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War or No War

| 117 Comments | 2 TrackBacks

The op-ed by Todd Beamer's father, based on the Flight 93 movie, is behind the subscription firewall at the WSJ. Cardinalpark, however, has a key excerpt up over at Tigerhawk:

"This film further reminds us of the nature of the enemy we face. An enemy who will stop at nothing to achieve world domination and force a life devoid of freedom upon all. Their methods are inhumane and their targets are the innocent and unsuspecting. We call this conflict the "War on Terror." This film is a wake-up call. And although we abhor terrorism as a tactic, we are at war with a real enemy and it is personal.

There are those who would hope to escape the pain of war. Can't we just live and let live and pretend every thing is OK? Let's discuss, negotiate, reason together. The film accurately shows an enemy who will stop at nothing in a quest for control. This enemy does not seek our resources, our land or our materials, but rather to alter our very way of life.

I encourage my fellow Americans and free people everywhere to see "United 93."

Be reminded of our very real enemy. Be inspired by a true story of heroic actions taken by ordinary people with victorious consequences. Be thankful for each precious day of life with a loved one and make the most of it. Resolve to take the right action in the situations of life, whatever they may be. Resolve to give thanks and support to those men, women, leaders and commanders who to this day (1,687 days since Sept. 11, 2001) continue the counterattacks on our enemy and in so doing keep us safe and our freedoms intact.

May the taste of freedom for people of the Middle East hasten victory. The enemy we face does not have the word "surrender" in their dictionary. We must not have the word "retreat" in ours. We surely want our troops home as soon as possible. That said, they cannot come home in retreat. They must come home victoriously. Pray for them.

Right. The definition of "those who would hope to escape the pain of war" includes much of the American left (Sheehan/Moore, etc.) and much of the European elite. But there is a subtler division among the remainder.

We all do see the enemy for who he is and we read his own words and take them at their face value. Some of us recognize this as a Long War for Civilization, and think the obvious disparity in firepower and national economies masks a vulnerability in the West. The people we are fighting say certain things very clearly: we are infidels who have offended their religion, they are at war with us, and they want us to die. They may not have an air force, but they have other weapons, more intangible, perhaps more powerful. And we have weak spots. We could be brought down hard by a combination of lack of will and a few hard, well-timed terrorist strikes with the right volume.

To some of us, on the other hand, the Islamists are simply not a long-term threat worth the name of "enemy" or worth a serious reordering of American rights and priorities. They talk nasty and hurt when they can, but they should be taken no more seriously than a 5-year-old in a temper tantrum. 9/11 was something of a one-off, a combination of a few extraordinary individuals and good luck based on our lack of vigilance. A little more vigilance on our part will be sufficient to prevent a repeat performance. To involve American resources and lives in a major Middle Eastern "war" against this, with the inevitable bungles and unforeseen consequences, is doing more harm than good.

I am not trying to parody that view, but I perhaps don't capture it very well. I'm leaving out the figure of Bush, on both sides, because ultimately he doesn't matter. People who put him at the center of everything lose sight of the long-term picture.

The main difference among Americans today is that some of us believe the United States is at war, a dangerous war against a desperate enemy.

And other people don't believe that's true at all.

To the non-believers, the people who are waging war look insanely violent, paranoid, and unstable. To the people at war, it takes great mental effort to look at those who don't believe it and not see appeasers and useful idiots, if not outright traitors.

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Tracked: May 1, 2006 2:14 PM
The fire-ants analogy from The Glittering Eye
Excerpt: There’s an absolutely fascinating and, mostly, temperate and reasoned discussion going on in the comments to this post at Winds of Change.  Keep reading.  It gets better especially starting at around question #31.  There are lots of interestin...
Tracked: May 3, 2006 6:41 PM
Excerpt: Sorry for the slow blogging. Still shuttling back and forth from So Cal to WA. House in So Cal has not sold yet! Contact me privately if you know of anyone wanting to relocate in the Inland Empire Region of So Cal. Anyway there is an ab...

117 Comments

And stuck somewhere in the middle are those of us who are less interested in how we characterize the enemy we face, and more interested in not making a mess of whatever action we choose to take.

There is an almost tragically wide gulf between being right about the odious nature of our enemy and the threat they represent, and actual actions and policies that help reduce the threat. And I think many of us have unfortunately reached the point where arguing over who's right about how evil or dangerous al Qaeda is, really is so much ado about deck chairs. Until we demonstrate that we can act competently (and both parties have been idiot savants on this subject), our nation-wide mental context vis-a-vis the war on terror feels less and less relevant.

Making a mess is okay, as long as you learn from it and follow it up with more effective action. The important thing is to learn how to knock the jihadi down and keep him down. Stop debating the fine points--that's idiotic. Get straight in your mind what's at stake. If you're not bright enough to understand the stakes, then just get the f*** out of the way.

It's my understanding that Al Qaeda refers to it as the "Long War". Can we afford to view it otherwise? I think not.

Wish my old blog host hadn't closed shop and taken the redeye to wherever, but I've been calling this a decade-long struggle (at least) from the get-go.

This problem will cross administrations. I wish everyone would keep that in mind.

I'll watch this movie tomorrow!

This problem will cross administrations.

The problem is, "this problem" isn't very well-defined at all. Thus, any response beyond the three minutes' hate against The Jihadis!™ is problematic.

Is "this problem" every radical Islamic state in the Middle East? Was "this problem" the more-or-less secular Iraqi regime -- which, remember, had nothing to do with 9/11?

Is "this problem" a direct threat posed by the nation-state of Iran? If so, do we deal with it by making war on Iran? What are the potential costs of such a course? There's lots of talk on this site about "the enemy," but you all seem very ecumenical about defining him.

Remember, as you agitate for a very Long War indeed: there are limits to American power. We are up against them right now. We can not afford another trillion-dollar adventure in the Middle East, and if you doubt me check our national debt levels.

Any critics are welcome to post thier solutions. But, after wasting my breath for years, its now my policy only to take people seriously if they have a plan.

But, after wasting my breath for years, its now my policy only to take people seriously if they have a plan.

Here's my plan:

Don't invade Iraq.

What's that you say? The leadership of my nation invaded anyway, and did it about as incompetently as possible? Well.

Then, I'd suggest that we, as a people, don't follow that same leadership team into another -- startlingly similar -- misbegotten military adventure.

Stickler, you were doing sort of OK when you pointed out the danger of tunnel vision. I agree on the matter of "this problem" being fuzzy.

Then, very next post of yours on this thread, you appar to put on your own beer goggles about "it" being (I'll take a wild guess here) Iran.

No argument that some people are spinning it that way. Well and good. Assume we've noticed that.

Got anything substantive to say about the nontopical, even nonpartisan -- that is to say, "long" -- parts of the general issue?

Bring it. Please.

PS: "about as incompetently as possible" implies that you have a really poor capacity to imagine what severe incompetence really looks like. It's a common lack of perspective; lots of people on both sides of the aisle have it. It can be hard to engage in constructive discussion with such people.

Some people even find it as impossible as possible. :)

Please step away from the inflated rhetoric.

... its now my policy only to take people seriously if they have a plan.

Here's my plan:

Skip the next election, and lease the White House to the Democratic Party for four years.

(The lease will stipulate that they are not allowed to appoint any judges, approve any promotions to general, or play with the nuclear football.)

Their sole metaphysical objective having been achieved, history will come to an end for Democrats (cf. Hegel, Fukuyama) and the universe outside of the District of Columbia will effectively cease to exist for them, leaving the rest of us to deal with it as best we can. We can start by digging bunkers, organizing neighborhood watches, and training for partisan warfare.

While ever there are governments and groups who teach their children to hate then there will be no change.

It will take at least two generations of better education before change will be possible.

We are in this for the long term. get used to it.

The issue for the US is how to make the voters and their children understand the problem without the messenger being impeached or just voted out of office.

How do you inculcate into the population the fact that people want to wipe out America and it will take a long time to fix the problem. The school system will not do it.

My worry for the short term is the Dems taking power and walking away from everything as they have done so many times before.

"Don't invade Iraq"

And you guys wonder why no one will take you seriously on National Security, at least...not enough to actually elect you.

So, once again a liberal here demonstrates that there is no plan from the Democratic Party...other than sideline anklebiting.

Get back to us when you have an actual plan; one that doesn't involve a time machine. I won't wait up.

stickler says "..don't follow that same leadership team into another ... military adventure."

However, at least for some, it seems difficult to determine whether the main problem is with the adventure/operation, or with the leadership.

Most likely the Iranian issue will reach terminal crisis early in the next administration. Absent regime change, I wonder how much patterns of support and opposition might vary if the President ordering military action is named Hillary Rodham Clinton rather than (say) John McCain.

For that matter, if the UK has a Conservative government by the crisis point, it might be interesting and instructive to observe how many British Conservative politicians and commentators judiciously determine that this military action is necessary and prudent.
Of course, any suspicion that their views might shift because they no longer had an overwhelming political requirement to BASH BLAIR! would be completely unjustified. Or at any rate unprovable.

On both sides of the Atlantic, and on both sides of politics, it's as well to reflect that some thing are really are too important for partisan politics to be the paramount concern. That it may be wise to differentiate between opponents and enemies.

I'm a (Burkean) conservative who wouldn't vote for Hillary Clinton for dog catcher. But I'll make a pledge right now. If Hillary bombs or invades Iran early in her administration, I'll vote for her for re-election.

Stickler, your plan not to invade Iraq is a good one. Fire up your TARDIS and go have a talk with Governor Bush, explain how incompetent he will be as President, and watch him vow not to run. (In the next scene evil Karl Rove learns of Bush's decision not to run, attempts to kill your lovely sidekick, Bush jumps to her rescue taking the bullet instead, and with his waning strength brains Rove with a Texas Rangers baseball bat.)

Getting serious, how about these specific questions: Assume we did invade Iraq in 2003. I take it you want an exit strategy. What would that exit strategy be? And why would that strategy make the world a safer place in the short, medium, and long run?

About terrorism: How do we attack a set of like-minded, well-funded, geographically dispersed, digitally connected actors/organizations that are hell-bent on the destruction of western civilization? These actors can be assumed to not follow standards of conduct which we expect of ourselves. Any weapon or tactic at their disposal can be expected to be used.

About Iran: What form of leverage will you use to deter their nuclear ambitions? Assume the regime there for the last 30 or so years has made hatred of America something of a fetish, and that there is little sign of any potential to change.

These are serious questions. I have not problem at all with an argument that starts with the statement that the Bush administration is incompetent. However, arguments that end there do nothing to make me think you and yours could do any better.

I am a general supporter of the war against Al Qaeda, sadly that war has not been prosecuted as I would like to have seen it.

I supported Iraq based on what I knew of the region, its consistant snubbing of the 91 cease fire, the possiblity of WMD's and Saddams willingness to support terrorists, and the need to give one of the more vile regimes in the ME a bloody nose so as to prove that we were not the Paper Tiger that the ME generally percieved us as.

I do not support nation building combined with muddled post-war reconstruction plans that seem to change daily.

There is a true disconnect between this administration, congress and the American public. The Administration has done a horrible job at selling the public on its war plan, on explaining why the need is there. You can't just say "stay the course" and expect people to keep buying it year after year when the progress ins't being realized. And even when progress is taking place, the Administration fails to highlight it, fails to get the message to the people, and fails to capitalize on it. Now I know a good portion of that is a direct effect of a Press/Media that is violently opposed to the Administration and the war, and doing their best to play down positive outcomes. But the Administration could do a far better job of getting the message out. Sadly all I see anymore is a bunker mentality.

It probably doesn't help that this administration has decided to crap all over its base with some of the most insane policies as of late. This meddling in the price of gas, the absurd amnesty programs are just two major slaps in the face to the conservative base. The rampant spending by Congress and the Presidents inability to comprehend the VETO adds insult to injury.

I lost friends on 9/11. My wifes mothers neighbor was killed in the Pentagon when the flight flew basicaly into his office. I am not a member of the public that has forgotten 9/11, but I'm frustrated that our policies seem to have been so misguided in many respects when it comes to thwarting further attacks. One need only look at the pathetic beuarcracy that the DHS has become to get the feeling that this could happen again.

Yes, Bush bungled the first few years of the Long War. But I have no doubt that so would have Al Gore or John Kerry, albeit maybe in different ways. The truth is that the U.S. has never faced an enemy quite like this one, who operates at least as much in the realms of memetic warfare, mob intimidation of civilian authority and the private sector, and leveraging demographic trends than in actual terrorism and armed combat. So, it's quite possible that we'll be saddled with at least one, if not two or three, more Presidents after Bush who'll continue to muddle through the war before we finally get one who can fully grasp everything it will take to win it.

"Everything in war is very simple, but the simplest thing is difficult." - Karl Von Clausewitz

Whats the story with hotmail addys getting kicked out of the email field? Not good.

Get back to us when you have an actual plan; one that doesn't involve a time machine. I won't wait up.

Typical. You drive the two of us off a cliff, then bitch because I didn't bring along a parachute.

And as usual, Glen Wishard's "plan" is about as useful as his past 60 claims of victory. Though I have absolutely no doubt he'd love to see us skip the next few elections.

This site consists of a crew of self appointed "experts" who have consistantly gotten it wrong on foreign policy and mocked those who turned out to be right. Heck, even bringing in Wretchard couldn't seriously affect the pitiful gravitas rating on this group.

And so, having shredded what credibility they may have once had, they are left with only ranting about how bad it "could have been".

But since you're desperate for a "plan" that you can then deconstruct and deride, here ya go.

The next time we get advances through back door channels from Iran, listen. Seal off the office of the Vice President so that there's no chance the morons there could possibly leak into these conversations. Beg Powell, even though he's pretty sad, he's the best you've got, to take part in those conversations and find out what possible diplomatic options we have. (I know, I know, you read it as capitulation.. )

Unilaterally rescind the recent agreements regarding nuclear weapons/ power with India and tell them it's time to sign off on the NPT. Otherwise the world will rightly claim that we have not a double, but dozens of standards when it comes to nuclear proliferation. In other words, try to gain back a bit of the credibility we've tossed out the window over the past 5 years.

Finally, apply strong pressure for democracy throughout the mid east region. Not just in those areas we're considering invading.

None of this will happen of course and we'll waste precious time in addressing these issues in a reasonable manner making the job that much harder for whoever takes over from this miserable crowd.

At that point, you'll complain about a lack of progress and of course, scream like children about the inevitable tax hikes that will be required to clean up this mess.

We've seen it all before. And I doubt it will be any different this go around.

"The next time we get advances through back door channels from Iran, listen."

I'm sorry, I don't get it. Could you possibly explain what this means.

Thank You

I understand that point Joshua, but I just don't see our leaders adapting to the enemy, and countering them effectivly. We continue to let Al Qaeda win the PR war and shape the discussion. As long as Bin Laden is running around making videos, his very existance will be synonymous with US failure, same with Zarqawi. I understand tracking down an individual within these areas is difficult, but 5 years later and still we appear no closer to snagging the guy?

Are we incapable or unwilling to put the kind of pressure on Pakistan that is required to nail this guy?

Gabriel: I wasn't going to respond to anyone that offered a substanceless post, but I'll make an exception for you because your tone is radically different than the average critic and because your closeness to 9/11 gives you greater authority to give voice your emotions and frustrations.

I've long said that Bush was a mediocre President in time that called for greatness. Simply put, he's in over his head. The liberal moonbats claim that Bush is stupid. That is not the problem. This is typical liberal confusion of charisma with intelligence. On a stage, I would look like a great idiot too. Bush's biggest problem is that he has no charisma. The country needs a statesman who can through the force of his rhetoric unite the country behind a common cause. Bush is not such a man. At best, Bush is the sort of guy you want by your bedside when you are sick to say a prayer with you and offer a few words of comfort and a hand to hold. He's not the orator we are looking for who can give the public a common vision.

Moreover, Bush is as you noted not really a conservative. As I have said many times before Bush is a liberal who happens to be a born again Christian. The Bush family comes from the liberal wing of the party. Bush was educated in a liberal university. The policies that Bush have implemented are centrist to leftwing 'compassionate conservative' with a strong dash of newly acquired Wilsonianism. So yes, there has been a very strong disconnect throughout his Presidency with his base. I've held my nose both times I voted for him. I loath voting for a liberal - even a Christian one - and frankly good for him to be a 'reformed drunk', praise the Lord, but I'd like to think we could do better for a President.

However, let's be fair to this President.

On his watch since 9/11:

1) Al Queda has not been able to mount an attack on US soil over the course of 5 years, and indeed has made no successful operations against US interests outside of war zones of our chosing. Compare that rate of success to the success we had stopping Al Queda attacks prior to 9/11.
2) The President's boldness has lead to Libya giving up its WMD program, which proved to be at a state more advanced than anyone would have believed.
3) The President's boldness has lead to Sudan ending its then 16 year long war in the eastern Sudan.
4) The President's boldness has forced Syria to withdraw from Lebanon.
5) The US has been involved in the a large number of peaceful revolutions in the caucus regions, resulting in the spread of democracy and greater US access to this critical region in the WoT.
6) The US has overthrown the Taliban regime in spectacular fashion, demoralizing Al Queda and many of its followers and driving its surviving leadership from Afghanistan, liberating a large number of people from the Taliban's tyrannical grip and has lost less than 300 troops in more than 4 years of peace keeping missions.
7) Under Bush, the nuclear trading ring of AQ Khan has been reigned in and Pakistan has been turned from one of the main exporters of Islamist hate to, at least for now, a valuable ally in the WoT.
8) Under Bush, North Korea's nuclear blackmail has been ended. We are no longer paying for the development of thier missile and nuclear technology simply to keep them quiet and beneath the political radar of the American public, and we are no longer artificially propping up the regime.
9) Under Bush, Operation Southern and Northern Watch were brought to close, after failing to significantly stop Saddam Hussein from avoiding UN sanctions at the cost of the lives of dozens of Americans. In a dramatic military action, our Kurdish allies were liberated, the oppressed people of Southern Iraq freed from thier slavemasters, the marshlands restored, and a tyrantical and dangerous man was removed from power. And we finally got some good answers on the state of Iraq's WMD program, and fortunately we found none.
10) Bush's pressure on the ME to adopt democratic reforms has forced at least token increases in liberties in Egypt, Saudia Arabia, Kuwait, and several other countries who now feel that they should at least try to appear to be moving toward democracy.

And so far, nearly 5 years into this long war, the US has lost fewer people than it lost on the first day of it - or at least the first day of it.

So, no things have not been planned or executed to perfection. But things aren't exactly going badly either.

One of the reasons that I'm not as critical of the US war plan as some is beginning on 9/12 I set down with some friends and did my own brainstorming about what to do. Going into Afghanistan was obvious, but it was equally obvious that that alone wouldn't do it. Basically two plans evolved - 'containment first' and 'strategic center first'. I advocated 'containment first', which would have meant hitting places like the Sudan ahead of Iraq. The President's staff appears to have adopted 'strategic center first'.

I'm a humble enough person to recognize that things could have gone even more disasterously with a containment first plan. For example, some of the big problems of going into the Sudan were:

a) It would have almost certainly meant breaking the country up. This would have been seen as a 'reconquista' by the Islamic world, and would have greatly contributed to the perception that we were making a war on Islam generally.
b) It would have almost certainly moved China closer to the Islamist camp, as it would have been percieved by China as an attempt to cut off its access to African oil.
c) Security operations in the Northern Sudan would almost certainly been fraught with all the difficulties we've had in Iraq.
d) Security operations in Southern Sudan, would be complicated by all the following: the country is EIGHT times the size of Iraq, their are 50% more people in the Sudan than Iraq, the government of Iraq is controlled by the plurality ethnic group not the minority (black Sudanese must properly be divided into a large number of ethnic groups speaking a rather large number of languages).
e) Going after the Sudan would have put no particular pressure on Arab governments, as the Sudan does not occupy the same symbolic ground that the Iraqi Baath party does.
f) The Sudan is a miserably poor, ethnically, and ideologically diverse tribal nation. While this certainly suggests a humanitarian motive for going into the Sudan, the near term future of the Sudan as a properous democratic state is even more remote than Iraq (for example compare with Kurdistan), or at the least Iraq seemed at the time a more plausible candidate. Whether this proved true upon closer inspection is a matter of debate.

I'm still somewhat regretful that we didn't try the Sudan first, but I'm not about to suggest that things necessarily would have gone better. Honestly, given the total lack of experience that the US has with the tools of empire, its no surprise at all that nation building programs have not gone so well. Heck, our own 'reconstruction' on our own nation was a more miserable failure than what is going on in Iraq under any standard.

"Are we incapable or unwilling to put the kind of pressure on Pakistan that is required to nail this guy?"

Pakistan has probably nailed more Al Qaeda members and leaders than the US has, I think its unfair to assume they arent carrying their share of the load. We saw what happened a year or so ago when the Pakistani army tried to go into the tribal areas- basically war broke out and the army didnt fare all that well.

I think its worth entertaining the notion that OBL simply has an outstanding place to hide. It would be a horrible idea for the US to send the multi-divisions it would take to root out the area (which still stands a high probability of failure), how then do we ask the Pakistanis to do what we arent willing to? It would require a far larger force for them to do it, and that could well destabalize the regime. Losing Pakistan to the zealots would be a far deadlier blow to us than OBL putting out the occasional video tape from his cave at the end of the world.

Davebo, thanks for providing real opinions in addtion to the insults. I'm still not seeing much in the way of concrete suggestions, except that we should punish the world's most populous democracy (with whom our relations have improved quite a bit recently) in order to shame a country where the government starts each meeting by chanting "Death to America".

(FWIW, I agree that we should just ditch the NNPT. Its an embarrasment on so many levels.)

I'm not suggesting we punish Idia. Just hold them to the same rules as everyone else.

The deal we struck with India was one of desperation and it reflects that. Bush was determined to leave with a signed deal even if it meant capitulating on every level which he did.

And if you think I suggested we scrap the NPT, you're not reading what I wrote. Sadly you don't even seem willing to attempt to deconstruct my suggestions but rather just pick one, misrepresent it, and then ignore everything else.

Jeffrey, it means engagind in direct dialogue with Iran when they offer it. Sadly it's probably too late for that now but I still hold out hope. Had we been willing to when they offered in 2003 we'd could possibly be in a much better situation regarding Iran today. Of course it's possible that it would have done no good. But you've got to try.

Unfortunately at the time we were far too busy beating our chests and leading ourselves into a disaster to bother at the time.

Davebo:
Back-channel negotiations with Iran might be sensible. At any rate, unless/until the time-urgency is so great that an Iranian talk-for-time ploy is too perilous. Avoiding meddling from alternate internal power-centres is also sensible.

Pressure for democracy throughout the M.E. Yes...but:
This could risk driving Arabia &/or Egypt (those are the states you mean, I assume) into enmity either from dislike of that pressure OR from regime collapse and potential of replacement by elected (one man, one vote, once) Muslim Brotherhood or similar.
Democracy promotion has to be part of the long-term strategy. Whether it's sensible to push this too hard (as opposed to encouraging incremental reform) short-term is debateable. It may be better to take it in stages: maximise time in Iraq, get back to pressurising Syria, wait as long as possible on Iran, then address Egypt, Saudi, Pakistan.

However: "Unilaterally rescind the recent agreements ... with India..."
This is not a good idea. Do you seriously want to add India to the list of states with ill-will toward the USA? India would not forgive this for a generation or more.
Arguably Russia, China etc. have been obstructive out of misperception of regional interest, conditioned reflex from the Cold War era, a desire to prove independence by sticking a finger in the American eye, and to impede US dominance almost by instinct.
Your proposal, however, would give India a massive, substantial, permanent grievance that could not be removed without another volte face.
It would create an enemy,and add to the dangerous reputation of the US for diplomatic unrelability.
It would also require a similar demarche re. Pakistani nukes, and now is NOT the time for that either.
Frankly, this verges on the crazy.

"... the world will rightly claim that we have not a double, but dozens of standards..."
Of course there are differing standards. It is both perilous and insulting in international relations treat both friends and enemies the same.

John,

I'm guessing you aren't familiar with the agreement itself no?

As to angering India, we've created a lot of the current problems in an attempt not to anger supposed allies. Does the name Khan ring a bell?

India will get over it. Frankly they were jaw dropped amazed we agreed to it in the first place.

Davebo,

I'm having a bit of trouble piecing it all together. What's your preferred approach for dealing with Iran, and what would you do vis-a-vis India?

There are plenty of us who think this enemy is a very serious threat, requiring serious action, and who believe that the Bush administration is doing exactly the wrong things. They are doing precisely what Osama bin Laden wanted to accomplish with his terrorist acts.

OBL's goal was to foment global war between Islam and the West. This would polarize the youth of Islam, away from Western values and towards his brand of fundamentalist Islam. We are playing his game plan, precisely. Iraq was a big step forward for his plan, and Iran would be another. He doesn't care how many Muslims get killed in the process. Even if some of those killed are terrorists from his group, the hatred we inspire will cause dozens more to arise to replace each one fallen.

You want a plan?

Two years ago, I wrote an essay, How to Defeat Terrorism. As I have followed events since then, I am even more convinced that this plan will work, and nothing else will. (By the way, contrary to the intro they provided to my essay, I am not a "terrorism expert". Just someone who thinks hard about these things.)

It's hard, dangerous work. It requires courage, and we will take casualties. It is not appeasement. It is not hoping everyone will just be nice. But it does require realizing that we are not the ones who will win this war. We can provide the support that allows Muslims to win this war. These are the only weapons that will be effective.

Some of what's happening on the ground in Iraq is exactly in line with my suggestions, no thanks to the Pentagon leadership and their failure to plan for the post-invasion steps that would actually defeat the terrorists. My problem with the Bush administration is that the relevant factors seem to be simply invisible to them.

What success we have had in Iraq has been largely due to the good sense of our individual troops and local commanders there. Many of those success stories have been documented here, for good reason. The failure at the top is to recognize that those are the powerful weapons that will win. If the leaders fail to build or deploy the right weapons, and don't know what it would mean to aim them effectively, then is it a surprise that the war goes poorly, even with many people on the ground doing their pretty good best.

We are watching the unfolding of a tragedy. Our leaders strike at shadows, and fail to act in ways that would defeat our enemies.

Davebo means dialogue (appeasement) with Iran, and the breaking of our treaty with India (South Viet Nam anyone?), a tremendous and valuable ally.

In other words he's a picture perfect Democrat who is absolutely wrong about everything.

Always remember that the American left associates America's defeat in Viet Nam with their ascension to power and they can't wait to defeat America again in a Republican led war. Hey it worked once before. Maybe a decade or two with lot's of sex and coke will follow again too!

Paul,

If you truly believe that dialogue equals appeasement then what are we waiting for? What decision is left to be made other than nuke or conventional?

As to "breaking our treaty" with India, we have no treaty with India. Unless you've got some information on congress ratifying a treaty with India of late. Now regarding the idea of breaking our recent agreement with India, it was a bad agreement and settled on purely out of political concerns instead of foreign policy concerns. That's a good enough reason for me.

Perhaps the biggest problem you have with my post is that you are ignorant of the underlying facts it's based on. I can't be sure of course, but that certainly seems to be the case.

Benjamin Kuipers: Before I set about trying to rhetorically evicerate your plan, let me say something.

WOOHOO!! ACTUAL SUBSTANCE!!! HOORAY!!!

You made my day. I think your plan is dog droppings, but at least you are thinking seriously about this and you do have some insights once you worm them away from your thesis. Sadly, I think you completely miss that the US's current plan basically involves the same insights.

First, the good part. You correctly realize that the strategic center of the war is the population that the terrorists depend on for support. Good for you. But you don't develop what I see as a workable plan based on that, and you neglect some really important observations.

a) The 9/11 operation was carried out in a country which has a rather strong 'blue line' and respect for law and order. Terrorism - just like crime - can exist and be successful pretty much without regard to support from the local population. No community really wants muggers operating in its neighborhood, regardless of what they think of the police, and yet muggings continue to happen. Given the scale of damage caused by international terrorism, to say nothing of the potential scale, you can't fight terrorism with the tools you use to fight crime.
b) Your analysis of the Hamas/Isreali situation is interesting, but fatally flawed in one respect. If you plot a graph of the number of terrorist attacks on Israeli soil a graph of the number of attacks the Israeli's make on palestinian targets you'll see that as Israel retaliates the number of attacks they experience decrease. The more restrained they are in thier responce, the more attacks that they suffer. You talk about trust in the thin blue line, but you miss a very important point. From the perspective of an Israeli citizen, it doesn't matter how much support Hamas enjoys in Palestine. What matters is that bombs don't blow up in cafes. That trust in the government is shaken every time a bomb blows up and the government doesn't do anything about it. Using your analogies, it would be like if you say a criminal shoot your neighbor and you called the police and they said, "Well, we are refraining from retaliating against the shooter because we don't want to increase his support in his community." Trust is broken by police brutality, or percieved police brutality. But it is also broken by percieved police apathy and inaction.
c) Hamas's authority is increased in its community when colateral damage from Israeli retaliation suffering on the percieved innocents. But that is far from the only source of Hamas's authority, and in my opinion it is not the most important one. Hamas and the PLO's most import source of authority in the palestinian community is the perception that they can achieve victory. Hamas wins when Israel retaliates, but it gets an even larger victory when Israel doesn't. The calculus works the same for both sides, when you would have it work one way for one side and one way for another. Let's say Hamas blows up a bus. Israel retaliates. So Hamas blows up another bus. Israel retaliates. So Hamas blows up another bus. So Israel retaliates. Then for whatever reason Hamas doesn't blow up a bus. Isn't it obvious that to an Israeli, the outcome 'Hamas doesn't blow up a bus' reflects far better on the Israeli government than the outcome 'Hamas blows up another bus.' This is because the outcome, 'Hamas doesn't blow up a bus', is percieved as a victory. The fewer buses that blow up, the more esteem that the government will be held in. The calculus works the same way for Hamas. If in that long chain it is Israel refrains from retaliating, Hamas can declare victory and is perceived by the Palestinian people as being closer to 'winning'.
Yes, the immediate impact of retaliation is to solidy hatred against the attacker. But the long term impact of retaliation is not. Consider how you would feel if every time the US dropped some bombs somewhere, a building blew up in America. The first few times this happened, you'd just get angrier and demand more bombs be dropped. But as more buildings blew up, sooner or latter you're anger would turn from the guys blowing up the buildings to the incompotent government that was failing to prevent buildings from blowing up. Sooner or latter the realization of defeat would set in, and the consequences of deprivation would leave you long for an end of the conflict. This is precisely how Israel has successfully ended palestianian wars against it, and IMO had the world not meddled in conflict and artificially propped up the terrorists and granted to them a perception of victory amongst the Palestinians that there would be peace there today.
d) Crime is internal to a community. Terrorism - at least the sort of terrorism we are waging war on - is not. It's reasonable to suspect that you're esteem for criminals will decrease when you see thier actions occuring to you and your neighbors. It's not reasonable to suggest that when the criminal does something entirely outside of your perception that you'll necessarily loath him for it. Has it not occurred to you that part of the strategy of the WoT is to force the terrorist to fight in 'his own neighborhood' so that that the terrorist's supporters will see precisely what sort of people they actually are.
When you say, "The biggest danger to the terrorist is the trust that the people have in the authorities.", you are locked into the problem of still seeing terrorism as something happening internally to the community. If the terrorists are the authorities, the trust that the people have in the authorities may well be based on thier ability to successfully conduct acts of terror.

Now having considered the philosophical basis of your plan, lets move on to the steps you actually advocate.

1) "avoid getting killed by them"

This is like saying, "Score more points than the opposition" is a good sports plan. Duh! How do we go about doing this?

2) "make it clear that overwhelming power is available, but avoid using it"

How will we make it clear that overwhelming power is available if we don't demonstrate it? For that matter, is overwhelming power available? We are not invincible. Moreover, Osama Bin Ladin's claim was that America appeared strong, but was in fact weak because it lacked the will to use its strength. Is thier any real difference in being weak and being unable or unwilling to use your strength? The majority of Al Queda's recruitment success and operational success occurred during a period in which the US had overwhelming power but refrained from using it, and each time the US refrained from using it Osama Bin Ladin increased his authority because it appeared to validate his claim of US weakness.

3) "gain the trust of the general population"

Which general population? The US general population? The islamist general population? Third party general populations? You are aware are you not that actions which might increase the trust of the US general population, might decrease the trust of the Islamist population and vica versa.

4) "refute the terrorists lies"

Since one of Osama Bin Ladin's major claims was that the US was a coward who would flee and crumble when attacked, how would you reconcile refuting this specific claim with #1. For that matter, how would you go about refuting any of Osama Bin Ladin's specific claims - and in particular those which are religious in nature.

5) "create, publicize, enforce, and obey a simple "Bill of Rights""

We've got one. It's never seemed to much impress the terrorists. For that matter, Iraq has got one. Supposing we created one for say Syria, how would we go about imposing this Bill of Rights on Syria without removing the current regime? How do you address the fact that Constitutional Law itself is seen by many Islamists as an attack on the Koran?

6) "Demonstrate even handedness in local disputes"

I would argue that we do this already, at least as best as we are able. You are aware of course that when you demonstrate even handedness, you tend to offend at least one party. When you are judging a dispute, its very hard to get both sides to accept your judgement. This is particularly true in tribal cultures where 'justice' typically is seen as 'favoring me over him'. For example, are you aware that much anti-American sentiment in Greece is do to the fact that we intervened to stop Serbian atrocities when Serbia was seen as an ally? And in any event, how do we do this unless we intervene in local disputes which brings us back to point #1.

7) "Demonstrate justice, even when treated unjustly"

See #6.

8) "Avoid massive retaliation even when taking casualties"

Show me any signs that we've ever preferred in this war to engage in massive retaliation over risking taking casualties. Do you have any idea at all what 'massive retaliation' would look like? Why the heck do you think we are bothering with infantry wars anyway?

9) "Visibly work for economic justice of the oppressed"

See #6

10) "The people will turn the terrorists in for trial and prosecution"

It was a good think I wasn't drinking any milk when I read this sentence.

Let me see:

Step A: Do nothing.
Step B: Without interfering with the terrorists, reward the population for thier support of the terrorists.
Step C: Publically claim moral superiority.
Step D: The population turns in terrorists for thier acts of terror against a foreign population.

Riiiiiiighhhhttttt.

Some other sentenses which caught my eye:

"The whole point of terrorism is to provoke massive retaliation"

The whole point? The whole point? No, the point of terrorism is to demonstrate your strength and viciousness. This is like saying that the whole point of bullying someone is to get them to fight back.

"Even so, to win against terrorism, they must be treated like ordinary criminals"

That worked so well for us back in the '90's.

You go on to site two examples of domestic terrorism. Did it never once occur to you that international terrorism was distinctly different than domestic terrorism in at least one important way?

Davebo, I'm sorry I implied that you were in favor of scrapping the NNPT. (Never post in haste. Never post in haste....)

What I meant was that I agreed with the following regarding breaking our relationship with India:
Otherwise the world will rightly claim that we have not a double, but dozens of standards when it comes to nuclear proliferation.

That's a valid point. My counter-argument is that the NNPT is such a useless instrument that paying any lip service to it is counter-productive, and in exactly the way you describe.

India is not Iran. I can't see a logical reason to treat them the same. In my opinion we should have as many standards as their are nuclear aspirants. That strikes me as a more nuanced approach to a growing problem.

As to dialogue with Iran, what part of "Death to America" aren't you getting? Or to be less of a smartass in my questioning, what can we offer to Iran in exchange for them giving up their nuclear ambitions?

I'm serious. When people start talking about dialogue between countries, the question that immediately comes to mind is "what are we going to talk about"?

Maybe it would go like this:
"Die Yankee Dog!"

"Okay, we feel your pain. Help us to help you."

"Give us nuclear technology!"

"Gee, I don't know, Mahmoud. We're pretty much opposed to nuclear proliferation. What would you do with it?"

"We would use it for strictly peaceful purposes. Unless we were threatened. Then a fire would burn over the lands of the infidel."

"Okay, we were fine with that right up to the third sentence."

"You are threatening me! Die Yankee Dog!"
And so on.

In negotiations, as a rule, there are carrots and sticks. Frankly, I can't think of a carrot to offer the Iranian government right now. And the trouble is, in all the dialogueing Britain, France, and Germany have done with Iran, the only carrot that anyone mentions Iran wanting has been one that glows in the dark. If you could point me to something else that's been mentioned, I always like more info.

Regards,
Mark Poling

Mark,

The NPT is far from perfect, but to claim it's useless is disengenuous if you ask me. There are IMO, far fewer countries with nuclear weapons than there would be had it never been enacted.

Now you may say "who cares whether or not Finland has nuclear weapons?" but I think it is positive that they don't and that they were still able to develop nuclear power generation.

As to dialogue with Iran, well we won't know until it's attempted. They certainly wouldn't be the first country to bluster loudly for the benefit of their populace while reaching agreements quietly in the background including agreements that may reach a positive goal while providing a bit of cover for them with the folks back home.

It's a heck of alot better than all the other options we have if you ask me and to take more drastic steps without even trying dialogue would be grossly irresponsible.

But again, it would most likely have been more fruitful 3 years ago when the opportunity arose. But at that time our leadership had "other priorities".

India is NOT signatory to the NNPT. Neither is Israel. Iran is. The Norks were, until they repudiated it.

Did I miss something? When did Davebo gain access to all back-channel diplomatic occurrences, that he's able to say the US has rejected them all? Or does "back channel" no longer mean "top secret, or at least secret enough that random bloggers don't know about". How do you know that the current situation with Iran isn't the result of some such secret negotiation taking place and failing back in 2003? How could you tell the difference between a situation where no negotiations were made, and one where negotiations took place and failed?

Heck, the EU has been in talks with Iran for years, with no positive outcome. In theory, the EU would be even more "receptive" to such diplomatic maneuverings than the US, yet EU/Iran relations have gone south and nuke talks have failed. Why aren't you going after the EU for bungling theoretical "back-channel advances" instead?

You have to understand, to someone intent on not doing anything negotiations are an end in themselves.

I'm courious about The Unbeliever's questions as well, but I'd like to know what the basis for this assessment is:

"There are IMO, far fewer countries with nuclear weapons than there would be had it never been enacted."

Ok. Which ones?

As far as I'm concerned, the logic of nuclear proliferation is as follows:

a) Nuclear weapons are expensive items to produce and have little in the way of direct benefit. Most countries that become involved in thier production quickly realize that the cost doesn't nearly equal the gain.
b) Once you obtain nuclear weapons, its generally not in your interest that your neighbors do so. The NPT is an artifact of those powers that had nuclear weapons, not those that did not.
c) If your ally has nuclear weapons and you have a reasonable belief that you can sit happily under thier umbrella, there is a strong incentive not to bother with nuclear weapons in order to save costs and avoid being directly targeted.
d) If you have an adversary, you have a strong incentive to obtain nuclear weapons whether or not they have nuclear weapons. If they have nuclear weapons, obtaining nuclear weapons maintains parity. If they don't have nuclear weapons, obtaining nuclear weapons represents a strong deterence. Either way, a treaty isn't worth the paper its printed on so long as the conflict continues.

Brazil and South Africa abandoned thier nuclear programs, not because of the NPT but because lacking a clear adversary the fall under the logic of point #1. All the NPT represents is a formalization and proclamation of point #2, and its the activities of the nuclear powers in detering the spread of nuclear weapons which are really important - and these would go on regardless of the NPT and regardless of whether the emerging nuclear power was a signatory to the treaty. The NPT consistantly fails whenever the logic of point #4 comes into play, so its overall effect appears to me to be absolutely nothing.

Davebo:
"As to dialogue with Iran, well we won't know until it's attempted. They certainly wouldn't be the first country to bluster loudly for the benefit of their populace while reaching agreements quietly in the background..."

Perhaps.
However, what reason is there to suppose that direct US/Iran talks are more likely to produce Iranian concessions than the negotiations Britain, France and Germany have been pursuing?

It is perfectly apparent that, absent Iranian nukes or regional military adventures, the US was not and is not going to attack Iran.

Even Iranian military activities in Lebanon, sponsorship of terror operations against Israel, overseas assasination operations etc. have been in effect overlooked.
The US may not establish direct trade and diplomatic links with Tehran unless Iran cleans up its act in these areas, but Washington is not going to make them cassus belli either.
And it is plain enough that the US will accept Iran having trade and diplomatic arrangements with China, Russia and Europe. The US acceptance of the EU3 diplomacy makes this obvious. As does the muted reaction to Russian SAM sales.
What more could Iran possibly, realistically, want?
Acceptance of its position as hegemon of the Gulf? A gurantee that involvement in more direct military operations against Israel will not provoke a response? Not going to happen.
In any case, no administration could effectively bind its successors in these regards. If Iran wishes to pursue a course of regional bellicosity, nuclear weapons are essential. If not, they are useless.

This emerging criris is entirely of the Iranian regimes making.
The EU3 have been attempting to persuade Iran not walk down this road; that it has no good ending for them or us. And just how worrying the adamant refusal of Iran to turn aside has been to its interlocutors may be judged by President Chirac's recent pointed remarks on French nuclear options. These sort of words, directly by the head of state of a nuclear Power, are almost unprecedented.

and these would go on regardless of the NPT and regardless of whether the emerging nuclear power was a signatory to the treaty.
You are correct.

However, outside of the framework you have described, India, for example, cannot be held to be in violation of the so-called "international law" since it never signed on.

Countries that did sign agreed to accept assistance toward developing civilian nuclear technology with their promise not to pursue military uses. Iran appears to be in violation.

Assuming that the framework of proliferation that Celebrim describes is accurate, then the NNPT has actually been a counter productive, since it ENCOURAGES civilian proliferation, which helped spread the industrial basis for later militarization.

The idea that the Bush administration is not doing any diplomacy is among the more pernicious and dishonest myths. I've been astonished at the immense amount of good diplomacy world wide that the Bush admin is accomplishing which is being intentionally and malicious ignored and misrepresented. India is a recent example. Of course, the Bush admin is involved in the EU/Iran discussions - the claim to the contrary is just ludicrous.

Bush has made strong allies of both India and Pakistan a paradox in itself.
-Bush has won over Libya from a major terrorist sponsor with a secretly robust nuclear program into a non-nuclear state that at least pays lip service to regional peace.
-Bush has made Yemen, another classic terrorist state, a regional ally against terror.
Bush has made strong inroads into central America including military bases on the soil of the former Soviet Union a strong warning against any Russian resurgence in the region.
-Bush's Iraq decisions spurred a democratic revolution in Lebanon that is squeezing Hezbollah and has put Syria in a diplomatic corner.
-Bush has held the spot light on the Europeans diplomatically, shaming them into keeping Irans feet to the fire.
-Bush has led an effort to starve any Hamas ruled Palestinian state of resources. Any cash flowing from Arab states to make up for it isnt going to fanatic madrassas or other international terrorist organizations. Hamas must choose between bombs and keeping the lights on.

Bush gets credit for none of these accomplishments.

Stickler --

the problem is Islam and Muslims. America is the engine of modernity and modernity will erase Islam as it did traditional Christianity in Europe. As long as we exist Muslims around the globe will try to destroy us to save their way of life.

The solution is to make them so afraid that they dare not try it. By sadly, killing a lot of them, and breaking even more "stuff."

Trying to be "loved" is ridiculous. America also has the premier Navy and Air Force and the ability to triple each in size without seriously impacting the economy (though pork would have to go).

Madison faced this with the Barbary Pirates. And found the solution in the US Navy.

I find Davebo's comments laughable re: Iran. Iran wants nukes ... to nuke us and Israel. The only "negotiations" that work are bombing the place to the level of 1945 Germany. The NPT is a joke, just like the UN. Which elected IRAN to the UN Disarmament Committee. Words on paper are meaningless. Real consequences like dying during a bombing change behavior.

Look at Pakistan. It's a set of competing tribes and leaders. The only thing motivating them is fear of a Predator dropping a missile on them.

Celebrim [#34],

Thank you for your appreciation of substance in these discussions. We're on the same page on that point. You might consider cutting back on the use of terms like "dog droppings" in your reply if you want to be treated seriously in return.

You did write a long, thoughtful reply, so I will start working on a response. Since real life is likely to intervene, it could well be tomorrow before I am able to post it. Please check back.

The most sensible comment on this thread?

#1

"There is an almost tragically wide gulf between being right about the odious nature of our enemy and the threat they represent, and actual actions and policies that help reduce the threat."

Very well put.

Celebrim [#34],

Again, thanks for a substantive response to my substantive suggestion [#31]. Let me start with where we agree.

(1) We agree that the strategic center of the war is the population that the terrorists depend on for support.

(2) We agree that some of what US troops are doing in Iraq is directly aimed at furthering the goals I describe.

The first point means that our strategy for winning is to get the population the terrorists depend on to turn on them, to deny them refuge, and indeed to work with the US to defeat them. If you go back and look at items of good news from Iraq, appearing in Winds of Change regularly, you will see that a significant number of them involve the ordinary civilians in various cities and towns in Iraq (i) providing useful intelligence to US troops, (ii) denying refuge to various insurgent or terrorist groups attempting to use or pass through their territory, (iii) providing refuge to wounded US soldiers trying to escape from insurgent or terrorist groups, and so on.

Mao said that the guerrilla fighter "swims like a fish through the sea of the population". But if that sea turns on him, he's sushi before he knows it.

So, there is some amount of good news from Iraq, and that good news matches the pattern I describe. When that good news happens, is it happening because the ordinary Iraqi people are threatened by our troops? Of course not. It happens when our troops have demonstrated firmness, justice, and fair-mindedness. When events like Abu Ghraib take place, that digs us farther into a hole, and it takes more good work to climb back out. (And the issue here is not news and publicity; it's whether the event takes place at all. They know.)

My criticism of Bush administration policy is that no planning and preparation went into making sure that this kind of thing happened. Rumsfeld, et al, were convinced, correctly, that a blitzkrieg approach would topple Saddam's regime. It worked in Afghanistan to everyone's surprise, and it would work in Iraq, too, though success was much less surprising in that case. However, both in Afghanistan and much more in Iraq, the thin blitzkrieg forces that toppled the government were not the right forces, and certainly not numerous enough, to impose law and order on the resulting situation.

The Powell doctrine had always been to go in with overwhelming force: enough to impose day-by-day, neighborhood-by-neighborhood law and order. Make it clear that challenging US forces would be utterly futile. Have US troops on every other street corner for the first few weeks, capable of calling in immediate reinforcements to quell any disturbance. That makes the disturbances not happen in the first place. This makes our troops into policemen guaranteeing law and order for the ordinary people. (This is what it means to have overwhelming force, but not have to use it.) After the first few weeks, mix in increasing numbers of Iraqi policemen, with plenty of US troops around for support, and to keep them honest.

We're doing this now, having started years too late, giving terrorists, insurgent, local warlords, and various other kinds of bandits the opportunity to build up groups of supporters who owe allegiance, safety, and prosperity to their local leader rather than to the central government. Rumsfeld's major act of professional malpractice was failing to anticipate and plan for this problem. As far as I can tell, he thought Baghdad would be Paris in 1944, and had no plan for alternatives. In fact, he gutted Shinseki for standing up to him and suggesting otherwise.

So far, I am elaborating on our points of agreement (1) and (2) above, with a clarification of how we may (or may not!) disagree on the history surrounding (2).

Let me move on to our points of disagreement.

It is explicitly obvious that the community in question is "the community that the terrorists depend on for support." Although 9/11 happened in New York, that is not the community that will defeat the terrorists. Those communities are in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere. For the current discussion, it's Iraq, because that is where we are playing a conspicuous role in the day-to-day life of the everyday people.

So, your point (a) is not relevant. We need to attempt to protect ourselves from further attack, but we need to implement this plan in the areas that breed terrorists. And avoid creating more breeding grounds.

Your point (b) is interesting, though I'd want to see the data, and you didn't provide a URL. It's my impression that the Israeli retaliation that was effective has been targeted, tit-for-tat assassination of specific terrorist leaders in response to specific attacks. I would conjecture that the more collateral damage took place in a retaliatory attack, the less effective it was in preventing further terrorist actions. But it would take a careful analysis of the data to test that, and I don't have the data (or time) to do it. (I believe this also addresses your point ©.) Measured response, tit-for-tat, focused on responsible parties, is effective. Collective punishment like bulldozing the houses of the parents of suicide bombers, is much less so.

Re your point (d). Terrorists live in one community, which gives them support and refuge, and attack a different one. To defeat them, the community they live in must turn on them. When the terrorists are the authorities, then we have the much more familiar problem of conflict between states. Hamas has not yet confronted the fact that they have responsibilities to their people, and they are a billion dollars short of being able to fulfill them. It's pretty safe to assume that their people will let them know in short order. The situation there is very dynamic, and Hamas has very few cards to play, now that they have political power. (It's an interesting paradox, isn't it?)

Now let me move on to responding to your criticisms of my steps.

(1) "avoid getting killed by them". I really didn't think I had to spell out how to do this. My major point is that it is a priority, but not an absolute one. There are going to be casualties on our side, even following my plan.

(2) Overwhelming power is just the Powell doctrine. See my discussion above.

(3) Which population? Obviously, it's the general population on which the terrorists depend for support. As discussed above.

(4-9) If we had been functioning as an honest police force in Iraq, maintaining peace even among Iraqi enemies since the fall of Saddam, we would have refuted most of OBL's claims. We would have demonstrated resolve in the face of threats, strength and honor in the face of our enemies, no cowardice at all. Torture is the act of a coward. Incidentally, I was talking about Iraq, once we had occupied it, not imposing our bill of rights on Syria. The point was to make Syrian citizens admire our bill of rights. But by failing to handle Iraq correctly, we lost a huge amount of ground. Perhaps we can make it up; perhaps not.

(10) I've already addressed this. This is actually happening, and is often cited as evidence of success in Iraq. Better not laugh.

Your summary of my proposal (A,B,C,D) is incorrect, as I hope the above has made clear.

I may have overstated my point by saying "the whole point of terrorism is to provoke massive retaliation." Clearly, demonstrating vulnerability is important to them, too. But it's still symbolic. Even the damage done by 9/11 is a pinprick compared with the might and wealth of the US.

Re your final point: The sarcastic way you stated it makes your statement too ambiguous to be meaningful, so I can't respond.

Celebrim, nice posts. Good logic.

What is the consensus on the fact that Iran is no longer waiting to begin dealing in bad faith with their nuclear technology regarding the transfer of technology to Sudan?

What actions would have to happen if Iran goes nuclear and the Sudan follows shortly thereafter?

In terms of identifying The Problem, I will sum it up as I see it like so: there are rabidly expansionistic, anti democratic factions that are hideously well funded and incapable of building or maintaining a truly modern society, but have been held apart from the natural consequences of holding these belief systems by their stranglehold on oil, and the leverage that comes from it.

Iranian and Arabic Islamists, a number of whom are in political power, want to put forward a notion of Islam like the old term Christendom. This includes the elimination of any meaningful cultural mechanism that isn't in Arabian Islam. In even worse cases, there is a desire to promulgate an image of Islam that is so linked with the Arabic image that it is almost identical to the old definition of "white," as in the colonialist dictum of "white is right." Certain Muslim scholars consider the term Muslim to simply be a stand in for Arabic, which bodes ill for nonexpansionist, non Arabic Islamic cultures in other parts of the world.

Nuclear weapons would be prestige items that would allow for one sided, one way expansion in a number of areas. If the Sudan (which tried to kill Hosni Mubarak in an assassination attempt while he was visiting Ethiopia in the 90's, and has recently tried to topple Chad) gets nuclear weapons from Iran, and promises to use nuclear weapons only if invaded, they would effectively set themselves up as a permanent safe-house for any proxy that wants to opperate with impunity against any neighboring government.

Is my identifcation of the problem accurate? Is there anything that should be covered, refined or refuted?

Imagine telling a cancer researcher that, despite their recent impressive progress, bird flu is "The Problem", so their work is irrelevant because it doesn't address The Problem.

Sounds silly, doesn't it? Surprising as it may seem, international affairs is pretty complicated, too, and more than one problem is out there.

At 9/11, we faced an unfamiliar kind of problem, receiving a substantial attack from a non-state actor. Not being a state, al Qaeda couldn't be pinned down and held responsible in the same way that a state can. They received comfort and refuge from the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the international community was pretty well lined up behind clobbering the Taliban for their role.

Way back then, the USA had near-unanimous support from the international community, and those parts that didn't support us knew to keep pretty quiet about it. But, although we knew how to topple a state using a blitzkrieg attack, we didn't know how to follow through. We let OBL slip out of Tora Bora. We literally forgot to include development funds for Afghanistan in the budget after defeating the Taliban (look it up!). The fact that the major strategic weapon against non-state terrorists is to turn the supportive population against them was (and is) completely invisible to our civilian military leaders.

As a result, the problem has metastasized. The non-state actor al Qaeda has distributed so widely that rooting them out has become (evidently) beyond our capabilities. They, and the fundamentalist Islamic forces behind them, have taken root in a number of state-level actors. And now we have another problem (not "The Problem"), in addition to the previous one.

So, sure, Blair has stated "A Problem". And it's an important one to think about. But it's not the only one. If you use this problem as an excuse not to think about the others, you will repeat the disasters of the recent past, where the focus was on toppling the current regime in power, ignoring until too late the deeper problem of getting the support of the population.

Actually, the bit about unanimous support is a myth - and subsequent elements of Mr. Kuipers' comment (#50) also descend past useful or accurate discussion and into self-flagellation.

Within days of 9/11, many of the outlines of the present situation were already clear - from the Euros and academics who smiled and said that America deserved it, to the leaders of today's "war on the war" movement who were already gathering and planning marches to give the Taliban cover, to the nations quick with sympathy but slow on actual commitment of anything meaningful. Transatlantic Intelligencer ably dissects one aspect of this myth/lie in the Legend of the Squandered Sympathy

"In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, countless private individuals in western Europe undoubtedly felt sympathy with the victims and many saw fit to express it in small symbolic acts, such as the laying of flowers before the American embassy in Paris. Given the horror of the attacks, such reactions were, so to say, only human. What was more unusual and hence noteworthy, however, was that at the same time the attacks seemed to elicit from the very start a sort of paroxysm of – as an Austrian friend of mine aptly put it – anti-American “ventilating”. In the major media, moreover, the expressions of hatred and contempt for America quickly came to eclipse those of sympathy. An especially conspicuous case in point is provided by the influential French daily Le Monde.

This is ironic, since the legend of the squandered sympathy draws much of its inspiration and seeming plausibility from the headline of the front-page editorial that ran in Le Monde the day after the attacks: “We Are All Americans”.

There are other statements here that are exaggerations approaching dishonesty.

Complaints that al-Qaeda has metastisized, for instance, because they are broken up into more independent cells. Um, duuuh - when you take out large portions of the command and control infrastructure for an international terrorist movement with a presence in many countries, thus hurting their ability to conduct large-scale attacks, smaller Islamist groups that act independently and are harder to target is exactly what you should expect to see. The fact that Islamic Jihadism is harder to target when it is not as cohesive an entity means what - that we should leave al-Qaeda intact?

"They, and the fundamentalist Islamic forces behind them, have taken root in a number of state-level actors."

Because, you know, Muslim states offering aid, comfort, and direct support to Islamic terrorists is something we had never seen before 2003.

Give me a break. The transparent silliness behind that whole line of argument is jaw-dropping.

Then there's this, which shades past silly and toward dishonesty:

"We literally forgot to include development funds for Afghanistan in the budget after defeating the Taliban (look it up!)."

One wonders if Mr. Kuipers recalls the immediate and large-scale humanitarian efforts made by America both during and immediately after the war - efforts made necessary by the fact that if Taliban rule had continued, Afghanistan was headed for starvation. One wonders, also, if Mr. Kuipers is familiar with the concept of non-budget supplemental appropriations, which have been used to finance both war and reconstruction in the current conflict.

I would further invite Mr. Kuipers to compare reconstruction aid given by the USA and by EU countries in Afghanistan over the past few years.

"The fact that the major strategic weapon against non-state terrorists is to turn the supportive population against them was (and is) completely invisible to our civilian military leaders."

It's hard to see exactly how someone could say this with a straight face, given that this is in fact an animating feature behind the Bush Doctrine. The book Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground also falls into the "recommended reading to cure ignorance" list.

Having disposed of that little piece of unjustified smugness, the question of exactly how to accomplish this is worthy of debate. Massive devastation and loss of life in Germany and Japan succeeded in a similar task within recent memory, and looking back into history the Mongols were quite effective in the Middle East itself (including the utter destruction of the Assassins, heretofore considered impossible).

I'll note that historically, this has been the usual model for turning enemy populations against specific ideologies or rulerships.

A different tack might point to the role of hate-indoctrination madrassas, note that they are and remain the wellsprings for murderous religious jihad, and observe that material aid is limited in its ability to offset a religious belief in murderous supremacism that has been part of mainstream Islam for centuries. How to gain sufficient support from populations, while the hate factories continue churn out proto-terrorists who will also murder fellow Muslims expressing that support? One option would be to help finance educational alternatives to the madrassas, possibly with a focus on education for girls (Biden, among others, has proposed this). Another would be to start killing the leaders of madrassas that spew hate and supremacism. Of course, one could do both.

Or one could note precedents like the "Palestinian Authority," which remains (as it has since the early 1990s) the major source of hate propaganda and recruitment to death-cult Islam. In such cases, looking to "the support of the population" cannot be meaningful so long as the current regime remains in power.

Short of adopting the Mongol solution, what to do about all this is not exactly clear, beyond the obvious necessity of removing certain regimes. Various approaches are being tried, in different situations around the globe, and our approach will continue to learn and adapt as the war continues.

With respect to the Muslim ummah's base of support for murderous supremacism and hate, some signs thus far have been encouraging, other signs have been discouraging. And lurking behind it all is the unresolved question of whether Islam itself is the problem, or whether it is possible for that religion to peacefully and equitably co-exist with others.

Not an easy set of questions, and not clear set of answers. What is clear, however, is that we'll have to show a bit more depth than Mr. Kuipers does if we hope to find those answers.

Thanks for the good job on the myth of "universal" support that was somehow "squandered", Joe. I've long tired of that false meme from the trolls.

Joe,

I'd be happy to have a substantive discussion with you, but it's hard to pick out your substantive points from amidst the gratuitous insults, and what sounds like recorded lectures aimed at someone else.

First, I am not "into self-flagellation". I am into criticizing the leaders of our country who, in the face of a threat we all understand as serious, persist in taking many actions that are seriously counter to the best interests of our country. There's a real threat. We need to address it. I believe they are doing it wrong, and that they are damaging our country. It's my patriotic duty to bring this to their attention if I can.

I followed your link on "the legend of squandered sympathy". The columnist seems to think that genuine sympathy would require all other countries to abandon their policy differences with the USA in deference to our suffering. The fact that other countries, and opinion-writers in other countries, persisted in their policy differences indicated that their sympathy must have been false. This is, to be mild and polite, unrealistic.

Responding to my point about al Qaeda metastasizing, you imply that they had a substantial command and control structure to begin with. A decentralized structure, with relatively little communication with action groups, seems to have been one of their strengths from the beginning. In any case, although at one point they were a relatively small organization, mostly in Afghanistan, they are now much larger and more widely spread around, partly due to our failure to kill or capture them in Afghanistan, and partly due to our creating a recruiting magnet it Iraq. (Following the example of the Soviets who created the recruiting magnet in Afghanistan in the first place.)

Perhaps you call this "self-flagellation". I call it an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of our strategy, in hopes of improving it. If you want to add or correct factors in this evaluation, feel free.

The fact that, after being reminded of their failure to include Afghanistan in the budget, the administration included the needed funds in a supplemental appropriation, doesn't excuse their lack of focus on what is actually needed.

A central point of my argument is that the administration is failing to use the strategic weapon that would be most effective against terrorist movements: the support of the local population. You say that this is a central feature of the Bush doctrine, and then you cite Kaplan's Imperial Grunts on your side.

The Bush doctrine says "we will make no distinction between the terrorists and those who harbor them". This is fine when applied to state actors, like the Taliban in Afghanistan, but when applied to the ordinary people, leads to attacking and alienating them when we need to be turning them against the terrorists.

Following the link you provided for Kaplan's book, in the second Amazon review (5-star, signed), you find the following paragraph:

"Most important in this book is Kaplan's documentation of the fact that transformation of the U.S. military is NOT taking place--Washington is still enamored of multiple layers of rank heavy bureaucracy, the insertion of very large cumbersome task forces in to every clime and place; an over-emphasis on technology; and a lack of appreciation for the urgency of providing security, food, water, and electricity IMMEDIATELY so as to start the cycle of counter-insurgency information collection from volunteers. The author is brutal in his indictment of the bureaucracy for failing to provide the linguistic skills, four years after 9/11, that are far more important to transformation than any weapons system. He is also brutal on the delays in approving operations in the field that are associated with layered bureaucracies that come with joint task forces, and completely detrimental to fast moving tactical success at the A Team level."

This is precisely the point I made in several posts: in many cases the troops on the ground are doing exactly the right thing. In many cases of positive progress in Iraq, as described in WoC, this is exactly why: they are enlisting the support of the Iraqi people. But the civilian leadership (I mean Rumsfeld, of course, but the buck ought to stop at Bush) obviously failed to plan adequately for these needs, and let many precious months go by after the fall of Baghdad. If you'd be willing to read something new, try The Ugly American.

I have trouble understanding the next half-dozen paragraphs. Are you actually advocating "massive devastation and loss of life" (presumably in Iraq, Iran, and elsewhere) as the solution to our problem with al Qaeda and the Islamofascists? Are you actually advocating "killing the leaders of madrassas that spew hate and supremacism"? Or are you describing these thoroughly anti-American "final solutions" as a reductio ad absurdam, and if so, to what? (Killing military leaders is one thing; killing people for "spewing", no matter what, makes our reverence for Freedom of Speech a little suspect.)

Towards the end of your remarks, I do find a bit of common ground, possibly taken out of context:

"... what to do about all this is not exactly clear ..."

"Not an easy set of questions, and not clear set of answers."

I certainly don't think I have all the answers, and I spend time at WoC partly looking for constructive comments (including criticism) from points of view different from my own. Occasionally I find them. Often not.

I would think that we could agree on:

We are facing some serious problems and threats.

Some of our attempts to deal with them are not going well.

Some things are going well.

Many writers on WoC, including you, seem highly motivated by the fact that people aren't paying enough attention to the third point. Many people like me are motivated by the fact that the people with decision-making power are ignoring the second point, and failing to anticipate and learn from our mistakes.

Maybe, just maybe, if we could focus on all three points at once, and stop name-calling, and avoid being defensive, we could figure out how to make things work out better. Worth a try?


“Mao said that the guerrilla fighter "swims like a fish through the sea of the population".

There is a quantitative difference between a terrorism campaign and a guerrilla insurgency. On a scale of intensity, a terrorist campaign should generally be regarded as lower intensity conflict than a guerrilla war. What this means is that though the terrorist is dependent in a small degree on the support of the community, by no means is he as dependent as a guerrilla fighter. A terrorist at some level is little more than an exalted serial killer, and the minimum he requires to do his work is anonymity and a free press - not necessarily material support or widespread sympathy for his cause.

The US anti-terror strategy cannot be based on the false canard of getting enemy populations to love us. Winning hearts and minds is an important element of a successful anti-terrorism operation, but it’s not a sufficient or even necessary one. It’s great when it happens and we should strive to act honorably for its own sake whether it wins us any friends or not, but the fact of the matter is that there is no way we can be friends with everyone. In most cases, the transformation that we really want to see is to turn international terrorism problems into domestic terrorism problems, and to cause terrorist supporting populations to – if not love us – then at least see exporting terrorists to the US (or anywhere else for that matter) as something which does not solve their problems.

“When events like Abu Ghraib take place, that digs us farther into a hole, and it takes more good work to climb back out. (And the issue here is not news and publicity; it's whether the event takes place at all. They know.)”

I agree, though I think that it is worth noting that the coverage greatly exacerbates the problem. In my opinion Abu Ghraib is a non-story. From the media coverage one might imagine that there had been some sort of ongoing program and military cover-up which had been uncovered by investigative journalism. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the Abu Ghraib situation was rather quickly the subject of an internal military investigation. The military announced it was investigating wrong doing in Abu Ghraib months before someone leaked the pictures to the press (for whatever purposes they may have had for doing this) and the story suddenly became front page. It was sensationalist and exploitive coverage, and it had a certain note of revenge to it by partisan elements of the press. Ultimately none of this appears to have any real impact on military decision making, as the military was already trying to deal with the problem months before the place became a household word. And while the local population knows when it is being mistreated even when the scandal doesn’t ever rate headlines, the publicity does serve to motivate non-Iraqi populations far more than the event itself ever would.

“My criticism of Bush administration policy is that no planning and preparation went into making sure that this kind of thing happened.”

That’s a mischaracterization of the nature of the mistakes made in Iraq, and simply isn’t true. To understand what happened in Iraq, you have to go back to Afghanistan and see what happened there. In Afghanistan, the US adopted a three element approach – political, military, and humanitarian. First, it would use its contacts in the CIA to make contact with popular dissidents within Afghanistan who would be capable of providing leadership after the fall of the Taliban regime. These dissidents would then be joined by special force’s advisors and using a combination of local resistance groups to provide military mass and US airpower would obtain a decisive military victory over enemy forces. Because of the small number of US troops, the overall US ‘footprint’ on the population would be small, and there would be no sense of conquest, occupation, or daily friction with the population. After the military victory, the US would move rapidly to provide humanitarian assistance and win the hearts and minds of the population.
In Afghanistan this basic plan worked with a stunning degree of success, and while I’m not personally convinced that Afghanistan isn’t going to blow up into a major war in a few years if it does so it won’t be because of any basic flaw in the plan.

The administration attempted to modify the basic Afghanistan approach to the war in Iraq. However, the Afghanistan approach proved a false model for a war in Iraq for several key reasons, some of which were outside of administration control.

“Rumsfeld, et al, were convinced, correctly, that a blitzkrieg approach would topple Saddam's regime. It worked in Afghanistan to everyone's surprise, and it would work in Iraq, too, though success was much less surprising in that case. However, both in Afghanistan and much more in Iraq, the thin blitzkrieg forces that toppled the government were not the right forces, and certainly not numerous enough, to impose law and order on the resulting situation.”

Nobody thought going into either Iraq or Afghanistan that US forces would impose law and order. In both cases, it was friendly factions within the invaded nation that were supposed to step in and provide the leadership necessary to transition into a new government with minimal chaos. In fact, part of what was motivating the blitzkrieg approach was an attempt to prevent lawlessness from having a lot of time to set in. I agree that the US needs more MP forces and needs to have contingencies for the total collapse of law and order as seen in the first few days after the fall of Bagdad, but I also think that it is short sighted to not consider what using soldiers providing security entails in situations like that. Almost certainly it means lots of would be criminals getting shot, and that is also the sort of thing which leads to the local population resenting you. There is no perfect solution.

“The Powell doctrine had always been to go in with overwhelming force: enough to impose day-by-day, neighborhood-by-neighborhood law and order.”

I’ve never ever seen the implication of the “Powell doctrine”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powell_doctrine be that we would have sufficient force to impose law and order. In fact, a more full statement of the Powell doctrine than the breezy one you quote would indicate that the Powell doctrine would be to avoid occupations entirely. Frankly, I’m somewhat mystified how any military observer would at this time be a fan of the Powell doctrine. The Powell doctrine was a disaster virtually every where it was applied – beginning with Powell’s command in Beirut and continuing right on to Gulf War I and Somalia.

The Powell doctrine was less of a military doctrine than it was a political approach to the challenges created by the damage done to the American spirit by the Vietnam War. It required that all the following questions be clearly answered:

Is a vital national security interest threatened?
Do we have a clear attainable objective?
Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
Is the action supported by the American people?
Do we have genuine broad international support?

Essentially the Powell doctrine is only enter into wars which will be short, decisive, and popular. Superficially, there is nothing wrong with that, and there is nothing at all wrong with the above check list. But in practice, the Powell doctrine – whether Powell was in command or someone else was trying to implement it – could be shortened down to the statement, “Whenever you meet resistance, cut your losses and run.” This resulted in a series of seemingly minor failures over the course of two decades which were little noticed in America, but served to give notice to our enemies that America was a paper tiger that lacked the will for a long or difficult fight. It’s that apparent weakness which in the words of our present enemies led to their decision to attack the United States.
In practice, the Powell doctrine requires too high of a burden. It’s simply not possible only to fight wars which meet all the Powell hurdles. Under the Powell doctrine, the Union would have settled with the Confederacy after losing at Bull Run, the US wouldn’t have entered WWI, and would have negotiated peace with Japan after Pearl Harbor. How can you ever know what all the possible consequences of your action will be? How can you always be certain of victory? In the real world, you’ve sometimes got to take your chances. In particular, it notion of a “plausible exit strategy” means that the US is continually looking for some out other than victory and the surrender and destruction of the enemy. Most of all though, the Powell doctrine fails to learn the central lesson of 20th century warfare – never leave a war half-finished and your opponent unbeaten. That haunted the whole world in WWII, and will continue to haunt the US through the rest of this century – assuming we survive it.

“Make it clear that challenging US forces would be utterly futile. Have US troops on every other street corner for the first few weeks, capable of calling in immediate reinforcements to quell any disturbance. That makes the disturbances not happen in the first place.”

Not necessarily. US forces have overwhelming superiority anywhere that they are challenged whether they are ‘everywhere’ or not. The enemy simply avoids challenging the forces and employs asymmetric warfare. In any event, more troops simply were not available and could not have been available in less than say three to five years.

“This makes our troops into policemen guaranteeing law and order for the ordinary people.”

This stretches the point to the point of being ridiculous. US troops are not policemen. With some exceptions, they are not trained to be policemen. The requirements of being a police officer and being a soldier are completely different. In addition, they cannot be expected to speak the local language of everywhere we might send them. It is not the US intention to replace governments with our own colonial administrations, though granted some more thinking along those lines might be a good thing – especially by the state department. I think we are doing as best as could be expected considering the situation.

“We're doing this now, having started years too late, giving terrorists, insurgent, local warlords, and various other kinds of bandits the opportunity to build up groups of supporters who owe allegiance, safety, and prosperity to their local leader rather than to the central government.”

This is also ridiculous and it fundamentally fails to understand the situation before we arrived. It’s not like terrorists, insurgents, local warlords, bandits, smugglers and criminal gangs built up a base of supporters after we arrived. In many cases these were already operating in Afghanistan and Iraq. In many cases we learned of the identities of who were in the smuggling rings and criminal gangs, because we have records of the bribes that they were paying to the Baathist government to remain in operation. The local warlords didn’t just spring up overnight with militias after the Taliban fail. They preexisted us. These are tribal, clan based, hierarchal societies in which graft, bribery, and patronage were routine aspects of society long before we arrived.

And in any event, we did not wait ‘years’ to adapt to the challenges as they developed. Weeks perhaps in some cases, but the claim the US didn’t adapt or adopt the very things you praise until years into the conflict is not only unfair but a criticism based on ignorance.

“Rumsfeld's major act of professional malpractice was failing to anticipate and plan for this problem.”

Rumsfeld’s made several mistakes, large and small, including not anticipating the scale of anti-social behavior which would be boiling beneath the surface of places like Iraq and Afghanistan. But it’s not like there was no plan.

Back to the point that Afghanistan provided a false model.

a) The reason that CIA was able to identify and liaison with real political leaders in Afghanistan was the CIA had a lot of field experience with those same people. It had worked with them during the Soviet invasion. The CIA’s people knew their people personally. It was just a matter of renewing old ties. But in Iraq, with the exception of Kurdistan, the CIA had no real field experience. The CIA war reliant on exiled dissidents to provide them information on the political structure of Iraq – in other words who could actually command followers and respect. As we all know, the intelligence that the CIA had on Iraq was highly flawed, contradictory and confusing. Rumsfeld should have recognized that the CIA didn’t have the same quality of intelligence on Iraq as they had on Afghanistan and planned accordingly. That was his most serious mistake, but in the scale of mistakes it seems a rather understandable one. The big weakness in the WoT so far has not been the Pentagon, but Langley.

b) Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq had a creditable standing army and few internal armed dissident groups of any note except the Kurds. In northern Iraq, things worked pretty much like they did in Afghanistan. US forces worked with local leaders and used US airpower to obtain a victory while creating no political vacuum because local people were there to fill it. But on the whole, the US had to rely on its own forces to provide military mass. This meant that the US would go in with a ‘large footprint’ and would inevitably be seen not as partners, but as occupiers and conquerors. It meant that US caused collateral damage would be higher, and that the daily frustration of life under an occupying power would create a lot more friction – if only from the check points and getting muscled off the road by convoys of military vehicles. The US plan was to draw down forces to a lower level as soon as possible and in fact attempted to do so in Feb. 2003. Unfortunately, this plan assumed that no creditable insurgency would arise. In Feb. 2003, that seemed reasonable. In March 2003 when Fallujah erupted and the Badr brigades took to the streets, that seemed utterly unreasonable, and the US has been fighting those unforeseen insurgencies ever since.

c) The US plan assumed that Saddam Hussein would be basically as unpopular as the Taliban, and once ousted and his immediate supporters put down that most people would – as they did in Afghanistan – breathe a big sigh of relief and try to get on with their life. The real problem here was that although this was true of 80-90% of the population, 10-20% of the population that had benefited from Saddam’s patronage actually liked the old system. In addition, another 10-20% of the Shiite’s weren’t content to simply see Saddam removed from power, but wanted to put their own dictator in charge.
The people of Afghanistan were so poor that humanitarian aid proved really easy to provide. Coupled with the lack of a serious insurgency, this made it easy for the US to win hearts and minds (at least outside of Taliban strongholds with strong family connections). In Iraq, the US had received rather bad advice on the nature of the humanitarian support it would need to provide initially. NGO’s advising the US military on humanitarian needs had told the US to expect up to 5 million internally displaced refugees that would need food, water, and shelter. Accordingly, the US stockpiled tents, water, and food on the border. None of it was ever used for the purpose intended, as in fact the US found that refugees actually flooded into Iraq in the wake of the US advance. Additionally, the NGO’s advised the US that epidemics (particularly cholera) would break out in Iraq in the wake of disruption of water services. What the US discovered was that the water infrastructure of Iraq was in such bad repair, that most everyone boiled their water anyway. The thousands of stockpiled cholera vaccines went unused. The poor state of Iraqi’s infrastructure took the US by surprise. The US had anticipated that it would be occupying a rather modern country which would only need some small amount of help to get back on its feet. We’ve learned some hard lessons on what 30 years of Stalinist dictatorship does to infrastructure and people’s culture. Even so, things probably wouldn’t have gone badly at all on the reconstruction side had not the internal security problem been so bad.

“As far as I can tell, he thought Baghdad would be Paris in 1944, and had no plan for alternatives. In fact, he gutted Shinseki for standing up to him and suggesting otherwise.”

This is unfair. For much of the advance on Baghdad, US forces were greeted as liberators – flowers and everything – although in point of fact it was not the US administration that made predictions like that and the administration itself was publicly far more cautious. (I’ve heard that they had expected major military operations to last 6 weeks longer than they did and generate at least 500 more fatalities.) Certainly in Kurdistan we are still treated as liberators. It’s quite possible that the unplanned for speed of the advance – and the logistic strain it created - stranded MP and Engineering units further behind the advance than was intended. This is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. Both slowing the rate of advance and speeding it carry negative consequences. There is no perfect solution.

In any event, security has only been a serious problem in the 30% of the country that is predominately Sunni. And Shinseki is guilty of McClellan-ism. (Incidentally, McClellan would have most certainly approved of the Powell doctrine, and his version of it likely led to an extra hundred thousand or so US dead.) More troops do not necessarily simply military situations. This is a frequent mistake of amateurs. More troops mean a greater logistic burden, tend to lead to operational immobility, and represent a harder boot on the back of the occupied people. In Shinseki’s defense, since he’s not an amateur, what he really seemed to be saying was not “We need more troops.”, but rather, “I don’t think we should fight this war.”, but even so, if that’s what he really wanted to say he should have said it. The reason he didn’t say it is that he knows that in our system, generals are not supposed to set policy.

“Your point (b) is interesting, though I'd want to see the data, and you didn't provide a URL.”

The data was worked out with a former Israeli colleague on an excel spreadsheet and unfortunately I don’t have a copy, or even the extensive from which the information was gathered.

“Measured response, tit-for-tat, focused on responsible parties, is effective. Collective punishment like bulldozing the houses of the parents of suicide bombers is much less so.”

I would like to see your evidence for that. Reports I’ve heard indicate exactly the opposite, and if I may be so bold the underlying flaw here may be the same sort of flaw which is typical of Americans – assuming that everyone thinks and acts like Americans. I believe that you are simply assuming this to be true because it fits your assumptions. If you can show me some evidence that this does not in fact deter suicide bombers, I’d be happy to see it. However, let me point out the obvious since you seem to be overlooking it. You can’t deter suicide bombings with the threat of death. You also should consider that you have a society which is geared to turning its best and brightest into suicide bombers, and which richly rewards them by showering their family with gifts and prestige. Saddam Hussein was known for contributing large sums to the families of suicide bombers. It seems to be rather logical, that if monetary compensation for ones family represents and inducement to becoming a suicide bomber, that the threat of economic retaliation at least mitigates the value of this inducement.

“Re your point (d). Terrorists live in one community, which gives them support and refuge, and attack a different one.”

This is the central point which you ignore in your manifesto and which I think most undermines your whole argument. I don’t think you deal with the implications of this fact nearly as much as you should. Your thesis that the local population will turn against terrorists provided we provide them with a just source of authority seems to ignore the fact that in order to provide them with a just source of authority that we must first invade and occupy their communities and in doing so we will inevitably have to spend time undoing the ill-will that will inevitably create. You fail to deal with the problem of someone being a terrorist in one community and a hero in the other.

I think you need to take the idea of one guys terrorist being another guys freedom fighter more seriously, not because it pays to look at this through the lens of moral relativism, but because it calls into question whether you can in general ever get a population to turn on a terrorist in the first place. In some cases, the only thing you can do is go through the whole Claustwitzian escalation of force leading up to the eventual realization of defeat by the enemy. In some cases, I think you do have to defeat the terrorists by killing them, and in some cases that is going to mean large collateral damage on communities that are either sympathetic to the terrorists or else held hostage by them – or more likely some combination of both. War is just inevitably going to be messy, and complaining about its messiness is pointless.

Likewise, you don’t gain access to the community to employ those tools of police work unless you first employ the tools of war. This is yet one of the many reasons why you can’t deal with terrorists merely as ordinary criminals. Where we can gain access without employing the tools of war, even just partial access, the US has refrained from war. But to pretend that the solution is to always refrain from war, and instead approach this as a problem of law enforcement – as you explicitly suggest in your manifesto – is to ignore the real problem of living in a multi-community world.

“Hamas has not yet confronted the fact that they have responsibilities to their people, and they are a billion dollars short of being able to fulfill them.”

More generally, the Palestinian people have never been forced to confront the consequences of defeat. They repeatedly enter into wars, but because of international pressure and international aid, they never pay the full price for those wars and they maintain an unrealistic expectation that victory is just a little ways off and can be achieved through acts of terrorism. Peace was never closer in Palestine than before the Oslo process began and effectively rewarded and appeased the terrorists, installing them in power, and giving them control over the Palestinian people including most crucially the education of the children. If you want a case study in how NOT to defeat terrorists, the Oslo process would be it.

“It's an interesting paradox, isn't it?”

Not a surprising one though. Having rejected peace, the Palestinians must deal with the real consequences of that decision. Otherwise, peace will never seem like an attractive alternative.

“"avoid getting killed by them". I really didn't think I had to spell out how to do this.”

Considering that the statement, “Avoid getting killed by them”, is roughly 50% of the substance of your plan for defeating terrorists, I find this a rather jaw dropping statement. If your intention is to lay down the strategic basis for anti-terrorism operations, “Avoid getting killed” sounds more like a joke than a serious plan. But even worse then that, the implication of such a statement is that US operations should be fundamentally reactionary and defensive in nature, rather than proactive and offensive in nature. This would seem to be especially true when you start talking about refraining from using our overwhelming force.

Look, you are I gather software engineer. Suppose you laid out a system requirements document for a piece of accounting software, and your design document had three major areas:

1) The software should automate accounting work. I don’t feel this needs to be explained.
2) The software should be accurate 100% of the time. Allow me to list all the sorts of bugs we should avoid: segmentation faults, lost data, rounding errors, division by zero, infinite loops, memory leaks...
3) The software becomes the industry leader and we make a lot of money.

Would you think that was a sufficiently detailed system requirements document? You have absolutely no discussion of the process to be automated, and even shrug off such a discussion as unnecessary. No real discussion of fault tolerance and data validation techniques or even how to go about, just a blanket statement that you are going to produce bug free software. Really? How much real world programming do you actually do?

So by the same token, what sort of operational plan is ‘don’t get killed’? Do you really think that the military needs that bit of advice? When player’s go to the coach and say, “Look coach, what do we do?”, do you think, “Score some points.”, is an adequate answer? ‘How’ is everything in this case. ‘What’ is obvious. And real world military operations are a lot like producing real world software, only you usually don’t get to debug the product until after you’ve shipped it.

“Which population? Obviously, it's the general population on which the terrorists depend for support.”

I keep hammering on this point because you keep failing to see that there are multiple populations here, and that significantly effects the approach you have to use. All of your examples in the manifesto are based on stopping domestic terrorism. You ignore the profound difference between domestic and international terrorism – that international terrorism involves a member of one community preying on another – not a person preying on his own community. Heck, even as a document for describing how to defeat domestic terrorism, your manifesto leaves a lot to be desired because you ignore the fact that Timothy McVeigh and the Unibomber did not have wide support in the community that they operated in and did not need it.

“I've already addressed this. This is actually happening, and is often cited as evidence of success in Iraq. Better not laugh.”

My apologies. I should have made it more clear why I was flabbergasted by this statement. It’s not because the statement is ridiculous in and of itself. It’s because the statement appears at the bottom of the page in the pdf document as part of a list. As I read through the document, I paged over to see the remaining part of your plan and my jaw hit the floor because that was the entire plan. I wasn’t laughing as much as I was dumbfounded. You had essentially a two step plan (‘people turn terrorists in for prosecution isn’t a step in the plan, its an outcome’), and one of the steps was ‘Don’t get killed’, and yet you felt that this was a sufficient strategic plan to defeat terrorism. The arrogance of that claim just blew me away.

“I may have overstated my point…”

You overstated a lot of your points. The fact that you did so greatly undermines the value of the document you created.

Finally…

“If we had been functioning as an honest police force in Iraq, maintaining peace even among Iraqi enemies since the fall of Saddam, we would have refuted most of OBL's claims.”

Hogwash. The simple truth of the matter is that US governance provides a far fairer, freer, just, secure, and prosperous community than any of the governments from which come the majority of the world’s terrorists. Yet this does not seem to impress the inhabitants of those communities. As I already pointed out of the case of anti-Americanism in Greece being spurred on by our intervention to stop Serbian atrocities, no matter how fairly and justly and honestly we try to deal with other nations of the world – someone is bound to hate us for it. Yet, the argument that terrorism is caused by the special injustice that the US has visited upon other nations of the world is utterly bankrupt, for surely if that was the case most terrorists would come from Columbia or Chile. Pakistan is a breeding ground for anti-US sentiment, but it is hard to see how we’ve dealt with them in a specially unjust manner. I have hard time seeing how you believe that we have not been functioning in Iraq as an honest and just occupying force as best as we are able, and doing our best to maintain peace even among enemies. Certainly we have been acting in better faith that the former government of Iraq. Even you admit that we are having a measure of success in getting people to see that we have honest intentions, and are overcoming our own mistakes, the occasional bad apple, and the enormous amount of negative press which they absorbed prior to the invasion which cast us as mere imperialists only in Iraq to steal their oil.

I think you really need to reconsider the claim that we are hated for our freedom more carefully. The fact of the matter is that so long as we are a pluralistic, multicultural, cosmopolitan society that tolerates a wide variety of behaviors and beliefs, people who believe that such a culture is corrupt and a threat to their own insular monoculture will find cause to hate us and will see the sort of things that we see as ‘fair’ and ‘just’ as hateful and unjust. The OBL’s of the world are claiming precisely that we are trying to transform the world into the sort of place that you or I see as fair and just. To the extent that we are successful in Iraq, it won’t refute this claim but rather validate it. The OBL’s of the world are the sort that march through the streets saying, “Free speech is terrorism.” The problem we have now is that we’ve discovered that we can no longer live safely in the world with a large group of people that believe this.

Finally, on a purely personal note, I should say that while I still think your anti-terrorism manifesto is not worth the bits it’s occupying, I took a look around your lab website and if I were 15 years younger, hadn’t grown up in nowhere Arkansas, and know then what I know now, I’d be dreaming of working for you. What you do is really really cool, as little as I respect your geopolitical insights, I respect your real work to a far greater degree. Perhaps the next time AI is the topic at hand, you’ll honor us by posting your thoughts.

Benjamin Kuipers:

I regret to inform you that ad hominem attacks are Mr. Katzman's stock-in-trade. And if and when you pin him down in his own contradictions and straw-man arguments, he will cite his busy schedule as reason for jumping ship on the discussion.

I'm still waiting for a remotely plausible explanation of how contining to Baghdad in 1991 might have been a successful strategic maneuver. Though certain prominent members of this site have endorsed such a course of action, nobody is willing to confront the logistical consquences of said action. It's hard to have honest give-and-take with such partners.

Benjamin,

There are some things we can agree on, and others on which we will have to disagree. Hopefully, we can do that robustly but civilly.

Celebrim's post was long, but it responded to a long argument. In general, I'd say we're on the same page in our criticisms. Some points to add:

RE: comment #38...

“Make it clear that challenging US forces would be utterly futile. Have US troops on every other street corner for the first few weeks, capable of calling in immediate reinforcements to quell any disturbance. That makes the disturbances not happen in the first place.”

Oddly, this strategy was not wildly successful for the Soviets in Afghanistan. Or Chechnya. Mostly, it just seemed to provide more targets - and in Afghanistan, it also alientated many locals (including warlords) who then banded together to fight them.

The US did learn the logical lessons from this, and have gone with a low-footprint approach that relies on rapid overwhelming response from protected bases rather than policing, making a containable number of enemies at any given time, building up the Afghan government and army (a slow process), and leveraging local/tribal entities and rivalries whenever possible.

These lessons and this approach led directly to Tora Bora. It seems to me that if you're serious about the things you seem to be advocating, you can't have it both ways.

Do you want to craft plans based on local history, that learn from others' experience, and minimize potential friction with the locals? Or do you want to go in with massive force and impose order, even if that means being seen as "Ugly Americans"? And if that's an issue where you pick different answers for different situations, what are your criteria?

RE: #53...

I would think that we could agree on:

We are facing some serious problems and threats.

Some of our attempts to deal with them are not going well.

Some things are going well.

Many writers on WoC, including you, seem highly motivated by the fact that people aren't paying enough attention to the third point. Many people like me are motivated by the fact that the people with decision-making power are ignoring the second point, and failing to anticipate and learn from our mistakes.

We can agree. Both do need to motivate us. My issue and argument is that I think some of the mistakes you've identified are illusions, some of the solutions proposed don't make sense, and the goals you've identified admit to a number of possible responses - some of which you are blind to. Just as it is important to analyze overall policy, I trust you'll agree that it's important to subject the proposals of others (including yourself) to the same kind of searching analysis.

For instance...

Are you actually advocating "massive devastation and loss of life" (presumably in Iraq, Iran, and elsewhere) as the solution to our problem with al Qaeda and the Islamofascists?

At some point, that may become necessary. It is up to the Muslim world and the countries thereof - if enough (or indeed, any - vid. Iran) of them decide they really want a war with us, we will either defeat them using limited war and covert means and forestall this desire, or we will effectively surrender to dhimmitude, or we will eventually have that full-scale war and settle the question.

And, if you look at history, the total war approach does work. Whether you like it or not.

Indeed, I'd say that failure to acknowledge this reality or contemplate those historical lessons makes realistic analysis and recommendations impossible. In contrast, understanding them helps to frame the stakes (especially if you don't like that option, and want to try something else first), and grounds the discussion in human history and timeless realities. Sleepwalking into a total war situation via half-measures also has a long and tested history, and that needs to be considered too when analyzing mistakes and missteps.

Are you actually advocating "killing the leaders of madrassas that spew hate and supremacism"?

Absolutely, and this ties into the half-measures point I just made. This is the center of gravity for the entire terrorist movement, the beginning of the entire training and recruiting process and a significant component in the full-fledged terrorist production industry.

If you allow them to exist as protected santuaries, I will point out that your goal of securing the support of the local populations becomes IMPOSSIBLE. They will simply brainwash new generations of fascists and terrorists forever, and serve as nerve centers for organizing the killing of those who stand up for any alternative futures that involve womens' rights or otherwise challenge their power and their Islamofascist agenda.

And then you'll be shocked, just shocked, when reform is strangled in its crib, irrational hatred and murderous supremacism are rife, and a dropping tech curve creates a situation in which Total War becomes the only response left to escalating attacks.

It may also make sense to take up Biden's suggestion and channel a lot of aid into educational aid programs and materials that will help to replace the madrassas - but as we see in Afghanistan and elsewhere, if the madrassas are left unhindered they'll simply help organize the killing of the teachers and burning of the schools who aren't teaching their theocratic fascist hate (or are teaching girls, which for them is the same thing).

I will also point out, while adding my shock that it is necessary to do so, that advocating the murder of others is not "free speech." That you would characterize it as such strikes me as an excellent example of the weaknesses and mistakes one finds on our side, albeit perhaps not the ones you were thinking of.

Finally, I'd recommend stepping out of the materialist bias that I'm seeing in your analysis. Good policing and good governance, or economic development, only go so far. Note the percentage of Muslims in Britain, for instance, who express support and sympathy for Osama bin Laden et. al. - not a majority, but not trivial either. there is a real religious belief component here, its effects are significant, and its presence has major implications for both desirable goals and recommended strategies.

Celebrim and Joe,

I would like to thank you for your careful and reasoned responses. (And Nate for your warning, though I think we're all pleased that Joe proved you wrong in this case.) I'll try to get back to this as soon as I can.

Thanks, Benjamin.

I was going to leave your response to JK for JK, as I’ve already written quite abit to chew on (or spew over, take your pick). But there are a couple of passages he did not touch on particularly that I think deserve special mention.

“The columnist seems to think that genuine sympathy would require all other countries to abandon their policy differences with the USA in deference to our suffering. The fact that other countries, and opinion-writers in other countries, persisted in their policy differences indicated that their sympathy must have been false. This is, to be mild and polite, unrealistic.”

False or not, ‘sympathy’ as you define it here would allow even Osama Bin Ladin and his supporters to be included amongst those for which we had ‘universal sympathy’. “Yes”, he could say, “I have sympathy for you and those innocents who were tragically caught in the attack, but you must realize that you brought it on yourselves.” Such sympathy, to be mild and polite, is of very little use to us. ‘Squandering’ such sympathy costs us nothing or at least it’s not hard to see how such ‘sympathy’ could be easily ‘squandered’ by doing just about anything.

The implication of the argument that we had squandered ‘universal sympathy’ was that had it not been so squandered, more help would be forth coming. The implication is that sympathy would translate into to support. Based on your own argument, ‘to be mild and polite, this is unrealistic’. We have ‘policy differences’ with Osama Bin Ladin. You have not really dealt with the fact that those people in Du Monde with which we have what you so Orwellianly describe as ‘policy differences’ are something rather far removed from what you would call ‘mild and polite’.

But let’s explode the myth of universal sympathy a step further. You are in academia. You work on an academic campus. Granted, I imagine being in Texas its somewhat insulated from the most radical forms of academic political rhetoric, but being on a campus in a neighboring state and knowing Austin to be the most ‘liberal’ spot in the state of Texas, I’m fairly sure that my own experiences are not that far from yours. On 9/11 a former colleague of mine upon hearing that terrorists had crashed a plane full of innocent people into a building full of innocent people, was reported to me from sources I have no reason to doubt to have done a dance of joy that would have been the envy of any Palestinian and to make an exclamation of joy. He went about the rest of the morning talking about how we’d deserved it until at some point he apparently began to realize how poorly this show of support for the terrorists was being received by at least some people in the department. And this person was no Pakistani graduate student or some such, but a native born American – in fact had been born in New York.

So how quickly was the ‘sympathy’ squandered by the ‘imperialistic policies’ of GWB where you worked? How long before the cartoons and editorials started appearing on the office doors? Days? Weeks? I know it’s a big campus, but did you bother to walk around the sociology department or the middle east studies department as see how fast the ‘sympathy’ got squandered their? Please don’t try to tell me that my campus is remarkably more ‘liberal’ than yours. The intellectual backlash almost certainly began even before we went into Afghanistan, and I’d be really surprised if you didn’t know it. And in any event, what happened here in the ‘red states’ was I’m aware through other counts extremely mild compared to what happened in the Ivy League and some West Coast universities.

“In any case, although at one point they were a relatively small organization, mostly in Afghanistan, they are now much larger…”

This is a patently deceptive statement, and I was hoping that JK or AL – who have more information on Al Queda’s internal structure than I do – would have seized upon it. The current size and structure of Al Queda is unknown, and I don’t have access to the US’s best estimates. However, I do know that by 2000, Al Queda in Iraq had passed some 10,000-20,000 trainees through its camps in Afghanistan alone, including 4,000 foreign recruits from countries around the world – and fielded several brigade sized forces of light infantry it used to provide muscle in Afghanistan. It had thousands of terrorist operatives in hundreds of cells around the world and an extensive financial network. Al Queda had affiliates in more than 50 countries, and had set up affiliate training camps in Malaysia, the Sudan, the Philippines, possibly Somalia (word is that they failed to take root), possibly northern Nigeria (its not clear if they went in before or after 9/11), Pakistan, the Pankasi Gorge region of Georgia, and even some have said England. They or affiliated groups were involved in insurgencies in about a half-dozen places around the world providing such things as technical training and arms smuggling contacts. As far as ‘command and control’ goes, Al Queda ‘Emirs’ where known to have international policy meetings to discuss inter-regional coordination – the most famous of which was the Malaysia conference in late 1999 in which the final touches were put on the plan for the attack on the USS Cole and the 9/11 attacks.

It’s unknown to me what the current size and disposition of Al Queda is, but to imply that they’ve certainly grown and profited from the war on terror is irresponsible. While I have no idea whether Al Queda’s recruiting efforts have improved post 9/11, I do know that it little matters because Al Queda was already finding sufficient recruits to conduct regular large scale international operations in the era in which we were refraining from using our ‘overwhelming force’. However, based on the degradation of Al Queda and its affiliates operational capacity in the years following 9/11 I’d have to say that the organization currently has severe problems. Each year the scope and reach of Al Queda’s hallmark coordinated attacks seems to be reduced: 9/11 was followed by 3/11, a tragic but noticeably smaller attack; 3/11 was followed by 7/7, a tragic but flubbed attack with smaller devices. Now Al Queda’s attacks seem mostly to occur in places like Egypt and Iraq, and its global insurgencies in places like Chechnya and the Philippines are floundering – which I also believe to be true of its very visible operations in Iraq.

But even if I am wrong, it doesn’t imply that any growth in Al Quada recruiting has had anything to do with that we’ve done. After a successful operation like 9/11 in which they could claim to have produced an apparently extraordinary ‘victory’, Al Queda’s prestige and recruiting ability were bound to grow. Imagine how much it would have grown had we chosen to refrain from using our ‘overwhelming force’ and allowed that victory to stand. Had we chosen to respond to terrorism as if it were merely ordinary criminality – a policy you explicitly endorse in your paper – that ‘victory’ would have in my opinion undoubtably stood unanswered.

By operating in the Middle East, which philosophically it has no choice but to do once we chose it as a battleground, Al Quad is doing exactly what we want them to do, because - as we both agree – it’s when Al Quad dirties its own nest that the widespread sympathy that they had immediately before and after 9/11 will deteriorate and they’ll find local previously supportive populations turning against them. When that happens, they will have been marginalized and the threat that they represent largely mitigated.

“The Bush doctrine says "we will make no distinction between the terrorists and those who harbor them". This is fine when applied to state actors, like the Taliban in Afghanistan, but when applied to the ordinary people, leads to attacking and alienating them when we need to be turning them against the terrorists.”

Do you have any evidence at all that Bush did not mean by ‘those who harbor them’, state actors? Where are we applying that statement to ‘ordinary people’? Where is this ‘massive retaliation’ you assume to be such a part of our – you claim – defective policy? What kind of criticism is to distort the words of someone and argue against the straw man you have set up? How many times does Bush have to say that this is not a war between the US and ordinary Moslems or ordinary inhabitants of the Middle East?

In fact, many of the critics of the Bush policy criticize it precisely because it seems publicly at least operate exactly in the way you say that it ought to. They point out that if a non-state actor is harboring and supporting terrorists, that it may be necessary to treat them as if they were a terrorist. It’s not realistic to assume that we can when over the love and respect of everyone that harbors terrorists and supports their goals and actions. Some strategy has to be worked out for dealing with these terrorist enablers. Winning hearts and minds might be effective in most cases, but it is not a sufficient strategy for all cases.

Please, do not claim that either JK or myself is advocating some sort of genocidal final solution. This isn’t an either or problem. It’s not either we win over everyone’s love or else we kill everyone (though I afraid it may come to that if we don’t adopt a realistic approach that gives full consideration to the nature of the problem). The strategy we are advocating is more nuanced than that. However, while we are on the subject, its worth noting that there is no intellectual or historical reason to assume that a ‘hearts and minds’ strategy built around inducing fear would be more difficult or work less well than one based around building trust. Police states and tyrannies do this all the time. In fact, tyrannies rarely have a problem with terrorism. If civil disobedience is not widespread enough that terrorism is the most you can manage, an authoritarian state can usually crush terrorists in short order. If the public antipathy for the government is so great that it can no longer terrorize and control the population, typically civil unrest moves immediately to a higher intensity conflict like a guerilla campaign, a coup, or a civil war. The reason we base our strategy around ‘honorable action’ is because we believe it to be right to do so, not because we believe it is necessarily going to be more effective than say crucifying 50,000 people and lining them up along the highways.

I must say I'm enjoying the give-and-take in this discussion.

Let's return to the discussion of Afghanistan for a moment.

Mr. Kuipers wrote:
My criticism of Bush administration policy is that no planning and preparation went into making sure that this kind of thing happened. Rumsfeld, et al, were convinced, correctly, that a blitzkrieg approach would topple Saddam's regime. It worked in Afghanistan to everyone's surprise, and it would work in Iraq, too, though success was much less surprising in that case. However, both in Afghanistan and much more in Iraq, the thin blitzkrieg forces that toppled the government were not the right forces, and certainly not numerous enough, to impose law and order on the resulting situation.
First, the terminology. The campaign in Afghanistan wasn't a blitzkrieg. A blitzkrieg is an attack with mobile forces that is sufficiently fast and surprising that it prevents the enemy from organizing a coherent defense. Perhaps that was true from an America-centric view of the campaign but, as celebrim implied, the local opposition played a very important role in the actual campaign. Without the support of that opposition the campaign could not have proceeded as it did. In my view that support was contingent on the small-footprint force that was used.

Tora Bora was an impossible situation. With a force large enough to cut it off as suggested we wouldn't have gotten local support. Without local support we wouldn't have been there to begin with. And then there were the logistical issues: how do you move a force of the suggested size and strength into Afghanistan? Pakistan would not have allowed. We got from Uzbekistan what was to be gotten.

In order to apprehend Bin Laden we needed to secure Tora Bora and we needed to secure the border with Pakistan. How large a force would that have required and how would we have put it in place?

My conclusion on Afghanistan is that what occurred is the best outcome we could possibly have obtained. Take it or leave it.

Was a larger invasion force in Iraq politically possible in the United States? I'm skeptical. In Iraq would a larger force have inspired more or less resistance at the outset? I don't know the answer and would appreciate informed comment. It's unclear to me how a stronger more widespread resistance at the early stages of the campaign (and, consequently, lots more Iraqis killed by American military action) would have improved our position there.

I find myself in the uncomfortable position of defending actions that I opposed since I opposed both the invasion of Afghanistan and that of Iraq on prudential grounds. After the fact I thought that the invasion of Afghanistan and the subsequent occupation has proceeded better than we could possibly have expected and that the invasion of Iraq proceeded very well, indeed, while the subsequent occupation has gone no worse than I expected. Iraq is a tiger which I believe we'd be very imprudent to dismount at this point.

To be fair to Benjamin, let's go over a few criticisms I have with the war effort. It's worth airing my annoyances from this side of the fence; they may be illunminating in terms of where folks like me are at.

But I'll start by saying that I'm with celebrim on the issue of the state of al-Qaeda. Just because it wasn't seen as clearly then doesn't mean it wasn't there, both in an organized form called "al-Qaeda" and a less organized form fed by many of the same wellsprings of madrassas, Saudi funding, Iranian support, et. al. called "supremacist Islamofascism". Emerson et. al. tried to warn us before 9/11. I suspect we'll eventually be surprised re: Hezbollah and various Iranian proxies in future, though he explicitly warned us about them too.

All those sanctuaries, training camps, and funds (from Gulf donors, state sponsors, and heroin trade cuts) buy you a lot, and produce a lot.

Having said that, criticism time of the American approach to date.

  • I think it's a very valid criticism of OIF that planners did NOT pay sufficient attention to the British experience in Iraq during the 1920s, and its implications. There were a number of reasons for this, including the illusion that decades of Ba'athist rule had changed the landscape and dragged Iraq into modernity. This is not wholly untrue, but it is also very far from true.

Lesson: A relearned one - tyranny doesn't change societies so much as freeze them on ice. Also, lesson #2 - most of the problem areas in this war are essentially tribes with borders; exceptions are few and (vid. Iran) even those exceptions have a lot of ethnic/tribal elements to them. Military operations in tribal societies are going to be the staple for a while, gotta be prepared to either wash your hands of the aftermath, or deliberately fragment problem states, or learn how to deal in tribal environments. As the British could tell you, that's a whole skill set constellation and it comes slowly and at cost.

  • Bremer's early approach of "hey, it's your country now, what do y'all want to do?" was also a mistake; Americans would have responded perfectly to that, but Iraqis were overwhelmed by it and saw it as an abdication of leadership at a critical time.

Lesson - America is headed into places that aren't America, or Germany, or Japan. That changes either the M.O. used (throttle back to the Roman/classic historical approach of "they cause problems, we come in and break things, fixing it is then their problem"); or the time horizons involved (i.e. prepare to be involved for a long time). Of course, it's possible to use both approaches but then you need a rough doctrine about when one and not the other, and why.

  • Rumsfeld canceling that extra division rotating in after the regime fell was also pretty dumb in retrospect, and is concerning on a larger level because it fits with a consistent bias toward smaller armed forces despite a situation that clearly shows the limitations of substituting machines for thinking human beings.

Lesson - in on-the-ground counterinsurgency fights, we need thinking men with high mobility and freedom of action. Right now, the USA is preparing for a potential war with China, not increasing the number of men on the ground available (which means looming issues vis-a-vis the guard and Reserves), and not really putting highly mobile forces on the ground to the extent necessary. There's a serious debate to be had about "is the American military being mis-appropriated," with the military-industrial complex squeezing out combatant commander needs in favour of its own big-ticket preferences.

  • Parenthetical - I don't have an issue with refusing to reconstitute the Iraqi military and building it de novo.

Yes, it was a major catalyst for the Sunni death squads. At the time time, America's Iraqi allies were saying "you need to do this, otherwise we'll see the Army as enemies." Iraqi Kanan Makiya talks about this and says it might have been a mistake in retrospect... but I'd say that not listening to them then, and so creating big-time problems with the Shi'ites in particular, would have made the present situation look like a day at the beach.

The back-off on Fallujah, which I viewed then as a huge mistake and still do, is another example of following Iraqi requests/advice.

Lesson - sometimes not being the Ugly American will lead to mistakes. You have to set those downsides against the benefits of not being like that, and either find some "fast save" options or just accept that things will be this way but the overall benefits justify it. Which brings us to...

  • Tora Bora. In general, Afghanistan is going about as well as it's possible to go, IMO. Having said that, having forces with a bunch of small BvS-206 or Wiesel 2 armored vehicles that can be carried around in CH-47 Chinook or CH-53 Super Stallion helicopters, offering all-terrain mobility, armor protection vs. small arms, and firepower overmatch vs. small arms, could have made a big difference if available at Tora Bora. Not to mention Anaconda.

Lesson - still nmostly unlearned, way too much foot soldier vs. foot soldier chase going on in places like Afghanistan. We can expect situations similar to Tora Bora in future - are we constituting a military that has such Air-Mech Strike options at its disposal? Not really. Mistake, in my view, which goes back to the "mis-appropriation" issue. A big mistake, actually, because it's structural.

Meanwhile, at the other end we have inadequate Hummers being used as mainstay vehicles for urban warfare in land-mine/IED zones. I've been very vocal about that here on Winds.

  • First, let's kill all the lawyers. I keep seeing stories about high-ranking military individuals running minute details in the war by JAG lawyers, and seeing complaints from the troops about shifting answers and silly forbiddances that endanger both missions and American lives.

Lesson - this is a ridiculous way to run anything, and especially a military. America needs to do whatever it has to do so that JAGs are not a big part of the military process, and then ensure that the only way you become a JAG is by serving for a year on the front lines first in a rifle platoon.

....All this stuff, however, is really about war as "who screws up least wins," and learning as we go. Learn the lessons, keep fighting, move on. We're never going to be completely competent, because you never are in war (or, indeed, in any large organization I've ever seen). But we can end up being more competent than our enemies, and that's good enough to win.

My 3 biggest peeves, however, go deeper...

  • Media War. Early days of straightforward talk were promising, embedding was very smart, recognition of blogs is a step forward, but overall still poorly run.

The media's intrinsic biases make complete success on this front impossible - but we could be way farther along. For instance, why the hell was it up to a private foundation to help Iraqis set up radio and TV facilities, so Osama's friends at al-Jazeera weren't the only source? Why hasn't there been a big exapnsion of trained people in this area and procured equipment?

Don't understand this failure; it seems very addressable, and the failure to do so has been damn costly. It may, in the end, be far more costly still.

  • Iran. If there's a coherent strategy for dealing with this threat, I've yet to see it from anyone. In general, this is still true, and execution is equally incoherent.

Inexcusable - and my prediction of 10-100 million dead as a result within the next 15-20 years still stands.

  • Mobilization. The foundational and fundamental mistake of the war.

War should have been declared against al-Qaeda, its affiliates, and all who provide them aid or assistance (it could be done against the Barbary Pirates, it can be done vs. al-Qaeda). Mobilization that provided America with the required reserve to deal with contingencies - like what if the first campaign(s) require more troops and/or take longer - was necessary. And serious efforts on the home front that set the war in terms of shared sacrifice and gave people tasks to do instead of "go shopping" needed to be undertaken.

None of this was done, for a whole bunch of reasons. As a result, it is very possible that this war could be lost, or (more likely) suffer reversals that will lead to a Total War situation down the road.

And yeah, that bugs me. A lot.

Still, we are where we are now and that option has fallen into abeyance. So we have to grit our teeth, point out the mistake, then wage the war as best we can until/unless that option becomes viable again.

One minor addition to your kvetch list, Joe. The Iraqis' complaint about Bremer wasn't limited to lack to leadership. Their more serious complaint about his tenure has to do with cronyism and corruption. I have no ability to evaluate the validity of the claim but the prevalence and acceptance of the claim demonstrates a problem of itself.

Like others, I appreciate the constructive and analytical tone the discussion has taken on, especially the ability to discuss and evaluate our own failures, in the hopes of being able to learn from them how better to deal with the genuine threats we face.

I will return, tomorrow I hope, to discuss the specific points people have raised, but the demands of Real Life have been requiring my attention for a while. Before that, I would like to make a more general point.

Many complex systems include multiple feedback loops, often both positive and negative ones. These can interact in ways that lead to counter-intuitive responses to what seem to be obviously correct actions. Let me give you an example.

Here in Texas, we have a nuisance called fire ants. Nests of little biting ants that leave infected pustules. They migrated in from South America somewhere, and for a while were confined to about a square mile near Houston. A few prescient scientists suggested spending several million dollars to saturate that area with the appropriate insecticide and kill them off. They weren't listened to.

A decade or so later (fire ants are slower than human terrorists), people decided they had a serious problem, and went all out to kill them off. This very expensive effort came to be known as "the Vietnam of entomology". The fire ants won.

They are now a permanent part of the American south, and we learn to deal with them. Here's the interesting thing about feedback systems.

Suppose you discover the first few fire ant mounds on your property, and you decide to move quickly, and eradicate them completely, just like people should have done in Houston, many years ago. You buy a good strong ant poison and kill every last one of them.

The next year, or possibly the year after, instead of 10% fire ants on your property, you have 90% fire ants. Why?

It turns out that fire ants move quickly into unoccupied territory, but they are not all that great against other species of ants who are already established there and aren't bothering you at all. However, if you spread general-purpose insecticide around, you kill the fire ants, but you also kill all the other indigenous ants. The next year, there's this nice big empty territory, with no other ants to compete with, and the fire ants move in a lot quicker than the other species.

(Incidentally, if you really want to control your fire ants, instead of broadcasting a general-purpose ant poison, you use slow-poisoned bait, and sprinkle it by hand into the foraging area around each individual mound. They take it home, feast and die, leaving their territory to their neighbors. Fortunately, fire ants have conspicuous mounds.)

But notice the paradoxical dynamics. An "obviously correct" strategy ("kill all the fire ants") that successfully defeats fire ants on the time-scale of days, actually encourages the fire ant population on the time-scale of seasons. A slower strategy requiring more patience ("feed them tempting poison") actually works. (For people who don't even have the patience for the bad plan, a popular approach is pouring boiling water onto the mound. This is a lot of work and gives you the bodies of a bunch of dead worker ants, but it has virtually no effect at all on the mound.)

This analogy shouldn't be pushed too far. Terrorists are not fire ants, no matter how much we dislike them both. But with a little practice at looking for these kinds of second-order effects, and particularly looking for paradoxical responses where the long-term effect is in the opposite direction to the short-term effect, it is amazing what you see out there.

People will persist in doing things that seem sensible, but then turn around and bite them on a longer time-scale, and they'll never understand that they are causing their own misery. Simple aphorisms like "Don't eat the seed corn" are compiled warnings about this phenomenon.

There's a lot of things I don't know about military strategy and tactics. But when smart people do stupid things for preventable reasons, it's worth trying to get people's attention.

Interesting and illustrative comment, that will surely have some applications somewhere. Thanks.

In fact, it's sufficiently interesting that it's worthwhile as a stand-alone, referenceable guest blog post without the trappings of our surrounding discussion. If that's OK with you.

I do think there are some pretty key differences re: the situation we face with Islamofascism, not least in terms of their tendency to drive out native competitors rather than being contained by them. Bangladesh offers an excellent example, but by no means the only one. Bosnia is also becoming a problem, and as usual the problem is Gulf oil money that supports the fanatics and haters and gives them a strong competitive edge.

I'd further argue that if you wanted to pursue a "poison around the mound" strategy rather than "general insecticide," killing madrassa leaders and clerics who preached violence and hate while leaving others alone offers a strong analogy. I'll add that the history of the Assassins (who adopted a similar approach to religious theology disputes albeit toward different ends) strongly suggests that such techniques work in Islamic culture as a way of bending discourse, though ultimately the state support issue would still remain to be dealt with.

Our grand strategy in dealing with terrorists is different from what amounts to a strategy of freeing up territory for fire ants to occupy, but perhaps not all that different.

"Terrorists" is really a word for jihadis in active operations in this war. While Muslim culture is supporting of terror in general, including the secular, Socialist-influenced terror that was popular with Palestinians while the Soviet Union was available as a patron, our real problem is jihad, including and not limited to terrorist jihad.

What we do about this, basically, is seek (or seek to manufacture) allies in the Muslim world. These allies by and large are still committed to our subjugation, but they believe in tactics that in the short term are less offensive to us. As Charles Krauthammer said, their line is: cartoons of Muhammed are unacceptable, as is, in the long run, the violation of any taboo Islam imposes on us - but in the meantime, please don't burn that embassy. "Our" Muslims uphold the principle that Muslim domination must be maintained by fear and by high costs imposed on those who want to convert out of Islam - but they are politically flexible enough to allow one particular Christian convert in a very high profile case to escape with his life. And so on. So these are the people we try to make win.

To make them winners, we beat up those of their enemies that are too tough for them - sometimes. (They don't always want the militants beaten up. "Surprisingly" often they prefer to find a place for them at the Muslim political table. After all, they remain their co-religionists, and Islam perpetually and persuasively calls for them to make common cause against ... us.) And we consent to the swift or slow destruction of the enemies that they are grinding down themselves. No other terms are acceptable. Not to agree to that is to be an enemy of moderate Islam, which would be the opposite of our strategy.

That means we agree to the grinding down of polytheists of all stripes, most obviously Animists in Africa and Hindus in India and globally. We agree to the grinding down of Christians everywhere the shadow of Islam falls, in Indonesia, in Egypt, in other parts of Africa, in other parts of the world. We accept the bloody scourging and diplomatic slow grinding down of Israel, and of Jews in general. In short, the swift or slow subjugation and destruction of everything that could compete for turf with Islam happens with our tacit consent.

We help free up territory for the fire ants of Allah.

Where undemocratic political features oppose militant Islam, as with the military guarding secularism in Turkey, we say: get rid of that. For Turkey to join the EU, it has to have solid civilian control. That which gets in the way of popular mandates that the madrasas of hate can easily deliver in the long run has to go.

Because, overall, if we said "no, this price is too high" then we'd have to give up our illusion that moderate Islam is our friend, and that would mean having to face fear, and we are all about deferring as long as possible a face-to-face meeting with real fear.

And so Islam, implacably, intractably hostile Islam, expands globally, through pressure, through intimidation, through measures usually short of war that we agree not to call war and not to oppose, for fear of making ourself (even more) hated by our enemies and for fear of making those committed to tactics more troublesome for us in the sort term (even more) popular in the Muslim world by giving them grievances to exploit.

We look to wonderful long-term results from this great strategy.

To the extent that we are disturbed by some really sharp-edged problems, like nukes in the hands of fanatics whose experiences of us have taught them to despise our "deterrence" and act accordingly, our main strategy is deliberate confusion over the word "need". We think Islam "needs" a reformation to make it less militant - even while our spineless strategy continues to guarantee that Muslim militancy below a very high threshold is handsomely rewarded. Islam needs to keep going, to reap the full reward of our weakness. And it is doing so. It is we who need the winners to change themselves so that they stop winning at our and everybody else's expense.

We haven't asked ourselves how often empowering your enemies in the hope that they will then voluntarily reform themselves so as not to beat you and so as not to continue successfully to extract concessions from you works, historically. How often do people decide - "By Allah, Achmed, we'd better stop, otherwise we'll win!"? Usually? Often? Sometimes? Ever? We don't seem interested in this question.

Interesting analogy and interesting response from David Blue.

As my contribution to the analogy I'd like to suggest that the “drop-dead” date—the last point at which the fire ant hills were confined to a small area—was in 1979. We don't have that option any more.

Also, the “slow-poisoned bait” is modernity and a great deal of the current conflict is the Islamists' recognition of that fact.

As Bernard (may I call you Bernard?) notes we should be careful not to push the analogy too far.

There are lots of limits to the analogy. Men aren't ants; terrorists have the potential to be a lot more than just a serious nuisance. And so on.

One more observation. Bernard, you write:
But with a little practice at looking for these kinds of second-order effects, and particularly looking for paradoxical responses where the long-term effect is in the opposite direction to the short-term effect, it is amazing what you see out there.
If you're looking towards government to consider second-order effects, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed. The history of government—not just our government and not just Republicans—is littered with illustrations of the inability to consider second-order effects.

"When events like Abu Ghraib take place, that digs us farther into a hole, and it takes more good work to climb back out. (And the issue here is not news and publicity; it's whether the event takes place at all. They know.)"

Iraqis don't care about Abu Ghraib. They saw a few common criminals and terrorists being held a prison that used to be notorious for torture (real torture) and long imprisonment of thousands, over many many years. Everyone in Iraq has a relative who was imprisoned or tortured by Saddam, if not themselves. They saw these few criminals with panties on their heads or dogs barking at them, and they know what used to go on there, and they wonder why the Americans got so upset over this. They think it's funny.

The rest of the Arab world has tried to make hay over Abu Ghraib, which makes the Iraqis bitter, because their Arab brothers never cared that much about them when Saddam was torturing and killing them.

Iraqis don't care about Abu Ghraib.
celebrim, that's untrue. Some Iraqis care about it, some don't. I can produce links to posts from any number of Iraqi bloggers, ex-pat and living in Iraq, who are plenty PO'd it. For some it's mostly an excuse to bash Bush (they aren't immune from it either) and Americans. Others are sincere.

I don't think its the overriding concern of any Iraqis. The biggest concern of most Iraqis, at least as exemplified by Iraqi bloggers, appears to be day-to-day security.

I'm sorry. I should have addressed that last comment to Yehudit.

"I'm sorry. I should have addressed that last comment to Yehudit."

Yes, you should have. I was thinking about making pretty much the same post you just made, but I felt I've monopolized this thread enough.

But now that I've been brought into it, I'd like to add to your comments that I think it is a mistake to assume that everyone feels about the Abu Ghraib photographs or anything else for that matter the same way that you do. For example, many Iraqis are angry with the US for not being harsh enough, retaliatory enough, and violent enough in our pursuit of insurgents. In thier eyes, we've been bafflingly soft in our handling of a bunch of mass murders, and they can't understand why we don't employ the effective tools of hard power that they are so used. Those tools at least they know to work and provide security, and are in thier eyes fair and just retribution. To do anything else wouldn't be just to the victim, right?

You can't deal with any population as if it wasn't made up of complex individuals with thier own opinions. Much of the mistakes in planning for Iraq in my opinion can be traced to 'middle east' experts of every political stripe treating the Arab world as if it was a single homogenous population. Whether this was from racism, ignorance or swallowing to much pan-Arab propaganda, probably depends on who we are talking about but its a pretty intellectually corrosive picture of the middle east no matter what the cause.

For modern societies, the iconic wars are WWI and WWII — total involvement of the entire population and economy of each participant; no terms but complete surrender; political rather than cultural focus; fast action, no significant pauses for recover and short time horizons to completion. But that is not the model that describes warfare for the other 50000 years or so of human history. Most warfare falls into one of two categories: invasion or extermination of the warfighting elite.

The United States is being invaded as we speak, by a fair fraction of the illegal immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America. In the classical sense, invasion is not an Army marching through as fast as possible while fighting a defending army; rather, it is the encroachment of one culture into the space previously occupied by another. It's seldom a war, per se, but rather is a series of clashes as pressures build, followed by periods of lower tension. In the end, either the invading culture supplants the invaded culture, or the invaded people outbreeds or outfights the invading culture, or both happen. (As an example of both happening, archaeological research tells us that Near Eastern invaders culturally occupied Europe, leading to settlement and agriculture, while genetic research tells us that most Europeans are not descended from the invaders.) Invasion is what Europeans did to aboriginal Americans both North and South, and what the mixed European/South American aboriginal stock is doing to the primarily European stock of North America. Given the US's unique political and non-racial model, it's entirely possible that, over time, the invasion will simply be subsumed into the population.

The other model, and the most common form of human behavior that we would recognize as war, is for one culture's warfighting elite (generally young men) to raid another culture, slaughter its warfighting elite (generally at that point all men), enslave the children and take the women. The Arab way of war (and there needs to be a book with this as a topic) is part of this general model: raids are used to gather resources from neighboring groups and establish local superiority, at which point large-scale slaughter and enslavement of the neighboring group ensues, and the victorious tribe takes the now-empty territory of the defeated group.

Islam did a remarkable thing: it allowed Arabs to remain tribal, while tamping down the normal intertribal conflicts to a large extent in favor of expansion into non-Muslim lands by invasion (see Persia, Anatolia) or slaughter (see Africa). But there was a problem in the midst of Islam: the Muslims failed to conquer Europe, defeated in both Spain and the Balkans. And it has been the infusion of European ideas into the Arab culture that led to the rise of the jihadis we now face. al Qaeda and affiliated groups are a mix of the European political ideas of fascism and romanticism with Arab culture's hatred/fear of outsiders and fatalism. That an Arab group infused by this mix would then strike out using Arab ways of war is hardly surprising.

Except to us in the West, who left those ideas behind along with feudalism. We of the West haven't fought that way since the Renaissance, and so we are unable to mentally cope with the level and type of brutality involved, or with the total absence of grounds for compromise. If you intend to slaughter your opponents, the only grounds for compromise is when you need to regroup.

So here we find ourselves, fighting inter-tribal wars with an industrial military. And it's hardly a surprise that we are feeling our way through quite slowly: we've lost the instincts for this. You want to know how to win the war on the jihadis' terms? Here you go: slaughter them first.

Kill every imam and ayatollah — not just the ones at hate-spewing maddrassas. Defile and burn down the mosques. Expunge every symbol of Islam from areas where we are fighting. Import Christian missionaries and make Korans illegal.

While you're at it, kill the secular political leaders, too. Every symbol of power, control, or self-determination must go, as well as any local leaders who resist you. And anyone who resists, slaughter their families, too. Terror works when applied in large doses and with consistency.

Charge the survivors a tax, as the Romans and Mongols did — and as Arabs themselves do — not to raise the revenue, but to humiliate the survivors and never allow them to forget they are a conquered people.

Break them body, mind and soul.

And make no mistake: that is pretty much exactly the program the jihadis have in mind for us, if they succeed in beating us. And because that is their stated intention and historical behavior, it should go without saying that our surrender is not an option.

Now, I recoil at that kind of fighting, and I suspect that virtually everyone in the West (including Joe Katzman, for those of you who think that he is demonic for advocating killing those imams who specialize in teaching the next generation how to be jihadis) recoils as well. So let's see the alternatives, shall we?

One alternative is that the Arab world can develop the means to fight us on our terms, rather than having us fight on their terms. But to do so would require them to utterly abandon their culture and their religio-legal systems, which prevent the enemy from having the capacity (even though they have the raw cash from their oil) to build and sustain modern militaries. So if they won't do that, they have another approach, and Iran is working on that right now: develop nuclear weapons.

Now having nuclear weapons can give Iran one of two abilities, and I suspect that the one we fear least (and perhaps should fear most) is the one they want nuclear weapons for. Iran with nuclear weapons could completely dominate the Middle East: only Pakistan, Israel and the US could hope to stand against Iran at that point. Would the US risk Seattle or New York or Dallas to save Kuwait from the Iranians? How about Damascus or Cairo? I doubt it; at this point it's unclear if we are willing, over the long term, to risk two platoons a month.

So with nuclear weapons, Iran could expand West and South to control virtually the whole of the Arab/Muslim world. At that point, if not before, war with Israel is assured, because the Iranians would know that they could utterly destroy Israel while losing a small fraction of their own population and resources. And it is for this reason that Israel will not allow Iran to gain nuclear weapons, and if necessary would, I believe, deploy their own nuclear arsenal preemptively to prevent that outcome.

Iran's second course, naturally, would be to give the nuclear weapons to terrorists to attack Israel, the US and/or Europe, keeping us busy while Iran goes about setting up the Caliphate as above. Same goal; different strategy. Same response, except in that case it would likely be the US, France and Britain that would deploy their nuclear arsenals to prevent that outcome.

Either way, we'd be looking at the deaths of millions, and I'm not sure that wholesale slaughter would be any more humane than killing them (and having them kill us) retail.

The final way that this war could be fought is for us to invade them, not in the industrial sense, but in the classic sense, with the modification that we don't need or want to have our people take their territory; we simply want them to adopt enough of our cultural ideals, and shed enough of their own, to end their expansionist and tribal tendencies. And the way to do that is to give them an alternative ideology and political system that has so many and bountiful and pervasive incentives that Arabs would voluntarily adopt it, once they saw it working for themselves.

And that is exactly what we are trying to do right now. That is the approach that the Bush administration has taken, and that every subsequent administration will have to take (like the Cold War, we're locked in here: the alternatives are hideous) to avoid one of the worse outcomes. And it is also why the jihadis are slaughtering Iraqis now: to prevent democracy and liberalism (relative liberalism, anyway) from taking hold in an Arab land. They see the invasion (they call it cultural imperialism) for what it is, and they resist.

So for all the criticisms of Bush and Rumsfeld for their imperfections (and they are certainly imperfect, and have assuredly made mistakes), they have avoided the central and unacceptable mistake, which John Kerry proposed to make, of not making the attempt to avoid a genocide on one side or the other. Now it's entirely possible that they, or their successors, will fail. And if that happens, the cost will be horrendous. I for one hope that they don't fail, and that their successors are not the kind of people that are blind to the long-term threat of genocide, and that their successors — of any party — don't fail.

Jeff: Very well said.

Whew! Too many fascinating comments for adequate response, but I'll see what I can do. (Reviewing what I've written below, it turned into an extended sermon on a particular response that's been brewing in me for a while.)

Before my drive home, on a quick skim of Jeff Medcalf's comment [#71], all I picked up were the genocidal scenarios. Last night, I had been shocked by Joe Katzman's advocacy of killing clerics who lead hate-mongering madrassas [#56,#64]. (Let me be fair to Jeff: a careful reading of his post shows that the genocidal scenarios are described as horrifying ones to be avoided by carefully walking a line between them.)

Meanwhile, we get David Blue [#65] portraying the entire religion and culture of Islam as falling on a spectrum ranging from active terrorists to those merely "still committed to our subjugation." He rhetorically dehumanizes a quarter of the human race as "the fire ants of Allah".

FDR said (in 1933), "All we have to fear is fear itself." He was talking about fear of economic catastrophe at the time, but the same thing definitely applies to our response to these threats. Fear is making us advocate things that are antithetical to our values as Americans. Genocide (not Jeff Medcalf, but others I've read on WoC), assassination of people advocating evil deeds (once you get started with this, it gets hard to know when to stop), and dehumanization of the feared Other (Muslim, Black, Jewish, or whatever), whose destruction is the only path to safety.

Have you ever wondered how you would have behaved if you had been an ordinary German in the mid-1930s, during Adolf Hitler's rise to power, and the beginning of his attempt to conquer Europe? I think we all hope we would have been among the brave few who recognized the deep evil there, and either stood up bravely against him or took secret risks like Schindler to save at least a few of the vulnerable.

But go back and read some of Hitler's speeches. He's quite the orator, explaining what a peace-lover he is, and how important it is for him to defend the Fatherland against vile attacks from within and without. Would we have recognized the evil there, and had the courage to resist? To be honest, I don't know.

One test is to look for actions, however persuasively they are justified, that violate the well-established principles that determine what kind of people we are. I have read opinions in these pages that the USA should pre-emptively nuke Iran, killing many innocent people, to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons. Fortunately, those writers lack the authority to implement those thoughts, but they received a lot of sympathy and not all that much condemnation. This is motivated by fear, of course. Fear of nuclear terrorism in New York City or Washington, eloquently described to crank the fear up to a fever pitch, until you can get people to say, "We have no choice!" No choice but to do this indescribably evil thing. This thing that we justify because of our fear.

Fortunately, so far, it's just rhetoric. The danger of this rhetoric is that it frames the question as one between polar opposites: appease our enemies and hand over all we hold dear, or nuke them pre-emptively and sacrifice our souls. (If you believe in souls. Otherwise read this as sacrificing all the values that make America worth living and dying for.)

Framing the question as polar opposites misses the third way. And there's always a third way. Jeff M proposes one. There are others.

The point of my fire ant parable [#63] is that people can deceive themselves with a first-order model of a system, when its second-order behavior will give exactly the opposite effect in the longer term. The myth of the polar choice is another such source of deception, and a more common one. We need to educate ourselves to see these deceptive frames, not just when other people try to impose them, but when we impose them on ourselves.

I'll get back to the point-by-point discussion (if I'm allowed back after this), but it's important to weigh these actions against our deepest values.

After my apocalyptic remarks in my previous post, let me focus on common ground. I had promised to return and comment on previous posts.

Embedded in Jeff Medcalf's long and interesting (if disturbing) post [#71] is a point that I think is very important, and not widely appreciated. Before 9/11/01, and even to some extent after, Western values have been taking over the youth of Islam. The extreme fundamentalists were facing extinction as they aged, and as the youth were attracted to liberalism, materialism, and rock-n-roll. (Dave Schuler [#66] makes this point as well.)

From the point of view of Osama bin Laden and those of like mind, how could they recapture the youth of Islam? Only if they could foment war between Islam and the West, and link violent participation in that war to the religious sense of jihad, or spiritual struggle. The secondary purpose of the terrorist attacks is to show that the West is vulnerable, but the primary purpose is to provoke a major counter-attack, with widespread collateral casualties among innocent Muslims, which will then rally the young Muslims to OBL's cause.

There remains a lot of attraction to Western values among Muslims, young and old. We need to encourage that, and not drive Muslims away. At the same time, there is much that is admirable and peaceable in Islam, which we need to recognize, respect, and encourage. (Clearly, some WoC commentators disagree strongly with me on this (probably including David Blue [#65]), and they often present as evidence blood-curdling quotes from the Quran, but I wonder whether they have met with any of their American Muslim neighbors, to find out what they actually believe and how they actually live.)

Celebrim [#70] makes the important point that Islam is a complex population of complex individuals, representing a wide range of beliefs and cultures. My argument here should be taken in that spirit: that Islam includes many people sympathetic to Western values, very likely outnumbering the implacable ones who are our violent enemies. I am not arguing that all Muslims are ready to be our friends at the first smile, but neither are they all just waiting to kill us.

Dave Schuler [#66] says that government is littered with evidence of the inability to consider second-order effect. Certainly lots of people make serious mistakes by overlooking important second-order effects. However, there is a long history of people basing policy on second-order effects, sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly. Henry Ford increased the pay of his auto workers so they could afford to buy his cars, contributing to the development of the middle class. FDR's New Deal used deficit spending to dig the country out of the Great Depression (with a good deal of help from WWII). The Laffer Curve is a predicted second-order effect that drives our current tax policy. (Its misapplication causes our ballooning deficit.)

I really appreciate Joe Katzman's [#61] critique of the war effort. We disagree about a lot of things, but we agree on a lot of these. More importantly, the common effort to look for both good things to encourage and bad things to fix, even from different points of view, is important to bringing our country together.

Celebrim's long post [#59] includes a lot of interesting stuff. Let me focus on two points I really agree with. First, let's just ban the word "spew". Second, I appreciate your pointing out that it's not "either we win over everyone's love or else we kill everyone", and "The strategy we are advocating is more nuanced than that." I sometimes get a different impression, including from [#56,#64]. I also agree with you that it is possible in theory to end a dispute thoroughly with ruthlessness to the point of genocide, but that that is not the sort of people we are, or want to become. (This is what led to my previous post.)

Joe K [#56]: this is where you confirm that you are actually advocating killing the leaders of madrasses that spew hate and supremacism. Shortly before you say, "I will also point out, while adding my shock that it is necessary to do so, that advocating the murder of others is not `free speech'." The juxtaposition is pretty jarring. However, in the following paragraph, you point out, and I agree, the importance of keeping in mind that "there is a real religious belief component here".

Well, I've at least picked out a few points of agreement, though the disagreements are there, too. So it goes.

Benjamin,

The juxtaposition is not jarring at all. You insist on treating the rest of the world like a suburb of Houston and you know what? It isn't. Not legally, and not morally.

The clerics in question are part of a movement we are at war with, and we are at war precisely BECAUSE of their organized incitement to hatred and murder. In the USA, they need to be deported or imprisoned. Add failures to be serious about this to my criticism of the war effort.

Abroad, where US law does not reach, their allegiances and actions make them legitimate targets in the exact same sense that a Nazi officer or functionary is a legitimate target.

I appreciate the give-and-take, and it's evident to me that you're looking for a way to win this thing and have put serious effort and thought toward that end. That's deeply appreciated.

Having said that, there have been quite a few statements that prompt a "WTF?" response from folks like myself and celebrim, beyond arguments that the entire base recruiting and organizing structure for our enemies should simply turn out terrorists and preach jihad and hate without consequences, and wage war upon us, and be immune to targeting. Even as they make every goal you've held forth an impossible joke.

But you know, all those people in Peshawar, Pakistan et., al. are protected by the first amendment of the US constitution. Riiiiiight. But no Ugly Americans who see the whole world as an extension of themselves here, no sir.

When you drop these things into conversations, I see someone who is trying, but the undiscussed assumptions underneath sometimes make the whole spectacle something like watching a man try to play basketball using a hockey stick.

I suspect the only way forward in the discussions is to step back and into a number of those assumptions.

We can start with the bit about people preaching jihad, Islamic supremacism, and the murder of both untermenschen infidels and Muslims who do not share their views, and being immune to consequences. Why do you believe that is a good idea?

You've got a big problem with your comparison of Hitler's demonization of the Jews (besides the obvious breach of Godwin's Law). Namely, the Jews did not crash biplanes into the tallest buildings in Germany in a highly visible suicide attack. Nor did they have a 1000-year-long track record of military conquest, fanaticism, and totalitarianism. Nor did that history culminate in a series of brutal, targetted attacks over the previous 40 years for which they proudly took credit in the name of their religion.

When Hitler said he was going to "defend the Fatherland against vile attacks from within and without", he had to fabricate those attacks out of thin air, reference imaginary offenses and gin up elaborate conspiracies which didn't exist. But today anyone can fly to New York and see the gaping hole of Ground Zero, or the reconstructed Pentagon, or the patched hole in the side of the USS Cole. Al Qaeda isn't a figment of George W Bush's imagination, they have websites anyone can visit, spokepeople who release video tapes and take credit for any pipe bomb they can, and an entire region where you can find smiling kids wearing Osama bin Laden t-shirts.

FDR's oft-quoted "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" only applies when there is no real threat to struggle against--and this is not the case when speaking about radical Islam. The quote is much less useful than many people realize; fear can cause economic activity to change and worsen economic conditions, creating a problem that didn't exist before. But lack of fear will not make al Qaeda go away, and that means we have to come up with a better strategy than "try not to overreact".

LOOSE THE ARMY OF DAVIDS

Joe and to all,

Excellent discussion thread. No sense in rehashing anything.

Just want to point out who dangled the carrot of EU membership in front of the Turks to deny us airspace and the IV ID to invade from the north that would have cleared the Sunni triangle on the way to Baghdad - the French!

The American Thinker has a long running thread that the Plame-Wilson Affair was a high level French Intel disinformation campaign to CYA their tracks by focusing the world's attention on President Bush on the yellow cake matter. Please remember that nothing goes on in Niger that the French mining concerns don't know or have something to do with.

With friends like the French who needs enemies.

Guess who was also on top of the food chain of the oil for food oil vouchers - the French, followed by the Russians, and then the Chinese.

Oh BTW if you're a fan of Agt. Jack Bauer and 24 Hours, who was the real enemy in season III and were using the Jihadists as surogates to take the US down several notches in the world economy? The Chinese? Gee, their writers seem to have more sense of reality than the bureaucrats that are supposed to know!

I'm not a big fan of Gingrich but he right on when he says, "hire artists and fire the bureaucrats" to solve our intel community's dim crystal ball.

See any connections with UN Sec Council veto votes? Who moved Saddam's WMD out of Iraq into Syria during the run to Baghdad - the Russians.

Who is helping the Mad Mullahs to go nuclear - the Russians and the Chinese via the NORKS.

Joe has it right - the real question is whether there is a moral equivalency with Islamofascisms that seeks our utter distruction?

Joe is right the secret to unraveling this fanaticism is to destroy the radical madrasses who spread this cultlike religious fanaticism.

They're no different than David Koresch and the Branch Davidians (Waco, TX) and Jim Jones and the Kool-Aid Bunch. From our Western frame of reference we know they're "nuts."

The only difference is these religious fanatics are fueled worldwide by petrol dollars. The Mad Mullahs support Shiia fanaticism and the House of Saud supports Sunni driven madness e.g. OBL/AQ.

Each is trying to outdo the other as to who is more pious and the follower of the true faith. And when it serves their short term interests they will unite to attack the Great and Little Satans as scapegoats for their failed societies.

Joe is right on the mark when he suggests the women of Islam can bring control to this madness if they are empowered both civily and economically. Where are the feminists when you need them?

Please carry on with your discussion but please see this remark I posted in Joe's new post above:

LOOSE THE ARMY OF DAVIDS

Joe,

I'm will you all the way. It's time to loose the Army of Davids to bring the truth to the American people.

See RBT's comments re the grave danger we all are facing by Iranian President "MAD" and his religous mentor Imam Yazdi at:

Atlas Shrugs

and

Ray Robison's Blog

[Currently working on translation of the Saddam Regime documents]

Ray your efforts are critical to secure the political will of the American people by crushing the lie/meme of the LL and the MSM that, "Bush Lied! People Died!"

This is crucial to confront this terror that confronts us. RBT doesn't believe we have six months.

As RBT said over at Atlas:

It's 1938 all over again!

For those of us in the Blogos who know the truth -

IT'S TIME TO ROLL!

RBT

Jeff Medcalf essentially has the right of it!

The problem is this. The decision makers in the West are not really religious! They make claim to be born again Christians, or Cathloics or observent Jews or what every but they are not.. Religion is that Sunday Morning type thing. The rest of the week is business and pleasure with maybe 6 sleep periods thrown in.

Islam is prayer FIVE TIMES a day! In a nation like Saudi a man with a BIG WHIP makes sure you do your prayers.

We may claim to be religious but we don't understand what it means. Its sort of like a friend, a famous scholar of Buddhism who when he left his teach post in Japan was asked by the reporters how he saw Japan...
His reply: Mahat Mahat Mahatma san
essentially told them they were to materialistic and tied to this world to be successful Buddhists.

The west is like this with it's religion. The Lutheran in Tanzania is many times more religious than the Lutheran in the US who is much more religious then the Lutheran in Sweden.

Face it. Five times a day prostrating yourself on the dirty street or where ever your are is a Fanatic to the West in all senses of the word.

The Fanatic when then reaching that state most commonly reached in the West in an orgasam or the winning point in a game... gets his sermon from the Iman at that point.

Now... Memri and JihadWatch have given us windows onto those sermons!

So... that leads us to the missing player in the US chest of tools. THE CIA!

Why? Its at war with itself and the prez instead of being a tool in our war chest.

We really need a CIA that can defame or remove the worst of the Imans. We need it's dis-info. We need its cunning. The CIA is the dead arm. It needs to be functional enough to do even limping stuff but it seems it can't. To top it off it can't even keep it's malcontent's mouths shut!

It has been the missing actor and has not been effectively used for that reason.

We need to either replace it or fix it yesterday.

Now... I know a bit about religion as I grew up a PK. First as a child in a far eastern mission field and then as just a PK. I grew up among religious nuts. (my parents were not too bad - mom had been FBI and dad a machine gunner in the 10th Mountain in WW-II, so, they had basic reality 101, but I knew a lot of really nutty ones...)

Bush is squeezing Iran economically.

http://powerandcontrol.bl*gspot.com/2006/05/iran-is-having-money-troubles.html

http://powerandcontrol.bl*gspot.com/2006/04/at-war-with-iran.html

http://powerandcontrol.bl*gspot.com/2006/04/gold-war.html

I'd say we are fully engaged with Iran short of shooting.

Joe did a piece on this. Why isn't Bush getting credit?

Why is there so much handwringing that nothing is being done?

The Bush strategy:

Restrict the food supply of the ants sufficiently that they resort to canabalism. This will at minimum weaken them. It may be sufficient to destroy them.

Terrorism is not just a tactic. It is a business.

I can just see Bush with that stupid grin from ear to ear thinking - those guys have absolutely no idea what I'm about despite the evidence available from open sources.

Bush is taking his cues right from the Lennin play book. Economic misery creates political opportunities. And how would we prefer to deal with Iran: home grown regime change. And if not that at least a weakened regime.

#51 Joe,

The key is not the devastation but the hunger.

#76: I agree. And I'd like to say that in general, analogies involving Hitler almost always have big problems.

#77 At some level I agree with you on most of your claims, but the particular style you use to convey the 'policy disagreements' between ourselves and various other factions out there veers far too much to the breathless wide-eyed conspiracy theorist zone. Each of those particular claims probably needs to be qualified, and all of them - being extraordinary claims - need far more evidence before you should assert them with such strength.

One area that that I agree with you totally on is that the War on Terror is essentially an Islamic civil war in which various factions have adopted 'killing infidels' as a means of proving thier religioius zeal, and hence, to increase thier prestige in the eyes of the public.

#78: "We may claim to be religious but we don't understand what it means."

I believe you are making the same mistake here that was famously made when Pauline Kael remarked, "I don't see how Nixon won. Nobody I know voted for him." Merely because you are not as religious as the guy who gets down on his face five times a day does not mean that 'we' are not religious and don't understand what it means.

"Now... I know a bit about religion as I grew up a PK. First as a child in a far eastern mission field and then as just a PK. I grew up among religious nuts."

Not only does this explain alot (Hi! I'm a PK to.) but it would seem to strongly argue against your own thesis. In any event, by your definition of 'religious nut' I grew up among religious nuts too, and I'm probably a 'religious nut' as well. I suspect people like your parents who are 'religious fanatics' by some people's standards and 'have a healthy dose of reality' (this is a contridiction?) are more common than you seem to believe. In a nation like America, we don't need (or want) guys with big whips to get people to do thier prayers.

On a tangental note, I'd like at this time to say that I'm sick and tired of the 'blue state' notion that people with the 'red state' mindset are completely ignorant of what happens beyond the borders of America, whilst 'blue staters' - because they have spent a few weeks as a tourist in Europe and occasionally listen to the BBC - are not. It's true that not many 'red staters' spend alot of time as international tourists - sipping wine and coffee in European cafes. But in my experience, they more than make up for that by serving in the military, in mission fields, in business, in overseas construction projects, and in transnational engineering corporations. Which is really the more horizon limiting perspective? Which really gives you the more healthy 'dose of reality'? It's not like mission fields tend to be in cushy places. They tend to be in on that street a block or two back from where the tourists ever wander - literally or metaphoricly. I guess what I'm trying to say is in conversations I'm always amazed at the diversity of experience found in the common ordinary Americans. Intuitively, you might expect that they just stay in thier little community thier whole lives, like say a NYer that has never left the Bronx, but at least in the modern world that 'village' universe tends to have all sorts of surprising exceptions to it.

#80: Generally, when I find myself disagreeing with every sentence in detail, I find it pointless to try to explain why.

Joe Katzman [#75] cuts to the core issue and writes:

We can start with the bit about people preaching jihad, Islamic supremacism, and the murder of both untermenschen infidels and Muslims who do not share their views, and being immune to consequences. Why do you believe that is a good idea?

And when did you stop beating your wife?

This is an example of what I call the "myth of polar choices" in my post [#73]. There's a huge space between sending out assassins to kill vicious preachers and "immune to consequences". It turns out that those are not our only choices, and many of the unmentioned ones are far more effective at achieving our goals than either of these two would be. In particular, we can apply substantial consequences that visibly represent the core values of America, and preach our message to their population. Sending out assassins really fails at that.

So, you ask, what weapons do we have between abject surrender and long-range rifles? Here are three. Surely the clever folks here can come up with more, or refine these to make them even more effective.

(1) A big problem with the madrasses are that they are heavily funded by repressive governments as a way to buy off their critics and focus the fundamentalists at the US, and away from them. We can apply pressure to those governments, and even to some extent on private individuals and families, to cut off the funds to the madrasses. Holding the level of viciousness constant, the level of funding makes a serious difference to their success.

(2) In the USA, we have laws against conspiracy, and being an accessory before the fact to the commission of a crime. It's one thing to preach in general terms that your opponents should die, but at some point you cross the line and commit a crime. Make sure they get prosecuted. Put pressure on the relevant governments so they actually do get prosecuted. This will put some of those governments between a rock and a hard place, but it's a weapon in our armory, and it doesn't violate American principles to use it.

(3) Fund alternative schools. This was already mentioned, with a focus on educating women (a threatening act in its own right, of course). I would suggest funding schools for both genders, with an emphasis on peaceful Islamic principles, and on science and technology. It seems a safe bet that the radical madrasses are not really strong in science and technology. If a parent has a choice of where to send their own kids, and one place offers good scholarships and a stronger education, leading to a more successful future, with a good foundation in their own religion (the peaceful variety), are they going to choose the now-under-funded radical madrasses that can't teach their kids useful skills, but can help them become suicide bombers? Sure, a few will, but most won't. (But you'd better guard these schools, because the bad guys know that these weapons are genuinely effective, and they'll want to destroy them.)

Let me give another plug for actually reading the book, The Ugly American. The title refers to the contrast between the handsome, slick American ambassador, who doesn't have a clue and is consistently manipulated and outmaneuvered by communists, and the non-handsome, grease-under-his-nails American engineer who works with the locals on small development projects and creates genuine goodwill for the USA. The question of the book is, Who is the "ugly" American?

My point is: either/or choices are often false dichotomies, and you have to look more deeply. We have more weapons than we understand. If we use the wrong weapons (like boiling water on fire ants), we will think we are winning, but we'll get clobbered, we won't see it coming, and we won't understand why it happens when it does.

We are definitely at war, and with a dangerous enemy. But if we don't know who exactly the enemy is, and if we don't understand which weapons will be effective, and we don't know how to use those weapons, then we'll have a heck of a time winning the war.

I think one problem with fostering this kind of debate, one reason why it is so rare, is that expect perfection. We do not accept that our leaders, our corporations, our small businesses, our government agents and officers, or anyone else whose actions impinge upon our lives might be imperfect. Despite having gone to the grocery store before (complete with a flat tire, or the item you want being out of stock, or forgetting your list, or forgetting a means of payment), we expect that our government can plan and execute a major war half way across the world without killing any innocent civilians, losing any of our own troops, or making any mistakes at all.

(Look at the momentary furor over how our supply convoys, under attack from fedayeen while driving through vast sandstorms, were sometimes only able to get enough food to units at the very head of the advance for them to have one full meal per day. Anyone who has read any of the history of war, or even of the Dahmer party, has got to be laughing at thinking of that as a food crisis.)

As a result, we tend to devolve into viewing events through the lens of our preferred policies, which of course we could achieve without flaw or failure. Well, not much anyway, and those would be completely defensible and probably the other side's fault anyway. Yeah! And what about incompetence! And corruption!

Anyway, the point is, I think that if we all were more humble, and realized that carrying on foreign relations when you are a superpower is like walking a greased highwire over an alligator pit while drunk, and the amazing thing is that you might get there rather than you slip a few times along the way — and that this applies to our domestic political opponents as much as to ourselves — if we realized this more often, discussions like this thread would be far more common.

Me? I'm just glad to see one such discussion.

I want to highlight a point by celebrim [#54] that I think is dead-on correct, particularly since we are often at odds.

I think you really need to reconsider the claim that we are hated for our freedom more carefully. The fact of the matter is that so long as we are a pluralistic, multicultural, cosmopolitan society that tolerates a wide variety of behaviors and beliefs, people who believe that such a culture is corrupt and a threat to their own insular monoculture will find cause to hate us and will see the sort of things that we see as ‘fair’ and ‘just’ as hateful and unjust. The OBL’s of the world are claiming precisely that we are trying to transform the world into the sort of place that you or I see as fair and just. To the extent that we are successful in Iraq, it won’t refute this claim but rather validate it.

This is the heart of the genuine war that is going on: pluralism versus violent fundamentalism. Islam does not have a monopoly on this conflict, though they do seem to be a market leader.

When OBL says that Western pluralism is a threat to his kind of Islamic fundamentalism, he is telling the truth, absolutely.

It's a terrible mistake to attribute this belief to Islam generally, because it discards a powerful weapon and important allies that we need to win the war.

GWOT - The enemy must be destroyed and its ideology of hate and Evil must be wiped from the face of the earth!

Celebrim at #82

Point taken. I was a little loose and didn't supply links. I assumed in this forum these facts were a given.

I'll post again with some links.

In the meantime do read Ray Robison Blog re the Saddam Regime's documents. Also Powerline is posting their own summaries. PJM has a special file on the Regime docs. Just like the Nazis, this Regime kept meticulous records. Guess it comes with this type of meglomania. Think of these docs as the Arc of the Covenant resting on a shelf in some cavernous govt warehouse at the fade out in the movie Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc.

Also run a Google search on Gen Sada and his new book, Saddam's Secret's. See what he says about the regime and Saddam's WMD. PJM also has a special file on the WMD. This man is a true Iraqi patriot who only wants the best for his country and his people. This man is a pilot's pilot and saved the lives of our downed pilots in GWI from execution. This man has great credibility in my book and therefore what he is saying should be given great consideration.

Read Roger L. Simon with regard to the Oil for Food scam. There is plenty of documentation that once the false front corps are pierced the top money received in order were the French, the Russians, and the Chinese. These are all permenant members of the UN Security Council. Having been an economic crimes investigator (City of 300K) the first rule is to follow the money.

For the French Intel angle read the considerable documentation over at The American Thinker. I will have to find the link for the French involvement in convincing the Turks not to allow us to use their airspace and to allow the IV ID to invade from the North.

For further on the moral equvilency of Islamofascism, using the Army of Davids effect to force leverage our citizen resources in the GWOT, Intel - hire the artists/fire the bureaucrats, using the women of Islam as a controlling force against these male hegomonic, fanatical, tyrannical, and theocratic regimes, I would invite you to my blog for further reading:

Rocket's Brain Trust

My main point is what has been said here is well known within the Blogosphere. The LL and the MSM for the reasons we all know are blocking/filtering reporting this objectively to the American people.

We are reaching a critical juncture in the Iranian situation. Hence my reference to 1938. I should also have used the metaphorical reference to Tolkein's Ring Trilogy as to the rise of darkness in the free world.

Israel will not allow the Mullahs to go nuclear. We can sit idly by and allow them to act. We, the Great Satan, will take the blame whether we help or not. So in the end it's in our strategic interest to ensure this capability is knocked out and blow down the Mad Mullahs house of cards. The time for partisan politics is over. We must unite as a great nation to destroy this enemy and wipe its ideology of hate and evil from the face of this earth.

To do this we must have the will of the American people who so far have been left in the dark by the LL and the MSM as to the real threat we are facing. We must crush the lie/meme, "Bush Lied! People Lied!"

Hence my call -

Loose the Army of Davids to inform the American people.

It's time to roll!

RBT

This is entirely right-brained of me, but are any of a fan of the works of Iain M. Banks? If so, does this sort of raw hashing out of policy amongst all sorts of diverse view points remind you of the discussions between the ship minds in 'special circumstances'?

Now, if only some of us were GCU's, we'd be able to get something done. ;)

And in another Iain M. Banks thought, I'm increasingly impressed with Banks deep insight into the nature of the conflict between Liberal societies (capital 'L' please) and violently sectarian societies. In particular, I feel that 'Player of Games' ought to be something that everyone reads right now. The end mental process between the game players to me fundamentally grasps the socialogical process we are seeing play out.

I do what to quibble with Dr. Kuipers in #85 though:

"This is the heart of the genuine war that is going on: pluralism versus violent fundamentalism."

That's not what I said. It may seem picky, but I don't think that either 'pluralism' or 'violent fundamentalism' really correctly labels the two sides. Technically speaking, I'm not a believer in 'pluralism', and as I posted elsewhere the word 'fundamentalism' is very often misapplied and is in any event irrelevant to the main point. 'Fundamentalism' is a relative term which is only descriptive in the context of a particular document. It ought to be obvious that not all fundamentalists are violent or even monoists (the document and thier reading of the document might not encourage them to either viewpoint), and that not all violent sects are fundamentalists. That we just happen to be involved in a conflict between a group of people who are presently largely pluralists of some sort and people who are fundamentalists is somewhat incidental. Pluralism is not necessarily a required belief in order to believe in Liberalism, and I would like to think that I'm a case in point. What is really going on here is a conflict between Liberalism (again, capital 'L', not the relative adjective with a small 'l') and non-Liberal sectarianism.

Incidentally, I think the main thing which is holding us back from actually fighting the enemy is the ongoing internal conflict between the pluralist Liberals and the non-pluralist Liberals ('culturists' if you would, or as they are usually misnamed in America 'conservatives') as neither side really trusts the other. The pluralist Liberals tend to lump the non-pluralist Liberals in with the non-Liberal sectarian groups. The non-pluralist Liberals tend to see the success of violent non-Liberal sects (first communism and now Islamism) as being in large part due to the support and acceptance they recieve from niave pluralists.

At some point we are going to have to realize that though both sides are in part right in thier perceptions, that the bigger part of both internal groups needs to present a united front against a common enemy. This may be my bias speaking, but it seems to me that far too many of the pluralist Liberals ('multi-culturists' if you would), have decided that the implication of, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend.", is that Islamism can be made a vital ally in thier 'war' with 'conservatives'.

And just as a rant, nothing is more annoying to me than when some Western pluralists in the midst of this war takes Osama Bin Ladin's talking points and uses them as a basis for common complaint against Western society. Whose side are you on anyway? I'm all for the whole, "Disagreeing with what you say, but I'll fight to protect your right to say it.", but I thought I was the 'you' in that claim not Osama Bin Ladin? Can you imagine for a second what the public outcry would be like if prominent culturists regularly did the same and made common complaint against Western society with Osama Bin Ladin? For crying out loud, can we wipe out the existentialist threat to us both before we get back to our 'family feud'?

Henry Ford increased the pay of his auto workers so they could afford to buy his cars, contributing to the development of the middle class. FDR's New Deal used deficit spending to dig the country out of the Great Depression (with a good deal of help from WWII). The Laffer Curve is a predicted second-order effect that drives our current tax policy. (Its misapplication causes our ballooning deficit.)
Henry Ford was never government. FDR and the Laffer Curve are perfect instantiations of my point. FDR's deficit spending didn't end the Depression—it prolonged it. The forced saving during WWII ended the Depression (not to mention the employment effects). Thanks for the support.

I am far from anti-government but you can only expect from it that which is there to be expected and careful consideration of secondary, tertiary, and beyond effects is beyond it.

The enemy is Islamic Imperialism.

If we framed the war in those terms we might pick up a few more in the center/left.

As to the bribery culture. It is alive and well in Iran.

http://powerandcontrol.bl*gspot.com/2006/05/iran-is-having-money-troubles.html

So the Iranian government is having to give bigger bribes to stay in business. Is this a sign of power or weakness?

What folks here are seeing is the exciting part of warfare. The pointy end of the spear. What America is doing is asymetrical degradation of the shaft of the spear. Shaft breaks and the pointy end has little reach.

BTW in learning from our British mentors: controlling the enemy's economy was always the #1 war fighting policy of the Brits. It takes longer to work but is always decisive. You can't fight a war without war fighting materials. Cash is king. Unless you have a rich and sympathetic uncle.

Iran is in the process of wrecking its economy to insure another year in power. Its economic policy is socialism/communism with all of its defects. In fact the largess the regime is passing out is destroying local businesses because the regime is using imports rather than local production to supply local wants. Why would it do that? To avoid creating competition for power. Well we all know where this death spiral leads. The question is: can Iran be contained long enough for the strategy to work?

My estimation? It will be a close run thing.

Are the French revealing their true face?

My investigator's nose smells several large rats in the works. I'm still looking for my other link re the French and the Turks.

In the meantime here's an interesting twist developing on the French political scene.

RBT

*****

HT Fausta's blog via Instapundit

Tuesday, May 02, 2006
L'affaire Clearstream: 10 questions for de Villepin

Following up on Friday's news of the Clearstream investigation of kickbacks in the sale of warships to Taiwan, money-laundering and high-level corruption:

Last week Le Monde reported a senior secret service agent as saying he had been asked to investigate possible links between Sarkozy and Clearstream at the behest of Villepin, who had been acting on Chirac's orders. Specifically

de Villepin is accused of having asked an intelligence agent in 2004 to secretly investigate M Sarkozy for allegedly receiving kickbacks from a £1.5 billion sale of French frigates to Taiwan in 1991.

The scandal has repercussions outside France, since it involves an Executive Vice President of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS), and the control of Europe's defense industry.

[...]

Read More

[Follow the link from Instapundit as Fausta's domain address is blocked at WOC]

"The forced saving during WWII ended the Depression (not to mention the employment effects). "

Eh? That doesnt make a lick of sense. How does saving improve the economy? Thats like saving your car by syphoning out all the gas, a rather pyrrhic victory.
WW2 ended the depression because it sucked up millions of men, paid them out of the treasury, and kick started gargantuan industrial projects employing the rest of the country. In other words a massive infusion of capital coupled with an artificially restricted labor market and unparralleled government demand. Enormous taxes could be enacted to pay for all this because the demand wasnt dependant on a domestic market, it was driven by government contract. And supply wasnt driven (wholly) by profit, it was dictated by governmental fiat. Essentially a command economy. It worked because people put up with it to win the war. The Soviets tried is on a permanent basis and we all saw what happened.

English face or French face? I guarantee you we're getting their French face. ;-)

I missed this thread earlier.

Celebrim,

The strategic center gravity of the war is us, not them. We have the power to destroy them utterly. They don't have the power to destroy us. The war will be won or lost based on our will to win. We can always take our nuclear hands from behind our back if we can't win any other way.

But as Patrick implied in a more recent thread, there is a confluence of moral duty and expediency that we do our best to win by lesser means than destruction of the societies giving rise to our enemies.

The only way we can lose is to lose ourselves - to lose what makes us Americans. Even if we destroy our enemies in this war, we will lose if we cease being Americans. No foreign power can make us lose that. We can only lose it ourselves.

[IRAN] The Looming Showdown

Regarding the seriousness of the Iranian situation, Spook86 at In From the Cold has this insightful post regarding the patience of the Israelis re the provocation by President MAD and his followers is growing very thin.

RBT

*****

The Looming Showdown

The nuclear standoff between Iran and the west is quickly gathering speed. Amid all the rhetoric and posturing, there are clear signs that a military confrontation is only months--if not weeks--away. And, if recent statements and events are any indication, it will Israel that strikes the first blow. Simply stated, the new Olmert government is running out of time, patience--and options.

[...]

For the past year, the Israelis have given diplomacy a chance to work, and their patience has been rewarded with pointless talks, increasingly heated rhetoric from Iran, and an expansion of Tehran's nuclear efforts. The reported discovery of those covert facilities in Iran have likely ended any Israeli hope for a negotiated settlement, and raised prospects for a preemptive Israeli strike. It's difficult to forecast when such an attack might take place--the Israelis are masters at hiding military preparations--but you might want to circle some moonless nights in late spring or early summer, before the sandstorm "season" begins in the Middle East. An Israeli strike against Iran may no longer be a matter of "if" but "when."

Read More

Sorry the link is tripping the spam police. Cut/paste and remove the brackets in the following link:

http://formerspook.[blogspot].com/2006/05/looming-showdown.html

Benjamin,

There is nothing wrong with your proposed responses in #83. they are worthy approaches - but also inadequate by themselves.

You write:

(1) big problem with the madrasses are that they are heavily funded by repressive governments as a way to buy off their critics and focus the fundamentalists at the US, and away from them. We can apply pressure to those governments, and even to some extent on private individuals and families, to cut off the funds to the madrasses.

We can. We've tried for some time to do this, and had mixed success at best. The usual pattern is a two-faced one, where the folks in question swear up and down that they're doing everything possible, while continuing to feed the problem. In other cases, they simply continue to feed the problem and respond to pressure with "what are you going to do about it?"

What's your answer when these things happen?

Because that's what's happening, and the Islamofascist hate factories continue to spread. With the consequence that your goals as expressed in your manifesto (granting, for the moment, agreement with them for the sole sake of argument) become impossible and hence worthless.

(3) Fund alternative schools. This was already mentioned, with a focus on educating women (a threatening act in its own right, of course). I would suggest funding schools for both genders, with an emphasis on peaceful Islamic principles, and on science and technology. It seems a safe bet that the radical madrasses are not really strong in science and technology.

The suggestion re: funding alternative schools for women was put forward in my comment, and comes c/o Sen. Biden. I do not argue against it. It's a great idea. But I do know that harassment, intimiddation, and violence toward teachers and burning said schools down are not uncommon tactics by the madrassas in response. I also know that the governments will NOT protect such schools.

Which means your efforts will come to naught, as the textbooks sent are stored away or confiscated under threat of violence; hate-filled texts (or none) will be substituted, when the schools continue to exist at all. There have been some efforts toward curriculum reform that cleans out some of the most blatant incitements to genocide in official state texts, but even there success is far from complete.

Strike two. And what are you going to do about it?

Oh, and you need to know your enemies better. Many of them in fact come from engineering & hard sciences backgrounds,ad Islamists do a lot of recruiting in those programs. Not a safe bet, therefore, and it's a fairly widely known point.

Spend more time understanding your enemies as they really are, instead of betting. It will improve your entire approach, and severely challenge important parts of it.

(2) In the USA, we have laws against conspiracy, and being an accessory before the fact to the commission of a crime. It's one thing to preach in general terms that your opponents should die, but at some point you cross the line and commit a crime.

Not in most Muslim countries, where such preaching not only fails to be criminal but is openly encouraged. In these situations, which prevail over large areas of the globe wherein the next generation of al-Qaedists are being indoctrinated and trained, what's your policy?

Especially given that #1 and #3 are sure failures unless the jihadi madrassas and their leadership are dealt with. Not to mention the state itself in some cases.

In the USA, domestic laws do need to apply, as I noted myself. But enforcement has to be serious, as I also noted, and it is not. Nor is it serious in many other Western countries. This is a major problem, and a major, major screwup in fighting this war.

And erm, no, it is not "one thing to preach in general terms that your opponents should die" when your 'opponents' are defined in racial/religious terms and you live in a civilized society.

See this dispatch from Sweden for an example, of where your logic leads. That has consequences, and now Sweden's Jews (among others) are unsafe - precisely David Blue's point. David Blue offers another specific example in his neck of the woods (Australia), here, re: Sheik Hialy.

Those examples are precisely where your preferred approach leads us - and that is not an acceptable outcome.

So, to review. Your efforts to choke funding are going to founder, and we have lots of experience to back that up. Your efforts to establish alternative education without adequate police or troop protection from the Islamofascists will likewise founder. Your point re: US laws fails to cover well over 95% of the enemy, and is poorly enforced on the remaining 5% or less.

Faced with our enemy's warmaking center of gravity, you have proposed an ineffectual set of half-measures that will fail. Your eye is on their second-order effects, and your approaches could create those effects - but you failed because you failed on the first-order dimension, by not understanding your enemy's demonstrated patterns and likely reactions. And nothing in your suggestions addresses them.

You have, in short, committed the EXACT set of mis-steps and failures of which you accuse the Bush administration in Iraq.

Is that good enough for you?

Joe,

The Pakistani government lacks the revenue to fund its madrassas. They don't fund a public school system period.

I suggest you examine how much of the funding of Islamic hate education is dependent on the oil income of Saudi Arabia and the Arab oil states on the south side of the Persian Gulf. IMO that provides the vast majority of it.

Egyptian religious instruction was nowhere near as virulently hateful as it is today before the Yom Kippur War. That was because it was mostly state-funded before then, and that money came with conditions. You'll see this pattern over and over in just about any majority Muslim country you look at.

Joe [#95] writes:

You have, in short, committed the EXACT set of mis-steps and failures of which you accuse the Bush administration in Iraq.

Possibly (though I'll get back to arguing this when I have some time), but I'm an amateur with a day job. I expect a good deal higher level of professional competence and accomplishment from the people we hire to handle trillions of our dollars and make decisions affecting thousands and millions of lives.

When I hear widespread and specific warnings of potential disaster prior to the invasion of Iraq (disregarded by our leaders), followed by specific warnings and advice from senior military leaders (resulting in professional disgrace), followed by seeing news reports showing that these warnings were dead on accurate, then I start to think that these smart professionals have deluded themselves with their theories. We saw that before, in Vietnam, when the "best and the brightest" with the best of intentions, led us into serious problems.

The benefit to our society of Freedom of Speech and the Press is not just to keep me from being arrested for my comments (or you in a different political climate). The real benefit is that our government gets the benefit (really!) of criticism from a huge variety of points of view, that are collectively capable of identifying problems that a small group of experts, however smart, are capable of missing. The signal-to-noise ratio is not large, but the feedback is incredibly valuable.

It's the feedback, provided by freedom of speech/press and by the checks and balances in our complex form of government, that has allowed our Nation to survive and prosper for so long. It's definitely an acquired taste, but it's wonderful once you get used to it.

Mr. Kuiper,

You have an unusual definition of disaster. God forbid we should ever have a real war.

DITTO! #98 Tom

I'm in VDH's camp re how to fight a war. Under today's scrunity General Eisenhauer's and General Marshall's heads would have rolled long before D-Day.

For further see this except from an essay I wrote back in 04.

RBT

*****

FREEDOM - Thx to The Greatest Generation for Preserving It

[...]

We can no longer bury our heads in the sands, as this cancer will continue to grow if we don’t swiftly excise it. We must shake ourselves from our comfortable complacency, become actively involved, and quit Monday morning quarterbacking and support our valiant troops who are defending our freedom. The media needs to report objectively. The true foreign correspondents of this war are those brave soles that report (blog) from their neighborhoods from within these repressive regimes. The media need to quit rooting for the enemy as if they were the underdogs in some Sunday football game. This only emboldens our enemy and puts our military at further risk. Call the murdering SOBs for what they really are and not the rebels, insurgents, freedom fighters and other creative non-pejorative words. The media needs to bring the intense light of the free world on these repressive regimes that will implode under its scrutiny.

As Victor Hansen says in all wars, mistakes will be made, intelligence is not an exact art, decisive actions must be taken on partial information, battle plans will not be executed perfectly, and hindsight is always 20/20. As President Bush said, “We must stay the course,” and as Victor Hansen says leave the critiques until after the war is won. This war is not over by any stretch. There are still many battles to be won. Iran is on the verge of having nuclear capability. Pakistan that has nuclear weapons thanks to Dr. Kahn is now faced with a rising tide of Islamofascisim that could gain control of these weapons.

This war will not be won on the battlefield alone. We must unite both left and right to crush this new enemy that seeks to destroy us. The support of a united America and the free world is critical. There can be no appeasement for fanatical tyrants, who rule by fear, torture, genocide, deceit, and perversion of culture and religion to remain in power. Islamofascism must be crushed as a failed ideology lest its charismatic leaders continue to draw new recruits with the BIG LIES. The free world will no longer tolerate, “Final Solutions.” This is a war of ideology and culture, the free will of men, and GOOD vs. EVIL.

Read More

OOOPHS! Eisenhower not Eisenhauer. Sorry my Deutsch kicked in :--)

Joe [#95] responding to my suggestions [#83],

First, you didn't respond to the primary point of my post: that it is common to challenge folks like me with a false choice between polar opposites. To caricature only a little: "Since our only choices are between mass murder and total surrender, if you oppose mass murder, you must support total surrender to our enemies, which makes you a traitor."

To illustrate the spectrum of other options, I made three suggestions based on a few minutes of thought (plus background knowledge and thinking, of course). They are reasonably good ideas, if I do say so myself, but they certainly have the limitations you describe.

"We've tried for some time to do this, and had mixed success at best."

"But I do know that harassment, intimidation, and violence toward teachers and burning said schools down are not uncommon tactics by the madrassas in response. ... Which means your efforts will come to naught..."

That's a level of defeatism that I can't imagine you tolerating in a military setting. This is a war, buddy, and it's hard and dangerous. There are bad guys trying to stop us, and they will try especially hard if we are doing something especially effective.

You are not going to stop terrorism with a harsh word and a stern look. What I'm saying is that, to defeat them, you have to take away their base of support. You can do this (in part) by creating and maintaining quality schools, and you can't do it by pointing a gun at said base of support. Once you start succeeding, your enemies aren't going to like that, and they'll try to stop you.

It took Federal troops to protect little girls integrating schools in the American South. You think it shouldn't take troops to protect these schools? Of course it will, and some of them might give their lives to protect those kids and keep those schools open. But this is war, and those schools and those kids are weapons in it.

Now, compare the level of cooperation American troops will get, and how much useful intelligence they will collect about terrorist operations, if they are protecting a school providing local kids with high-quality education, versus if they are assassinating the imam in the local mosque, not matter how virulent his preaching is.

Go back through your own archives at WoC, read the success stories from Iraq, look for the common themes, and tell me whether what I am advocating doesn't characterize at least 50% of the successes. (By the way, I have not checked this in advance, so I am making a prediction about data not yet collected (or at least, not yet analyzed), so my claim is open to refutation. That's how science is done. Let's look at the data.)

Incidentally, I've talked here about working hard to protect the schools because it makes a vivid image. But the same applies to tracking down and stopping the flow of money. Sure, we've taken some steps, had some effect, and they've taken some counter-measures. But one thing the USA is good at (among many) is following the money. If this weapon is not working as well as we'd like, I guess we'll just have to figure out how to use it better. It's not a silver bullet that will make them crumble up and blow away, but we know it can hurt them.

Of course, if we really cared about cutting back the Saudi funding, we could cut back on domestic oil consumption by 30-40%, but let's not be unreasonable about sacrifices back home. (That was sarcasm, by the way.)

The legal questions are subtle, and they interact with politics, local and geo, so I don't know whether that weapon can be made to work in any legal system but the USA. But it's still a weapon, and you'd better remember you've got it, because it might be just what you need someday.

If you want to win this war, you'd better be thinking of unconventional weapons. Bad ideas are better than no ideas at all, because someone can improve a bad idea, whereas no idea means you're just clueless. Your enemy is really good at unconventional weapons. Who ever thought of using a jetliner as a weapon against a major city? (Except maybe half a dozen widely published novelists.) Hijacking was just for ransom and blackmail, not for mass murder. We had good ways to respond against one, but the other blind-sided us.

How about if we blind-side them for a change?

Slow processes like education and funding don't blind-side people because they happen too fast to react to, they blind-side them because they happen too slowly to notice. But they still happen, and they are powerful. They used the madrasses in exactly this way against us. We have to use it back.

Benjamin says:

It took Federal troops to protect little girls integrating schools in the American South. You think it shouldn't take troops to protect these schools? Of course it will, and some of them might give their lives to protect those kids and keep those schools open. But this is war, and those schools and those kids are weapons in it.

You keep thinking the rest of the world is suburban Houston. It's funny. Guess what - federal troops only work in your own country. Elsewhere, that's called an invasion.

Which is, by the way, what you have and what you're doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Know what a PRT is?

Now, compare the level of cooperation American troops will get, and how much useful intelligence they will collect about terrorist operations, if they are protecting a school providing local kids with high-quality education, versus if they are assassinating the imam in the local mosque, not matter how virulent his preaching is.

Cooperation? None. The government that does not wish to protect these areas itself certainly doesn't want unlcean infidels like you there. Neither do the imams. They will work in concert to make your forces the target. What can you expect? Iraq, but worse. Because unlike Afghanistan, you're not the dominant force in the area.

If the government is cooperative and wants these places protected, guess what? No need for American troops (except in some instances where they're training local units with the government's consent). If you need the American troops, guess what? You're looking, ipso facto, at a hostile government that won't allow you in unless you force the issue.

Utterly flawed assumption = crappy plan that dies of its own contradictions.

I don't know how much corporate change work you've done, Benjamin, but I'm guessing very little. Because it is just as important to remove the problems and folks in the way, even in those small-scale settings, as it is to find cooperative champions and build support with successes. Precisely because the first group will stifle and eradicate the second group if left unmolested.

You cannot seem to imagine taking on the obstacles, for whatever reason, and you absolutely do not understand that part of the world because you think it's all a Houston suburb. And so you will not get the second part, which is champions or success. Ever.

This is not an either/or dichotomy, it's a systemic, pervasive flaw in your thinking that is responsible for most of the statements here that celebrim and I have seen as off-the-wall foolish.

I submit, in fact, that the either/or guy here isn't me, Benjamin - it's YOU. Until you can do both things, and plan both things, while looking for those second-order opportunities you speak of, your plans will not be coherent, or survivable, or successful.

Of course, if we really cared about cutting back the Saudi funding, we could cut back on domestic oil consumption by 30-40%, but let's not be unreasonable about sacrifices back home. (That was sarcasm, by the way.)

Oil. World market. Low cost producer, will always produce as others stop. Growing demand. China. India. Does nothing in the short of even medium term. Typical.

If you want to cut back on Saudi funding, we can either get the usual duplicity and double dealing and get a half-assed job at best, or realy take their oil away from them. As in, you get the coastal Shi'ites in the oil areas to secede or something. Presto, no more funding Wahabbis who see them as borderline infidels.

Anything else is just masturbation as far as that particular problem set goes, though improving alternative energy sources would have big benefits for the war now (reduces vulnerability to systems attacks like Iraq) and later (provdes localized tools with which we can bring sustainable help to our friends in no-oil zones like Africa, which the war will go to before it's done, while helping India and maybe even China to rise up with less anxiety over their oil sources).

So it's a good idea, it's just not going to do what you think it will because you, candidly, don't really have a handle on what you're looking at re: Saudi.

A fascinating and most enjoyable thread, I must say.

Mr. Kuipers, you bring up some points that I'd like to address:

1) widespread and specific warnings of potential disaster prior to the invasion of Iraq (disregarded by our leaders)
Prior to OIF, there were were widespread and specific warnings of just about any and every disaster even remotely conceivable. Millions of refugees? Check. Retaliatory terrorist strikes on American cities? Check. Tens of thousands of US military dead? Check. All completely wrong and all conveniently right down the memory hole.

2) specific warnings and advice from senior military leaders (resulting in professional disgrace)
See above, with the addition that contradictory warnings and advice were provided by military leaders just as senior.

3) news reports showing that these warnings were dead on accurate
You'll have to be a bit more specific here. Just which (and what percentage) of all the multitudinous warnings of plummeting bits of firmament have been proven out? As Mr. Holsinger has mentioned, you seem to have very low standards for determining what constitutes a disaster.

Great discourse all around.

Ben: I would be delighted to hear about any kind of internal traction that we're getting on a cultural front in Iran. I keep hearing about the suppression of nearly every cultural, ethnic, religious and economic demographic to the benefit of the Iranian chauvanists and the Basij with the singular exception for the oil cartel inside the country. The Iranian Kurds, the Guz, the Sunnis, the Sufis, university students and the young 20's demographic, along with some dark hints about massive crackdowns during the last round of student and urban upheaval over internal reform.

Again, my information is hazy, so if you can give me some links, I would love it.

This is truly a war of Good vs. Evil in a war of information.

#104 Blair

To All

Re: Info on Iran

Don't want to beat a dead horse but this is another piece of information that the LL and the MSM have failed to report to the American people.

For all things Iranian go to the best source in all the Blogosphere, Dr. Zin's site:

Regime Change Iran

The readers will see there are large demonstrations occuring daily by the Iranian people who are chafing at the bit of the ruling Islamofascist male hegmonic theocratic regime.

Some telephone poles by US based Iranian Sat TV svs indicate a majority of callers from inside Iran would favor the bombing of Iran if it would collapse the regime. But unfortunately this news goes under the radar of most Americans.

Hence again my call for the Blogos to spread the word of the displeasure/discontent of the Iranian people especially the Joyless Generation.

The ruling Arabian Islamofascist theocrats are an ever shrinking minority. The majority of Iranians consider themselves Persian, speak Farsi, and look down on the ruling fascist Arabic minority.

The only reason the Mullahs remain in power is they pay and arm Pakastani thugs and those who feel it's their destiny to be members of the religious police. Again think 1938 and the brownshirts of the Third Reich.

The Mullahs are actively blocking/filtering/imprisoning bloggers. They know the free flow of alternative sources of news and information both into and from within Iran will ultimately lead to the collapse of their house of cards.

As mentioned above the fanatical regime is economically running the country into the ground. The question is whether there will be a regime change before these cultlike religious nuts go nuclear.

Hence the metaphorical charge to Instapundit's Army of Davids to tear down those virtual walls. For the first time in history you have the the collective power with your keyboards to bring down this tyrannical regime and free its people from bondage.

There are no excuses for the Big Lie and Final Solutions to hold sway in this age of the interconnected Blogosphere.

You don't have to go in harm's way like our brave men and women in uniform do everyday to protect and perserve our most cherished freedom - THE FREE WILL OF MEN AND WOMEN!.

You can do this from the safety of your armchair. The collective power you wield in your fingertips is perhaps greater than the sum of all our military forces.

You have the power to tear down the Mullahs virtual walls by launching a massive information counter attack. There is no way they can plug all the holes and the truth will leak through.

The truth is what will lead to their fall from power.

There is a recent historical parallel to tearing down the physical walls of another totalitarian regime with a failed ideology:

Ronald Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate of the Berlin Wall:

[...]

The reference was to Ronald Reagan's speech at the Brandenburg Gate in 1987:

Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Shortly thereafter, down it came, and with it the Soviet Union.

Excerpt from the WSJ

We can debate this forever but now is the time for action. No longer must you remain a passive bystander in the GWOT.

You can be an active warrior to decisively win this war once and for all by crushing this enemy and wiping its ideology of hate and Evil from the face of the earth.

There is no moral equivalency of Islamofascism.

This is truly a war of Good vs. Evil in a war of information.

Mr. Kuipers,

Name ONE (1) disaster predicted in advance of the invasion of Iraq which occurred in Iraq after the invasion. Then explain how that is a disaster.

I don't think you can do this at all. Because there weren't any absent use of an obviously ludicrous definition of disaster.

Furthermore I contend that your allegations on this point are partisan hackery - that the only disaster which really concerns you is the voters' inexplicable tendency to vote against their interests and all common sense in electing Republicans rather than Democrats to national office, and to majorities in both houses of Congress.

So prove me wrong. Name a disaster predicted in advance which actually happened. Show us how you're not just blowing smoke.

OK. You got me. I guess it's not a disaster after all. All we have is:

Our leaders assured us that we were facing a dire and immediate threat to the survival of the Nation ("We can't wait until the smoking gun is a mushroom cloud"), so the American people were incited by fear into violating their long-standing (though hardly inviolate) principle against invading a country except in direct response to an attack on us or our allies. The threat turned out to be an illusion, and Saddam was not the only one contributing to creating this illusion and preventing its early unmasking.

Our leaders assured us that we would be welcomed as liberators, and we would have a short, happy occupation period, setting up an Iraqi democracy as a beacon on the hill for the Middle East. This also turned out to be an illusion, due to banditry following the invasion, to ethnic and sectarian violence among factions in Iraq, and to a great influx of insurgents, terrorists, and terrorist wannabes from all around the world. These were not unforeseen difficulties, except to our leaders. Consequently, our own troops have suffered many casualties, including over 2000 deaths, and the end is nowhere in sight.

Our leaders assured us that this invasion would be nearly cost-free, since liberated Iraq would pay for its own reconstruction from its own oil wealth. This has also turned out to be an illusion, partly due to the effectiveness of terrorists in slowing the reconstruction of Iraq's infrastructure and its oil industry. Our own annual deficit and national debt has soared to unprecedented levels, for this and a variety of other reasons, which will impact the prosperity of our children and grandchildren, perhaps for many generations.

All of these difficulties were anticipated, and not just by the tin-foil-hat brigade.

Competent governance involves planning for complex activities, which includes anticipating and assessing large numbers of possible outcomes of our actions, good and bad. Yes, everyone makes mistakes, but a track record of major mistakes suggests that a change in approach (or a change in leadership) is needed.

But I guess the above doesn't count as a "disaster" in your dictionary. Perhaps better terms would have been "unfortunate eventualities", or "signs of incompetence", or "acts of a malicious God", or something else. My word choice might have been a little loose, but I think I'll stick with "disaster".

Change of topic.

It's time to give my full attention back to my day job. ("Day" means 24 hours, after all.) I've enjoyed this discussion quite a lot, and learned some things from some of you, sometimes what you were intending to teach, sometimes not. But it's time to go back on the wagon, for a while at least.

We've disagreed about a variety of things for sure, but in my posts [#31, 46, 48, 50, 53, 57, 63, 73, 74, 83, 85, 97, 101] I've tried to draw your attention to a set of weapons that may be more useful than you think in the war on terror, which we all believe to be a major threat to the Nation we love. Please remember that at least some of those you disagree with, and who disagree with you, love this Nation just as much as you do.

Mr. Kuipers,

You are a classic post-Vietnam liberal - unclear on the concept of war. Democrats used to know that wars are chaotic, confusing, and hell (W.T. Sherman was a Democrat).

But not anymore.

Rocket: Thanks for the link.

Ben 107: God love ya, I think you're an idealist.

There was already no end in sight for our troops being over there. We had a carrier group and a whole lot of Army and Marines stationed there for a decade to beef up security in Kuwait and man the no-fly zone. Hussein had a successor, and were we really going to wait until he was dead and hoped he was childless? That's like the joke about the 98 year old couple who go in for a divorce. Why now? They wanted to wait until the kids were dead.

And I will point out that Weapons of Mass Destruction, was, by the very name chosen, a publicity ploy. It had two elements.

Number one: We actually thought they had chemical weapons.

There was enough consensus in the global intelligence community (France, Britain Russia, the U. S.) to be acceptable without further support. Remember, we did arm all of our troops with antidotes, and MOP gear, and fighting in 120 degree weather is a serious hamper to combat effectiveness when you're in a plastic suit; you don't do it unless you have to. Plus we saw the Iraqi army use chemical weapons on the Iranians and the Kurds.

Two: After Vietnam, the government has the misperception that America has no will for wars of policy.

It's a patrician attitude that America won't commit to support or belief in military action unless they feel they will be blown up the next week. So, yeah, the administration picks snazzy but obsolete terms like Weapons of Mass Destruction, and sexes up the presentation, but the policy for getting rid of the Hussein regime in Iraq was bedrock security policy. It was just longer term policy than imminent.

Disaster scenarios to follow:

- The Iraqis competently defend the large cities, such as Baghdad and Basra, like the Chechens defended Grozny against the Russians, resluting in tens of thousands of casualties on either side in taking each city.

- The Iraqis used chemical weapons on adavncing American troops.

- Hussein's kids had lived and remained at large, resulting in an actual shadow government that could still be seen as a legitimate rival to the administration that is just now taking off. Right now it's just a gaggle of bombers.

- Any scenario where Iraq had nukes.

- The Kurds strike at us, mobilizing the Peshmerga, some eight battalions of mechanized infantry who are largely competent, and denying us one of the largest safe zones in the country.

- The country broke into three distinct states with war between a southern Iranian proxy, the south western former regime, and the Northern Kurdish state raiding across the border in a revival of Occalan's policies of a greater Kurdistan.

- Turkey invades to take Kirkuk.

- Double or triple casualties.

I don't think I have mentioned anything that hasn't been prognosticated in the media. But it's fair to point out that we've been getting off cheap. It isn't easy, without cost, or perfect. It also isn't a disaster.

I agree #109, especially with regard to the fact that anti-war types have been very loose in thier definition of 'disaster'. One of my favorite military writers, Martin Van Crevald - who is otherwise as sane and rational of a writer as you could imagine - has said that the Iraq war is as disasterous of an invasion as has occured since, 'The Romans crossed the Rhine'. To any military historian, this is utter drivvel and in a sane and calmer momment I'm sure even Martin Van Crevald knows it. The Iraq War would be a comparable disaster only if the 3rd Infantry and the 101st had both been overrun and slaughtered to the man within the first few weeks of the invasion. Just to mention some obvious events well known to the general public, Van Crevald seems to have entirely forgotten Napoleon's invasion of Russia and latter Hitler's repeat of the same mistake in 'Operation Barbarrossa' - the net result of both was not only the destruction of the majority of the army, but the loss of the war, and the disolution of the invading powers government. Yet Van Crevald is willing to declare this invasion, which to me appears to be at least a marginal victory, to be a worse disaster than that.

That's utter nonsense.

Dr. Kuiper's, the article you quote provides no evidence of anything that looks like a disaster to me. It looks like proof that the Iraq War cannot be described as an overwhelming victory. That's not news. I've been certain of that since the day Bagdad fell, and it was clear that in falling it wouldn't be the end of the conflict. (You don't know how frustrating it is to deal with people taking solace from big problems, but in despair over success.) But is it now a disaster if we do not obtain overwhelming victories every time that we fight? To believer in the 'Powell Doctrine', perhaps it may seem so, but that's an utterly unrealistic approach to war and an utterly irrational basis for complaint.

Blair is quite right in listing some things that would have been truly disasterous. I should note from his list that many Hawks are relieved that we didn't find WMD's, because one of the great fears amongst people 'gaming' this war was that Saddam Hussein would use WMD's on advancing US troops while they were in populated areas - resulting in tens of thousands of civilian casualties and hundreds of US troops sick and dying. The political consequences of that would have been utterly unpredictable, and I think it entirely like that the US would have borne the majority of criticism for that just as the US has borne the majority of criticism for the attacks of terrorists.

Let me note or expound upon several further signs that the Iraq war has not been a disaster:

1) No platoon sized or larger formation has been destroyed or overrun in the whole course of the war. In fact, in the last two years, no enemy attack has come even close to this. The most serious actions all occured during the invasion (look up 'Larry, Curly, and Moe') and the April 2003 insurgent uprising during the midst of the US pullout. A disaster IMO - one which might cause me to question whether we are capable of winning - would be batallion or larger formations of US troops been destroyed or overrun, but even this would represent a historically small loss compared to the fact that in the real world nations sometimes have to endure whole regiments, divisions, corps and even armies being destroyed.

2) No creditable alternative to the occupation installed Iraqi government exists. There is absolutely no chance of anything else government Iraq in the short term. The insurgents do not represent even a creditable guerrilla force. As of the middle of last year, they have controlled none of Iraq's territory, were dispensing and controlling government services nowhere in Iraq, and they have never had a significant political front except to the extent that they agreed to go along with the US driven political process. A disaster would be, well, some thing very unlike what we have now - insurgent groups controlling large ammounts of territory, dispensing government services to a dependent and supportive local population, creating thier own rival government system, establishing visible governments in exile outside the country, and otherwise functioning like a guerilla army with large formations of troops. None of this has happened.

3) Right now the political situation is not perfect, but its about as good as can be expected. None of the disasterous things that could have happened and which were predicted by critics has actually happened. Iraq has not dissolved, its sectarian divisions have not heightened (they were already quite large before the war), the people in power in all three groups are largely against Iraq dissolving, Kurdish leadership does not appear to have fallen to groups that wish to annex neighboring Kurdish lands from Turkey and Iran, Shite leadership seems to be unwilling to accept Iranian overlordship, Sunni leadership may be opposed to the US but they've become equally opposed to Al Queda. No third party has entered the war in a serious way. Turkey has made some border incursions, but they were doing that before the war. Iran has some agents in Iraq and is making some trouble, but they were doing that before the war. Elements of the Syrian leadership have aided Al Queda, but the war has not spread to Syria nor soldified pan-Arab support for the Baath movement. In fact, quite the contrary - the site of the information minister claiming in defiance of all reason that there were no US troops anywhere near Bagdad, and the utter collapse of Sadaam Hussein's much celebrated forces, crushed any sympathy the Arab world had for the movement.

4) Coalition casualties in the war have been remarkably light. Despite having continously deployed more than 120,000 troops into a combat zone for more than three years and rotating in and out more than a half-million troops, the coalition has suffered under 3000 dead. I cannot think of a similar situation in all of military history. In fact, I'm fairly certain that the chances of getting killed in Afghanistan are much higher than the chances of getting killed in Iraq. Yes, the numbers have been an order of magnitude lower, but the number of troops involved are also an order of magnitude smaller. Afghanistan is actually the bloodier war, yet it's being hailed as a triumph by critics of the Iraq war whose criticism seems solely based on thier inability to accept what are historically some of the lowest casualty rates in history for a war of this size, intensity, and duration. In the run up to the war, pro-war military experts estimate US fatalities for the war would run in the range of 500 to 5000. I considered this a fair estimate. What I think most people were thinking though was that since those numbers were similar to the best projections for the first Gulf War, that they would certainly turn out to be on the low end of that or else far too high. I know I believed that the low end of that estimate was likely more correct (I didn't see a way to get to the high end without WMD's.) Now, a disaster would be casualty rates on the order of an order of magnitude higher than what we are seeing. This would produce casualty rates on par with Vietnam, Korea, WWII and other significant US wars. Historically, these would still be very low rates - the US has been 'lucky' at war - but I doubt that the American people would tolerate them in the case of less than a percieved immentient existential threat, precisely because we are used to being 'lucky' at war. The only truly brutal war we've ever endured was fought against ourselves.

I'm late perusing this excellent discussion and have only a little time to lurk each day, so I'm only up to #83, but I wanted to say:

Benjamin, Benjamin, Benjamin - the couple of hours I've spent sifting thru your rhinestones were well repaid by this pearl -

"This is the heart of the genuine war that is going on: pluralism versus violent fundamentalism. Islam does not have a monopoly on this conflict, though they do seem to be a market leader."

Indeed.

Benjamin Kuipers wrote in #107:

Please remember that at least some of those you disagree with, and who disagree with you, love this Nation just as much as you do.

Absolutely. Mr. Kiupers, you've argued with logic and with passionate good faith. I hope that all who have taken a 'more aggressive' stance in this debate will agree (leaving the inevitable small personal frictions aside).

My own opinion aligns much more closely with celebrim's than with yours, for the reasons he has laid out in careful detail (e.g. in #110). That only makes me more grateful that you've taken the time to think about these issues and argue for what you see as the best approaches to them, on your website and here at Winds of Change.

So, again, thank you.

Saddam's WMD

It's not over until the fat lady sings.

RBT believes there is a much bigger game afoot. Saddam's WMD especially biochem went to Syria with Russian help. The Chinese via the NORKS were assisting Saddam and Libya with a nuclear program under the nose of the IAEA in Libya. Alot of this stuff was recovered in Libya. This stuff was flown to the Oak Ridge Nat'l Lab in TN.

This knowledge is a Rovian trump card being held close to the vest by this administration in a game of Texas Hold'em to persuade the Russian and the Chinese to restrain the Mad Mullahs.

RBT believes the Mad Mullahs will not be detered from their quest to hasten the return of the 12th Imam and spark off the war of Armageddon.

Islam is in need of Its Own Reformation

And

The Power of the Women of Islam

Here's an example of what I mentioned upthread re the power of the women of Islam. To win the GWOT we must first win the war of information by discrediting the ideology of Islamofascism.

See this Knight-Ridder piece running in many OP/ED sections this week on Asra Q. Nomani and her new book:

Standing Alone,” “In my heart, I felt fear and loathing for my religion.

RBT

*****

A call for Muslim transformation
The Daily News, Jacksonvill, NC
May 02,2006
BILL TAMMEUS View stories by reporter

WASHINGTON — Asra Q. Nomani still feels heartbroken — even guilty — about the death of her former Wall Street Journal colleague, reporter Daniel Pearl, whom terrorists murdered in Pakistan in 2002. Pearl and his wife, Mariane, had been staying with her in her apartment in Karachi when he disappeared Jan. 23, 2002, after leaving for an interview with a spiritual leader. Asra and Mariane searched for him for weeks. But he died at the hands of fanatics who cared more for their twisted version of Islam than they did for Danny’s life.

Asra, a Muslim, was furious with Islam because of Pearl’s murder. As she reports in her book, “Standing Alone,” “In my heart, I felt fear and loathing for my religion.”

[...]

Read More

Krauthammer - Never Again?

Charles Krauthammer is saying out loud what many of us in the Blogos have been saying for months - It's beginning to feel like 1938 all over again. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the new personification of Evil or Hilter in the world.

RBT

******

Never Again?

By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, May 5, 2006; Page A19

When something happens for the first time in 1,871 years, it is worth noting. In A.D. 70, and again in 135, the Roman Empire brutally put down Jewish revolts in Judea, destroying Jerusalem, killing hundreds of thousands of Jews and sending hundreds of thousands more into slavery and exile. For nearly two millennia, the Jews wandered the world. And now, in 2006, for the first time since then, there are once again more Jews living in Israel -- the successor state to Judea -- than in any other place on Earth.

[...]

For 2,000 years, Jews found protection in dispersion -- protection not for individual communities, which were routinely persecuted and massacred, but protection for the Jewish people as a whole. Decimated here, they could survive there. They could be persecuted in Spain and find refuge in Constantinople. They could be massacred in the Rhineland during the Crusades or in the Ukraine during the Khmelnytsky Insurrection of 1648-49 and yet survive in the rest of Europe.

[...]

Last week Bernard Lewis, America's dean of Islamic studies, who just turned 90 and remembers the 20th century well, confessed that for the first time he feels it is 1938 again. He did not need to add that in 1938, in the face of the gathering storm -- a fanatical, aggressive, openly declared enemy of the West, and most determinedly of the Jews -- the world did nothing.

When Iran's mullahs acquire their coveted nukes in the next few years, the number of Jews in Israel will just be reaching 6 million. Never again?

[...]

A MUST READ!

- for those who slept through history class. History does have a nasty tendency of repeating itself because we are all human and suffer from the same faults.

There comes a time when the good people of the world must rise up, regardless of costs, to purge the world of Evil!

One of my favorite military writers, Martin Van Crevald - who is otherwise as sane and rational of a writer as you could imagine - has said that the Iraq war is as disasterous of an invasion as has occured since, 'The Romans crossed the Rhine'. To any military historian, this is utter drivvel and in a sane and calmer momment I'm sure even Martin Van Crevald knows it.

There is absolutely no chance of anything else government Iraq in the short term. The insurgents do not represent even a creditable guerrilla force. As of the middle of last year, they have controlled none of Iraq's territory, were dispensing and controlling government services nowhere in Iraq, and they have never had a significant political front except to the extent that they agreed to go along with the US driven political process.

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