he wasn't so focused on Osama bin Laden. Which is why the US expanded our efforts beyond just the initial invasion of Afghanistan. You're basically admitting that it doesn't make sense to treate the attack as a criminal matter--i.e. nabbing the sole perpetrator will solve the problem--but that a larger, broader campaign is necessary to stop the attacks before serious damage is done. And hey, look at that, Bush is fighting a larger campaign...

And let's not forget that we aren't talking about a single "bite" here. Ignoring 1 bite might make sense. Ignoring 4-5 of them, getting progressivly worse, is just an invitation for more attacks. Eventually you'll get seriously damaged, and if you just sat through all the "bad" bites without doing anything you have a serious problem with pattern recognition.

If you're living with a bunch of attack mice, it's far more important to get rid of them or -- failing that -- make their attacks ineffective, than it is to kill the mouse that got your attention.

In other words, it's stupid to go into the office wearing cast-iron underwear and pants with airtight seals at the ankles. It makes more sense to spend some time stopping up all the mouseholes, and spraying the entire building for mice. Trying to beef up your defenses alone, in the hopes that your attackers won't figure out a way around them (or a new place to attack), is the same thing as abdicating your power to your attackers.

Thanks for making my point for me. Did you have any analogies which actually support your thesis?

"Well, no. Mark, the USA lost no wealth when the stock market dropped. "

J, your mastery of economics is suspect. If i rip up your paycheck and tell you you'll get another one next week so you've lost nothing, that doesnt make a lot of sense. Stocks are worth what they are worth, what they are 'potentially worth' is built into that price. Otherwise Bill Gates would have bought the crap out of every one of those stocks and bought the solar system. Its called Capitalism for a reason. If your capital is in stocks that just lost there ass and you cant use that capital to produce wealth, you are losing wealth because you cant produce it. I wouldnt recomment opening a mutual fund with your beliefs.

From the "denial isn't just a river in Egypt" department:

I don't know where you get this stuff. You keep talking like you think I'm saying it.

Funny, I thought it was fairly self-evident from this thread alone. Let's go to the highlight reel, shall we? (And in the sake of brevity I'll leave out a lot of the risible stuff, and cite only a few passages regarding your preferred response to 9/11.)

#31: "What can we do to persuade the vast majority of arabs not to declare war on america? Judging by everywhere else, I'd say the first step is to take great care not to look like we're attacking them."

#39: "We'd do better against them by ignoring them directly (apart from criminal prsecution for their crimes) but getting a dialogue going with islamic nonradicals."

#41: "Say we had argued our case with the Taliban. We tell them why we think bin Ladin had done crimes that justified giving him to us even though he was their guest. Chances are they would have sneaked him out of the country and then told us he was no longer there, and we'd have had the chance to catch him elsewhere. Taliban agreeing that bin Ladin was a criminal would have been far more a victory in WOT than defeating Taliban."

#41: "If we sufficiently pretend that muslim governments are attempting to do the right thing, to some extent it will become true and to some extent they'll lose the respect of their people for not making it true."

#41: "You have to go after every secret terrorist group and every government that might perform or sponsor state terrorist incidents against the USA. Ideally we need to attack all of those before they hurt us. This is even less practical than setting up defenses."

#41: "We wouldn't know how well it [the disengage-and-talk option] could work until we tried it."

#48: "You keep pretending the issue is islamic radicalism. It is not."

#53: "9/11 was probably not an act of war because there was probably no nation behind it... A nation that intentionally shelters such criminals could be argued to be committing an act of war and in the most extreme case we might declare war and attack them. But the central push has to be to create defenses"

#53: "If we speak softly and intervene less for awhile, various of our enemies will notice that we aren't their primary concerns. They have other enemies closer to home."

So how, exactly, am I mischaracterizing your viewpoint when I say you favor internal defenses (which will never be adequate), lack of international military response (which led bin Laden to call the US a paper tiger and emboldened terrorist organizations of all stripes after previous attacks), a revocation of the wartime footing we've been on since 9/11 (since you believe it to be the result of "insanity" and unbalanced thinking), and talk or negotiations in lieu of direct physical response (which allows FTO's to maintain their safe havens while directing more attacks at the US)?

"Well, no. Mark, the USA lost no wealth when the stock market dropped. "

J, your mastery of economics is suspect. If i rip up your paycheck and tell you you'll get another one next week so you've lost nothing, that doesnt make a lot of sense.

Mark, you're mistaking the symbols for what they symbolise.

Imagine a community where everybody works hard. Each military-age man owns a gun and ammo. And many of them take their surplus money and play the c*sino to build up money for their retirements.

Somebody bombs the c*sino. How has that hurt the local economy? It hasn't hurt their ability to defend themselves, they still have their guns. It hasn't lost anybody jobs except for the c*sino workers, a handful from the total. Everything is chugging along as before, with the sole exception that it has temporarily interrupted the chance to play at the c*sino. How much would you expect this would reduce the community's prosperity?

Economically: by shutting down NY, one of (if not the) major financial centers of the United States.

"One monkey don't stop no parade." If they wanted to shut down NYC then they should have done something to shut down NYC. Lots of ways to do that. Bombing the bridges and tunnels would be a very good start. Poison the reservoir. Spread anthrax in the subway and then get it announced -- the panic would do more harm than the amount of anthrax they'd be ready to spread would do.

Or go after a nuclear plant. Indian point. Millstone? Maybe Oyster Creek? Limerick? Peach Bottom? It might be that if Philadelphia was more threatened than NYC then the new yorkers would decide they had nothing to worry about, people are funny in panics and you can't be sure what they'd do.

Or maybe, steal a nuke from a US warship. I wouldn't have any idea how to do that. A lot of former US navy guys would know, but could terrorists find a few who'd help them? It doesn't seem likely to me, but for any group it's hard to tell what the weirdest of them would do.

They could do a whole lot of damage with a few LNG tankers and a few LOX tankers, but it wouldn't scare people as much because they aren't scared of it already.

If they really wanted to damage our economy, they could go after refineries. Badly damage half our refinery output and we'd be hurting. It takes us a long time to rebuild those things, though maybe we could speed up the process if we tried.

By creating major fear, uncertainty, and instability in the country--which, in case you forgot, is a main tenet of using terrorism as a military strategy.

So pull up your socks. Don't let them drive you crazy. By getting scared, terrorized, you're playing into their hands.

Militarily: by potentially destroying crucial infrastructure at the Pentagon, along with high-value personnel targets (SecDef, Joint Chiefs, high ranking generals, etc).

They made no real effort at that. They could at least have found out which side of the building those guys had their offices at. They could have assigned at least ten planes to that target. But they didn't.

By taking out the White House and the Commander in Chief

That's absurd. Surely they thought about that a little bit. Take out Bush and leave President Cheney to run the reprisals? Possibly they timed it for when Bush was out of town and Cheney was sitting in the White House? It would be stupid of them to get rid of Bush, Bush is the best thing that ever happened to them, given their goals.

This point was in reference to the attackers' motives, which were not to simply "annoy" the United States, but to greatly harm it.

Bin Ladin said later that they didn't expect as much damage as they got. They attacked two targets that had high symbolic value to them, but that actually didn't inconvenience us much. You keep ignoring that. If their intention was to greatly harm us, they could have done that but they didn't try. My best guess is that their primary intention was to get publicity for their cause in the arab world. And we gave them far, far more favorable publicity than we needed to.

FFS, if you get nothing else out of this argument, please get this through your head: 9/11 was not the first attack.

Yes, they have never yet made a particularly damaging attack.

Even if you think 9/11 was unimportant, you cannot deny it indicates we are in a fight with an opponent who is trying to kill us.

You have no evidence. Was the IRA trying to kill england? Hardly. They had political goals, and they had monetary goals. They got more money from irish-american supporters after they made a splashy attack. They announced goals -- english out of ireland. One government for all of ireland. Procatholicism. They neither needed nor wanted to destroy england. They did some spectacular sabotage in england. Particularly they attacked high english officials to bring the war home to them. Where's your evidence that al qaeda's strategy is different?

The whole frickin' point of employing terrorism is to allow a lesser power to bring down a larger power

Do you have an example of an established government brought down by foreign terrorism? No. There are none.

The whole point of terrorism is to get support when you have none. When nobody is on your side, you can do terrorism and get media attention and hope it brings supporters. You don't hope to bring down the government, you hope to show the world you can do them damage aned survive as an organization.

Seriously, do you grasp the concept of asymetrical warfare at all?

Sure. You seem to think it's terrorism. You give no indication that you understand it at all.

"Waging a vendetta against a mouse is stupid."

Which is exactly why Bush said he wasn't so focused on Osama bin Laden.

Possibly. It's possible Bush wised up. More likely he was looking for an excuse for not getting bin Ladin after saying he would.

This is getting boring. You are consistently failing to understand what I say, and you repeat the same tired mistakes.

"Do you have an example of an established government brought down by foreign terrorism? No. There are none."

-Guatemala 1954. Thats usually exhibit A on the 'Why America is Incarnate Evil' leftist laundry list.

-Syrians have made a cottage industry of it in Lebanon, from the assassinations of Bachir Gemayel to Rafik Hariri.

-Ukraine came within a hairbreath last year when the KGB tried to assassinate Viktor Yushchenko.

-Have we forgotten Madrid already?

Mark, the syrians held lebanon without needing terrorists. They might have used them anyway, or might have been framed for that.

The USA didn't need terrorists in guatemala.

You seem to be classing the killing of leading politicians by foreign state assassins as terrorism. That doesn't fit the definition I'm used to. So I looked up definitions.

is defined by the US Department of Defense as "the unlawful use of -- or threatened use of -- force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives."

This would have the US government doing terrorism practically every time we threaten anybody. Of course we could come up with some sort of argument that when we do airstrikes or cruise missiles in third world countries we have a lawful right to do so, while of course they have no right to hit back.

The FBI defines terrorism as "the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

Woo. So any time the FBI or your local police break their rules about arrest etc, they're doing terrorism.

Any act including, but not limited to, the use of force or violence and/or threat thereof of any person or group(s) of persons whether acting alone or on behalf of, or in connection with, any organisation(s) or government(s) committed for political, religions, ideological or similar purposes, including the intention to influence any government and/or to put the public or any section of the public in fear.

OK, if you make people afraid it's terrorism. And it's terrorism if you try to influence the government, for example by threatening not to vote for them. This looks closer but it's a little too inclusive.

The systematic use of terror, the deliberate creation and exploitation of fear for bringing about political change

That one is closest to what I thought terrorism is. Assassinating one politician usually doesn't qualify, but it might sometimes.

a psychological strategy of war for gaining political ends by deliberately creating a well-founded climate of fear among the civilian popuation. Such a strategy may be used by an occupying army on the occupied population. Many terrorist acts, especially against an occupying military or against illegal occupants are acts of war or resistance, and not terrorism.

A psychological strategy for gaining political ends by deliberately creating a climate of fear among the civilian population. By that definition the DHS are terrorists. This definition is particularly badly worded since the third sentence says that many terrorist acts are not terrorism.

Oh well.

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