Sunday, March 7, 2004
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The decline and fall of Islamic extremism?
If this effort pans out, it would certainly constitute another blow to Al Qaeda.
Is this true in Saudi Arabia, where the difference between Wahabbi fundamentalism and official Saudi policy is tissue-thin? Both the Economist and the New York Times Magazine have stories on that country's internal debate about its religious and political future. The latter story has this to say about the Saudi state:
The Economist concludes that there is some reason for hope:
posted by Dan on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM
I remember reading (was it the NYT) a year or so ago an article in which one of the Saudi princes said the following (paraphrase): "People in the US think the royal family is holding back reform, but the fact is most of the Saudis themselves are even more conservative. If we were to push reform through too quickly, they would be very upset."
I wonder how true this statement was then and now. Obviously there are many intellectuals in the Kingdom who are pro-reform, but what about the average guy? Is there any way to know what the masses in SA think about reform vs. conservatism? I think not. That's too bad, because just asking the intellectuals, be they conservative or reform-minded, isn't going to tell you much more than the opinion of the guy you're talking to.posted by: Zachary Braverman on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
I tend to agree with your thinking; there does seem to be a disconnect, on a number of levels here; same world, different planets.
(remembering that liberal and conservative are relative words, based on the cultural context...)
... more specificly, I wonder if it's an arab conservatism that drives the people there, or rather a willingness to be LED, which is something else altogether. This may well be a misperception on my part, and if so I will gladly stand corrected....
However, the cultural mindset within the Arab world does not strike me as fostering a lot of independent thought of ANY kind. On that basis, one could ask, with some logic, how much of the conservatism of which the royal family speaks of, was in fact instilled by them, perhaps unknowingly? (And, how much of it is a fantasy of the Royals? Some, I suppose)
And I wonder if the attacks as Dan mentions would be enough to shake them out of that kind of (non-)thinking, or will they lash out in the wrong direction?posted by: Bithead on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
EXACTLY. Great blog and articles. Terrorism is fed by corrupt Arab tyrants who suppress their populations and with their mismanagement of the economy they drain the lifeblood out of the people. Bush GOT it. That's the reason terrorism is not just a law enforcement issue like Clinton thought. It is a society issue. Bush went into Iraq to create a new society. And told the other tyrants your countries can either follow willfully or forcefully. This strategy will eventually kill off the support and terror recruits. I love Bush. GEORGE BUSH IS A GIANT AMONGST US LITTLE MEN.posted by: Ricky Vandal on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
My perception of Saudi society is that there are differences in attitude in different parts of the country. The arch-conservative heartland is the Najd, and the 'Asir region in the SW where I believe a lot of the 9-11 hijackers were from. The coasts, however, are more liberal. The Gulf coast has lots of international contacts because of the oil business and all the guest workers, while the Red Sea coast gets millions of hajj pilgrims every year.posted by: Brian Ulrich on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
Thank God that President Bush is our president. The neoconservatives within his administration bow down to the wisdom of Bernard Lewis. They have nothing but contempt for Edward Said’s silly ideas. The Democrat presidential candidate, who is able to survive the nominating process, most assuredly endangers our lives. It really is that simple.
The liberal media are doing everything to downplay the President’s successes in the Mid East. Fortunately, this is becoming increasingly more difficult. The signing of Iraq’s new constitution should be a proud day for all Americans.posted by: David Thomson on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
Brian is correct. There are significant, largely tribal-based, political, religious and social differences between regions of Saudi Arabia. Those are largely hidden by the Thought Police, the incompetence of the Western press and media, and the regime's long-term leases on foreign diplomats assigned to the place.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
"...corrupt judges, and all we're supposed to do is praise the government"
Sounds like America.posted by: Stu on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
Marginal Islamic terrorism could indeed be waning, while anti-Americanism is rising. It should be remembered that the "free lance" underworld of extremist Islamic terrorism arose primarily out of a collapse of hopes in nationalist state interests. These organizations existed to pursue agendas where governments had failed to deliver the political will to achieve the demands of the people. Terror organizations also arose as proxies to pursue the interests of governments by other means when open confrontation wasn't politically viable. Hezbollah is an example of this.
This is why it is in places like the Palestinians that terror organizations like Hamas still have legitimacy. I agree that the cultural viability of terrorist organizations as substitute state actors is waning. I also agree that the previous system of controls is failing and that liberalization is in the air.
However, this all augers badly for the United States. As the example of Europe has shown, liberal democracies are not synonymous with friendly and cooperative regimes. At the same time that domestic Arab interest is rising in political reform, entrenched anti-Americanism is also rising and no less a figure than Henry Kissinger has worried about declining American legitimacy around the world.
That is that we could see political liberalization, we could see popular rule, we could see violent Islamic fundamentalism decline as a source of approved state-subtitute anti-Western terrorism, and at the same time we could see progressively more virulent state-sponsored anti-American terrorism simultaneously as the above.
This ironically would twist the "Bush doctrine" on its head. By invading Iraq, Bush might have set off a chain of consequences that might eventually lead to the state-sponsored terrorism and use of WMD against American soil that he sought to prevent. As long as violent fundamentalist Islamic terrorism remained a state-substitute entity there was always a firewall between the infrastructure of state WMD production and the operational assets of extra-state terrorist networks. With extra-state terrorism on the wane, but increased anti-Americanism and popular rule there may arise state-sponsored terrorism that has access to the infrastructure of state WMD production.
In other words, it is not clear yet, but Bush may have brought about the very constellation of conditions that he attempted to prevent. Ironic, no?posted by: Oldman on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
Oldman, Iraq is looking more and more like a success story. An example that democracy is what Arabs want and can handle.posted by: Ricky Vandal on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
Y'know I thought Hamas and Hizbollah were anti-Israeli, not anti-American. There's still a difference, right?
"These organizations existed to pursue agendas where governments had failed to deliver the political will to achieve the demands of the people."
"That is that we could see political liberalization, we could see popular rule, we could see violent Islamic fundamentalism decline as a source of approved state-subtitute anti-Western terrorism, and at the same time we could see progressively more virulent state-sponsored anti-American terrorism simultaneously as the above."
"This ironically would twist the "Bush doctrine" on its head. By invading Iraq, Bush might have set off a chain of consequences"
"that might eventually lead to the state-sponsored terrorism and use of WMD against American soil that he sought to prevent"
Anyway, if Iraq had any viable WMDs then they must be buried someplace really, really safe like the 8th dimension since no one can find them. But I digress.
I think it _highly_ unlikely that any nation state would give a terrorist origanization WMDs. After all, what's to keep the terrorists from turning it against the state?
"As long as violent fundamentalist Islamic terrorism remained a state-substitute entity there was always a firewall between the infrastructure of state WMD production and the operational assets of extra-state terrorist networks."
For me (and maybe its because I'm a cold war baby) I'm more worried about state actors with WMDs and a WMD delivery capacity, who are are enemies and present a clear and present danger to our allies/interests like say, North Korea.
I'm less worried about terrorist organizations with state support doing this, in part because state support comes with lots of strings attached. Witness the struggles between Hamas and Hizbollah* who shouldn't disagree on political grounds (yes they have religous differences) yet nonetheless took out each other at the urging of their state sponsors (Syria and Iran) for years until they freed up their funding, and for the most part divorced themselves from those states.
I'm more worried about billionaire playboys who can buy starving Russian scientists or co-opt post docs into cooking up a hell-brew to be delivered via a coke bottle. Alas, our governemnet is less worried about Osama Bin Laden then I am.
*I think Hizbollah split between the Leabonese and Gaza and West Bank factions, with the Lebanese still receiving some Syrian funding, but don't quote me on that. I don't know enough about Bashir's Syria.
** And before people freak, I support the existence of the state of Israel.
The obvious fear of our enemies is pretty good evidence that they disagree.
Even if you are right, how is that a problem? The United States has the ability to truly and permanently eliminate its enemies. They can't do so to us.
We're not Europeans and we're not Israelis. Some Democrats think differently, but enough dead Americans at home will remind them who they really are.
We have to try to save the Arabs for our own good, not theirs. We don't have to succeed at saving the Arabs to win.
That our enemies fear we might save the Arabs is encouraging.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
"Oldman, Iraq is looking more and more like a success story. An example that democracy is what Arabs want and can handle."
Ricky - what universe do you live in? I think everyone agrees that the Arabs want democracy (can anyone name an entire ethinic group that doesn't?). And they can handle it (what ever that means - we seem to have enough problems here in the craddle of democractic republicanism).
But a success story? I'm sorry, they don't even have working sewers in baghdad. Y'know they used to have working sewers for over 16 centuries in that city. They have daily fire fights (Did you miss the US compound being mortared)? They might be on the verge of a civil war, except that the political powers that be don't want one, and they've managed to keep wheeling and dealing to avoid one. I believe an army officer compared it to Mogadishu last week.
Dear lord, if this is success, I _never_ want to see failure.
Carolinaposted by: Carolina on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
"We don't have to succeed at saving the Arabs to win." Um, what?! Do you see Iraq and our efforts to promote democracy abroad while crushing terorist cells as nothing but a distratction? And attempt to keep them all so busy they can't attack us at home?
just checking, because I otherwise do not understand your post's last two sentences.
Carolinaposted by: carolina on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
There has not been any real fighting in Iraq in the past year. Our enemies there did not, and do not, know how to fight. The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army knew how to fight. The only Arab army which knows how is Jordan's.
Jim Dunnigan's _How To Make War_ is a good place to start learning if you are interested.
"We don't have to succeed at saving the Arabs to win" = "The only question about our victory in the war on terror is how many Arabs survive the experience".
"our victory in the war on terror" = "no significant danger of foreign terrorist attack on Americans at home". The continued existence of Arab culture is not a prerequisite to our victory in the war on terror.
It is desirable, if not necessary, for the continued moral health of America that we make a good faith effort to reconstitute the Arabs' tribal culture so it can live in peace with us. It is not necessary that we succeed at this as we have other, more drastic and final, means of winning.
Our enemies' obvious fear that we might succeed in freeing Arab culture from its tribal past is encouraging because it indicates that we might not have to kill most of them.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
Ah, C'mon Carolina - he's the Heinlein fan you're searching for in the "Marriage" thread, topside. Starship Troopers (the book) to be exact, judging from his post.
BTW Tom, you scary MF - I'm with you, brother...posted by: Tommy G on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
Actually it was Phillip K. Dick, not Heinlein. I went to school with Dick's step-daughter, Hattie, as kids in the Point Reyes Peninsula area of western Marin County. They lived just a bit too far away to be on my paper route, but I visited frequently.
I also had the joy of reading the_Analog Science-Fiction_ magazine review of Dick's _The Man In the High Castle_ to him over the telephone when I was twelve years old - I was the only subscriber in our area. The review ended, "Buy this book!"
Consider what it was like having Phil Dick as a role-model when growing up - my parents were divorced.
Hattie and I were two of three-way tie for valedictorian of our eighth grade class in Point Reyes Station, and all three of us (the third was the oldest son of a park ranger) ended up as freshmen at UC Santa Cruz in 1967. Heinlein lived nearby in Scotts Valley. I met him during my senior year when trying to get UCSC to give him an honorary degree. He donated all his manuscripts to the library, and I first read _The Star Beast_ in its final manuscript form.
I still hang around with science-fiction writers. The presence of the Coast Guard cutter Eagle in Stirling's Island Lost in Time series was my idea, and John Barnes mentioned me in the credits and afterword of several of his books.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
What an astonishingly small place, this blue orb.
Been back on the S/F binge since digging a copy of "First Contract" (Greg Costikyan )out of a box of TPBs some do-gooder mailed to us in Afghan.
Brilliant stuff - Pick it up- and I guess I'll have to give "Castle" a read. Which reminds me of my response to the "S/F" thread downspin this thread - who gives a * about TV S/F - it's always been the books.
ALLCON - All apologies about the thread high-jacking - it's "sage's" fault for referencing "Princess Bride". I will cease and desist.posted by: Tommy G on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
Smaller than you think. I met Greg Costikyan during our wargaming days (he was with SPI). We both stayed at my father's place for a game convention (Greg flew in from NY). My father took one look at Greg and said, before I could introduce them, "You're Ed's son, aren't you?"
It turned out that my father and Greg's father had been allies in driving the Communists out of the Democratic Party in the late 1940's and early 1950's.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
So you were an SPI nerd like me?
Go here:posted by: Tom Holsinger on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
Most of your differences with me are differences of opinion which I am content to rest content without contesting. When facts are in order, different people can disagree and still have things come out. Usually there is more than one way to skin a cat.
Also I must confess to being a long time science fiction fan. However, this does not make me envious of Tom Holsinger, which I might otherwise be under different circumstances. Unfortunately, his early exposure to science fiction greats seems to have left him a highly intelligent, articulate, and dangerous individual lost in a world of fictional contemplation.
If it wasn't clear to you, what Holsinger was speaking of so eloquently insofar as the only question is how many Arabs will survive our war on terror is essentially endorsing the military strategy of genocide if political and economic liberalization doesn't work.
Let me make clear that I am no peacenik, and unless I miss my guess I have done more physical harm to other living human beings than anyone else here unless they were a battlefield war vet, but what Holsinger is contemplating is again unless I miss my guess just fictional speculation without any real conception of what genocide entails. I have seen real human beings die and I have seen them suffer, and despite doing what was my duty certainly it is clear to me that there is no person with a conscience or a soul that could contemplate genocide who actually understood what it means.
Persons who endorse such violence without consideration of the consequences - military, political, and social - are truly living in a dream world where pushing buttons and pulling levers to destroy others is rendered like a video game rather than a consequential weighing of the true good done by the use of military force. Let us pray that those like Holsinger who so casually dismiss the deaths of millions, never are in charge of military engagements.
A 150 years ago, he would have fit right into general society but most of humanity since then has learned that genocide is a poor tool of social engineering.posted by: Oldman on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
To return to the thread. I want to point out that, Dan used the words: "the Saudi state," but they mask the reality of the situation.
Barely a century ago the modern founder of the dynasty Ibn Sa'ud was a desert bandito with an ancestral claim on Ryhad and a camel. By the time he died in the early 1950's he had rolled up the territory we now call Saudi Arabia. It was nothing more or less than his personal fiefdom held by right of conquest (next time you hear a Saudi complaining about Israel, ask him about his country). He had conquered the Hijaz, the western province of the holy cities, and had forced out their hereditary rulers, the ancestors of the king of Jordan. IIRC. The current King is Ibn Sa’ud’s grandson, non compos mentis and ctd ("circling the drain").
Hereditary monarchy is a tricky business. A lot of Americans think they understand it, but they really don’t. A few months ago I went into a transmission shop near my home to get an estimate on a transmission repair. On the bulletin board in back of the counter there was a trivia question. Who is second in line for the British throne? I knew it was Prince William. He said most customers got it right. And that is the conceptual barrier most Americans need to cross when dealing with other lands and other eras.
In England before the 17th Century revolutions and the Act of Settlement, things were murkier. Bolingbroke could quarrel with his cousin, usurp the throne and his son Hal could claim France (Shakespeare, Henry the Fifth, Act I. Scene II). Islamdom was worse. There was no primogeniture. Harun-al-Rashid, the caliph of the 1001 nights, whose wisdom was legendary, divided his lands among his 3 sons producing civil war. The Ottomans, during their first 200 years, allowed the surviving sons to fight it out (with armies). The winner strangled the rest, even babies, with a silken bow string.
Right now there are probably several dozen Sa’uds who are male lineal descendants of Ibn Sa’ud, who have equally good claims on the throne. My theory has been that Osama bin Laden is a confederate of one of these claimants. Thus his interest in getting the US out of Saudi Arabia, where it could decide who will be the next King. All we know is that the current King will die and that the country has very little in the way of state institutions to carry it over. It is entirely possible that a civil war will break out that will disrupt world oil markets. You will be then glad that we have a grip on Iraq, and there is no Saddam to play in those troubled waters. And you will then understand why we had to take on Iraq first.
So 9/11 is no different that the mystery of who strangled the princes? (An aside - Buckingham). Our Iraq strategy is nothing more than advantage in a dynastic struggle over the proper heir to the throne of Ibn Sa’ud?
Our President seems to think it was WMD's ... er ... gassing of Kurds ....er.... massacres of Shiites …. Er …. whatever ….
Don’t spread this theory to broadly among Arabs – they already think its nothing but oil.
People who go play what-if? games tend not to understand power. What if the Arabs elect Osama bin Laden as caliph? What if my baby really does hold his breath until he passes out?
What if everyone in x-Yugoslavia stop trying to kill each other and instead turn on intervening American forces, tableforks in hand? Look up the advice then JCS Chairman Powell gave President Clinton in 1994 and consider 18 USC 1001 in relation to Martha Stewart.
You should also read my columns.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
"So 9/11 is no different that the mystery of who strangled the princes?"
You might say that. Many commenters have remarked on the seeming desire of the Islamo-fascists to drag the world back to the Middle Ages. And the story of the princes in the tower is a story of Medieval politics. In this case, we need to ask ourselves why did Al-Qaeda attack the United States. The answer they gave was to drive America out of Arabia. But that answer only leads to the further questions? Some people say that bin Laden wants to establish a Caliphate and we are in the way. Perhaps. But that does not explain his funders. What is it that they are buying? And why?
An alliance between religious fanaticism and political power is an old thread in the story of the Sa’ud family which has been co-dependent with Wahabbist Islam since the 18th Century.
"Our Iraq strategy is nothing more than advantage in a dynastic struggle over the proper heir to the throne of Ibn Sa’ud?"
No, it is a multi-part geo-political strategy aimed at giving us, strategic and tactical advantage in a multi front war. It puts in between the major state sponsors of Islamic terrorism and, if there is a dynastic struggle in Saudi Arabia, it 1) removes a potential and Malign player in Saddam and 2) gives us a platform from which to intervene if we need to.
I realize that the fighting in Iraq (specifically that against American troops) is really just skirmishing. In another time it would have been "restless natives" causing problems, and the Empire shrugging it off as the cost of doing business. I understand that too. I just had issues with someone calling our efforts a success. Can anyone explain how our actions in Iraq struck a mortal blow at terrorists?
Your comment, specially "how many Arabs survive the experience", threw me for a loop. I had a sparred with John Ringo on this question in September 2001 (I used one of my email addresses with a different name then, so if he's reading this he'll probably be wonder what I'm talking about). It was a nasty little fight, and what it boiled down to was this: Should the United state ruthlessly pursue and kill anyone and who is a threat to us? And do we take our their relatives, too?
I see why Olman called your idea genocidal and did the comparison (Lazurus Long would have been a bit more accurate). We do have the capabilities to destroy our enemies utterly. And it is possible to wipe people from the face of the earth. Yet, I appreciate the distinction between your statement and genocide. You are talking about eradicating a culture, not a people. We can debate if they are one and the same.
If I understand you correctly, you believe terrorism against the United States is a distinctly Arab act. That the culture encourages and abets this action more than any other culture on the planet. I appreciate that you leave the door open for the US to adjust Arab culture (through some sort of assimillation, no doubt) as an alternative to erradicating it. Put another way, "A good arab is either dead or American".
Your comments leave me in a quandry. On the one hand, I have no problems with imposing the American way of life on other people. We're a pluralist republican state that has checks and balances so that the rule of law applies to everyone better than it does elsewhere. It's a powerful idea, and I think it's a good one; one of the best developed political systems in our history.
On the otherhand, I can see why other cultures would get a bit testy at the imposition of the American idea on everyone. My husband would be aghast at my suggestion of cultural superiority and while he'd never take up arms, he would understand why other people might. People like to make up their own minds about this; worse those in power will be less likely to give up those traditional priviledges granted to them by their culture.
We are not in (god I hate to write it) a clash of civilizations. Despite our president and the enemy defining it as such, we are not in total war with Arab culture. What we have is one form of cultural superiority using us as a convenient foil for their own ends. 9/11 wasn't about us. It was about the soul of Arab culture. The questions before us and the world is do we let a murderous set of individuals' ideal of Arab culture become dominant? Is it already dominant? And if it is do we have an alternative other than total war?
I don't think our enemies fear we might free Arab culture from it tribal past. I think our enemies fear that we will make a more western form of Arab culture more attactive to the masses. I think some fear the loss of their priviledges. I think some just want to hit back at the world for their own miserable lives. I think a lot of them are afraid of our culture. I think a lot of them are afraid of their own. I think they'd like it if we started our own Arab pogrom, because we'd give them last little bit of political oomph to make the Umma a reality.
Which is why I think we will lose, if we embrace the idea that we should scrouge our enemies from the earth. We'd be playing right into their hands.
One final thought: if we decide to erradicate Arab culture what is the likelihood the number of Islamic extermists will increase dramatically before we finish with our final solution?
maybe playing nice is paying off....
Oldman, I would only reply to your critique of Tom:
"I'm sure the city father's of Carthage would be glad to know that. Why doesn't you mother tell them so?"
I exaggerated a whole lot to make a point about power. We have the power to do what we want. The only restraint on our use of that power is the moral sense of the American people. Europeans, excepting a fair amount of Britons, don't understand this role of the American people and so are terrified at what they perceive as unrestrained and effectively unlimited American power.
My columns 18 months ago explored this issue. Here is the URL for one of them:
Oldman was, I think, commenting on what he thought was my ignorance of nuclear conflict issues, but he is unaware of my background here. I am probably the most knowledgeable person concerning nuclear weapons effects on civil population and infrastructure who ever posted on this blog. He's right that no such event as described in my previous posts is possible, but wrong in assuming that there would be only one. War is a process, not an event.
As a practical matter, the first horror shows will be self-inflicted - societal collapse of failing states with or without civil war, and the subsequent death of millions due to starvation, exposure (cold, heat, thirst, etc.) and disease. Those will make it much easier to go there with WMD.
The first such event will be purely self-inflicted and take place in North Korea. IMO it will happen next winter - probably a million dead from starvation and exposure, followed by no more North Korea. The Sauds should follow within about five years.
If we're lucky, the only genocidal nightmares to occur in the Arab world in the next 20 or so years will be a sort-of self-inflicted one (given the climate) in what is now Saudi Arabia (highly likely), and probably also Gaza and the West Bank (50/50 that it will be self-inflicted).
The worst horror show will likely be in Pakistan. I have a bet with Jim Dunnigan that nuclear weapons will be used in anger by midnight on December 31, 2005. I knew what Pakistani nuclear scientists were up to when I made the bet several years ago, and said in print on his page that the first terrorist nuke ever used will almost certainly be of Pakistani origin.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
oops, make that " ...on or before December 31, 2005"posted by: Tom Holsinger on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
I admire and have admired your intellect, and it is its very capacity that makes me quite wary of your otherwise amiable personality. To make the horrific seem reasonable that has always been the bureacratic hallmark of those that make genocides possible. I am willing to stipulate you might be "the most knowledgeable person concerning nuclear weapons effects on civil population and infrastructure who ever posted on this blog"
For only someone who could concieve of the collapse of nations, the starvation of millions, and the use of nuclear weapons upon civilian populations in abstract, intellectual, and calculating terms could ever countenance that idea. It is only these technical terms and thinking divorced of the actual experience that makes such a course seem feasible. It is also precisely the slippery slope or "process" that makes such an outcome concievable, for as you have noted if presented all at once it would be too much for people to accept in one event.
The American electorate had a chance before when a politician suggested using nuclear weapons to end the war in South East Asia. They turned away from this. I do not think that they are ready to turn to it now. This discussion is particularly distressing because as a matter of fact we have never tried real intelligence reform, real coordinated anti-terrorism efforts, and are slacking off from real anti-proliferation efforts.
Before we suggest such outcomes which would cause profound human suffering as on the scales of the greatest tragedies in human history, I think we should take a real hard look at why it seems that we are still willing to deal with an inept and corrupt political and bureacratic administrative structure. Shall arabs die because our politicians are incompetent? If we do not look first at how we could better utilize conventional or reformed measures to address the topic, we certainly are countenancing something rather disturbing and that says something rather awful about us.
Oh, and thinking about consequences of choices and the outcomes of situations and "what-if" scenarios ... that's called judgement, and judgement is the essence of leadership. One should never be misled into thinking in a Pollyanish scenario, but failure to see that naked force by itself cannot truly solve problems is simply wrong. Take it from one who has had to use naked force to try to do so. Disputes cannot truly be settled by force, as Wellesley has suggested, except by genocide. History has proven this out.
Has naked force helped Sharon cow the Palestinians? So long as the Palestinians live, they will not accept Sharon's terms and Isreal will not be at peace. To "win" with mere fore Sharon must exterminate them, as Rome exterminated the Carthiginians. The Romans seeded the land of Isreal with salt and exiled the Jews in one of the greatest Diasporas the world has known. Yet some two millenia later they are right back there.
Long term disputes cannot be solved using naked force solely, they can only be eliminated by progressing to genocide. Which was the classic solution historically. If we wish for something better today, we must adopt a strategy that uses something more than mere force which can destroy but not create. Force has its place, but it cannot stand alone.posted by: Oldman on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
"Has naked force helped Sharon cow the Palestinians?"
The answer to that would have to be yes. They are really under much better control now than they were 18 months ago. OTOH, please do not believe the Palestinians when they tell you that they have been subjected to terrible unbearable brutality. The mere fact that Arafat continues to breathe refutes that claim. The Israelis could much tougher without firing a single shot. They have not for instance turned off the Palestinians electricity.
"So long as the Palestinians live, they will not accept Sharon's terms and Isreal [sic] will not be at peace."
Romantic. Rubbish. But, romantic rubbish. Spit out the Kool-Aid, Oldman.
Arafat, the Egyptian born, Soviet trained, kleptocrat of the Palestinians, whose Parisian wife is holding the swag, will not accept the terms offered by Sharon. This should not be surprising. He rejected the far better terms offered by Barak.
Furthermore, if any Palestinian had the temerity to stand up and say: "Let us take what we are being offered and work with the Israelis to build a better life," he would be strung up from a nearby lamp post and shot as a Reuters designated "collaborator" while the EU and the world’s bien pensants averted their eyes.
What will happen after Arafat is gone is anybody’s guess. A violent civil war seems likely. In the end, someone will be sick enough of war to want peace. This will be sooner rather than later, if the United States can disrupt the support for terrorism from Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia.
"To "win" with mere fore [sic] Sharon must exterminate them, as Rome exterminated the Carthiginians.[sic]"
That is a bit pessimistic. There are a lot of buttons left for the Israelis to push. They have not even completed the fence.
"The Romans seeded the land of Isreal [sic] with salt and exiled the Jews in one of the greatest Diasporas the world has known. Yet some two millenia [sic] later they are right back there."
Do not take Jewish history lessons from people who cannot spell Israel.
There was a large Jewish population outside of Israel long before the Romans. Indeed, some authorities claim that it might have accounted for as much as 10% of the population of the empire in the first couple of centuries C.E. However, the population of Jerusalem and the surrounding area could not have been more than a few hundred thousand. The rest of the Jews lived in areas across the Mediterranean and in Mesopotamia, where they had been established by the Babylonian exile in the 6th Century B.C.E.
There were two major violent confrontations between the Jews and the Romans in Israel ca 70 C.E. and ca. 135 C.E. After the end of the second one, the Romans banned Jews from Jerusalem and surrounding areas, and built a pagan temple on top of the ruins of the Temple. The vast majority of Jews continued to live in Northern Israel, elsewhere in the Empire, and Mesopotamia, which was under Sassanian rule.
And why is that the Jews (sons of dogs and monkeys, as all bien pensants know them to be) insisted on their atavistic attachment to Jerusalem, that the Romans so justly removed them from. Because, for the last 20 centuries the Jews (sodam) have prayed daily, while facing Jerusalem, to be restored to Jerusalem, and have recited the 137th Psalm:
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down,
And this is the difference between the Jews and the Palestinians. A century ago, the Palestinians (and let it be noted that there is no letter P in Arabic so the say Falestinian) were simply the Bedouins and peasants who happened to be found in the rather desolate area between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. They were and are no different than their cousins in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon , Arabia and even Iraq and Egypt. If they despise the gift of a state, they will wander off and become Arabs living some place else. In the still tribal parts of the Middle East, they will be distinguished by their tribal affiliations, but those are not national. In the United States the Khourys will become Coreys and the Syrian Orthodox will become Methodist in a couple of generations.
The Palestinians (and most of the Christians have long since fled) are 96% Muslim. Their sacred geography is for better or worse located in Arabia. Innovations in their religion would be fought most strenuously. No force will bind them for 20 centuries. Heck, I won’t give them a generation after their state supporters go under.
Your objection is to 9/11, not to me. The world changed and you don't like it, so you blame anyone who reminds you of what you don't like.
You avert your eyes from my columns because those describe inconvenient history, such as that the US was going to gas Japanese civilians from the air like bugs if they hadn't surrendered i 1945. The Army's Chemical Corps estimated we'd kill five million Japanese civilians that way before before we invaded. We had already moved the chemical munitions to the theater. This was the fall-back plan in case the A-bomb didn't get the Japanese to surrender.
And we hadn't been attacked at home then.
Yet you expect us to do less if we are nuked at home? You're in denial.
So you blame me for saying things you'd rather not hear about.
BTW, how much longer do you think the Palestinians will exist? They'd already be radioactive ash if they tried that shit on us. Only the Israelis' Jewish forebearance keeps the Palestinians alive.
"... For the bitter truth is that if the Palestinian people were indeed a genuine state fighting a genuine war, they would have long since been annihilated root and branch - or else they would have been forced to make a realistic accommodation with the state of Israel, based on a just assessment of the latter's immense superiority of resources, both military and political. And the reason for this superiority, by a paradox typical of history, is not American aid or funding, but the fact that the state of Israel has been forced to struggle for every moment of its existence from the very day of its birth - and it is this struggle that has made them into what no assembly of nations can ever bestow - a viable state. And unless the Palestinians as a people can set aside their fantasies of pushing a vastly superior enemy into the sea, instead of seeking out a realistic modus vivendi with him, they may demand a state, and even be "recognized" as a state. But it will exist as a viable entity only by virtue of the liberal conscience - and seemingly inexhaustible forbearance - of the Israeli people.
But in this the Palestinians are not alone. It is a common feature of much of the Arab world to entertain the illusion of viability. In a world that had abandoned the liberal system, they would have long been extirpated, or else - a far happier and more probable outcome - they would have rapidly shed their delusions for a more realistic manner of proceeding.
This gives a sense of Greek tragedy, with its dialectic of hubris and nemesis, to what has been unfolding in the Islamic world. If they continue to use terror against the West, their very success will destroy them. If they succeed in terrorizing the West, they will discover that they have in fact only ended by brutalizing it. And if subjected to enough stress, the liberal system will be set aside and the Hobbesian world will return - and with its return, the Islamic world will be crushed. Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad. And the only way to avoid this horrendous end is to bring the Islamic world back to sanity sooner rather than latter ..."
by Lee Harris - 03/11/2003
http://www.techcentralstation.com/1051/defensewrapper.jsp?PID=1051-350&CID=1051-031103Aposted by: Tom Holsinger on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
If you feel it would help things along, I'll read your columns. I haven't done so mostly because of limited time. That's what it means to teach, to help someone with finishing their master's degree, help someone finish their Ph.D. and work on three papers for publication at once, while grading papers at the same time.
You're making fundamental attribution error Tom. You're attributing actions to my character and not environment.
"Your objection is to 9/11, not to me. The world changed and you don't like it, so you blame anyone who reminds you of what you don't like.
You avert your eyes from my columns because those describe inconvenient history."
First of all Tom Holsinger, this week is mid-terms week. I've had two hours of sleep last night. The previous week hasn't been exactly peachy either. And yet I take time out to correspond with you. Do you think that might have something with me not wanting to read your columns at this moment, or do you still think it's a character defect?
Secondly, I am quite well aware of the mass casualty capacity of the American public both in historical terms (Tokoyo and Dresden fire-bombing, Amerind genocide, Slavery, etc.) and in practical terms. However, where we differ is not the idea that America cannot do such a thing, but that America should not do such a thing without going the last mile exhausting all reasonable alternatives otherwise.
Bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was reasonable in light of the tested resolve of Japanese Resistance on the Pacific Islands, and the expected casualty rate both civilian and military on both sides. Reaching for the genocide button because we are too apathetic to first try reforming our intelligence agencies isn't ruthlessness, it's pathetic. It goes against everything that makes this country Great and Good and Strong.
The reason why we differ on 911 is that for me it was reality long before it happened. Anyone in the know, knew that the American public was grossly complacent about the risks of catastrophic terrorism and realized the completely inadequate US political posture toward it.
What 911 changed was that it made people, perhaps like you, wake up to dire threats that had been in the works for years.
However, I categorically reject the implication that 911 somehow immediately sanctions genocide as an optimal or viable option of long-term security.
Furthermore, I categorically reject the notion that somehow 911 made it okay to reach for the genocide option first when we still have crappy intelligence agencies, have no real non-proliferation strategy, and have never really made any of the reforms we'd promised ourselves we would after 911.
I do not reject these things because I am unwilling to personally kill for my country, or because I reject extrajudicial assassination, or that I am unwilling to break laws either domestic or international to protect the national security interests of the United States of America.
I reject these hypothesises because they seem the reaction of a big wailing baby who can't seem to grasp that blowing up half the world isn't a smart way to go about killing a relatively small number of people. I say kill them all and let them rot in hell. However, the sheer emotional indulgence and stupidity of reaching for the genocide option - extinguishing whole cultures and peoples rather than avoiding necessary and long overdue personal changes - now what I call that is weakness.
Is it the Arab's fault that the Dept. of Homeland Security is a mess? Is it the Arab's fault that plutonium is floating about unaccounted in Russia while we cut funds in order to secure it? Is it the Arab's fault that we have looked the other way rather than bringing Khan to justice as a favor to Musharaff? Is it the Arab's fault that we totally and royally f*cked up about WMD in Iraq? Is it the Arab's fault that this Administration has no clue about how to deal with North Korea or Iran's rogue nuclear weapons programs?
Let's fix these things before we discuss wiping out nations. Especially when we aren't sure if those nations even have the weapons or terroists we're looking for!
No. It is not their fault. And while I have no qualm about dispatching the occasional innocent person as the accidental collateral damage of warfare, your level of proposed uncontrolled aggression would incite the very response that you seek to prevent!!!
And that's why I oppose your position. Because it's stupid. It's wasteful. And it would almost certainly be counter-productive and endanger the national security interests of the United States of America.
You seem to assume Tom that your contemplation of genocide makes you more committed to destroying terrorism root, branch, fruit, and seed than I am. This is not true. I believe that talk such as yours would be dangerous to the security of America if adopted as even an unofficial policy.
If the choice need be made and it is us or them, then I choose us three times over without hesitation. However, I suggest to you that if you can get it past whatever emotional hangup is propelling your end in this argument that the very posing of the us-vs-them dichotomy openly will generate more of those very fanatical terrorists that we wish to destroy.
Your contemplation of such an aim without first addressing more proximate levers and tools, only shows how little that strategy would have to offer to improve the security of America.
P.S. regarding Palestine
It is not about "turning enemies to ash". If one has the power to impose a unilateral solution and multilateral cooperation is impossible, then one should act - however this does not excuse the imposition of a stupid solution. One should establish a "just" if harsh standard and then apply it decisively. In this way, in the long run everyone will be better off.
Ghetto-izing the Palestinians isn't doing Isreal any good. Right now they can blame everything on Isreal. Shove them out the door with some aid and force them to survive on their own. This is a screwed up situation. But it can be "fixed". If somebody had the will to do the smart thing. Which is not running around killing large numbers of Palestinians randomly!!!posted by: Oldman on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
When Holsinger says this in his post:
>Yet you expect us to do less if we are
And you respond like this:
>However, I categorically reject the
I would have to say he tagged you spot on.
He wasn't talking about 9/11 and you couldn't stop yourself from talking about 9/11.
Accept reality man. Mega-death is coming...and there is not a thing any of us can do to stop it.
Once the "wire-haired oriental gentlemen" start killing themselves off in huge numbers, the moral barriers for a lot of America actions comes down, hard.
Not for nothing did George Will say the following:
"War is the ultimate moral solvent."posted by: Trent Telenko on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
It frankly scares me to death what we would do if nuked at home. Look at Abraham Lincoln’s actions in and around Washington at the beginning of the Civil War or against Ohio Democrats during the war. Zathras talks about democracy being fragile in another thread. He is correct. We will willingly trade civil liberties for security. Look at the Patriot Act. We have such overwhelming power currently. I literally quake for someone who makes the mistake of “waking the sleeping giant”. Yamamoto was correct in 1941, and it’s still true today.
But I wrote:
Trent, you really are a fool. Using nuclear weapons on other countries if we have a reasonable expectation that they might use them on us is a reasonable policy.
Fatalistically assuming that we are going to get hit, then indiscriminately tarring an entire culture and many nations of people, and then supporting genocide as an optimal long-term strategy of dealing with it without first having resorted to other reasonable means is not strategy - it's insanity.
It will provoke the very thing that we seek to prevent. According to this logic, we should have gone for the nuclear button in the Cold War and rolled the dice because "they were going to get us anyway." Rhetoric aside, the threat was defused in another way. Precisely because such fatalism as yours did not win out.
Of course premptive use of nuclear weapons is an appropriate strategy where warrented. But there is another way to do this that will work, and hasn't even been bleeding tried.posted by: Oldman on 03.07.04 at 11:18 PM [permalink]
I agree, it is scary. The suspension of Habeus Corpus. The breaking of civil opposition. We may have another Civil War in this country before we're done.
But it won't truly be because of outsiders. Not when one group of persons is in power, using wars as an excuse to seize power, and at the very same time neglecting the very measures that could prevent American atrocity.
Unfortunately that group is the very party I've supported all these years.
I love war you know. No, I mean I really love it. Soldiering is in my bloodline. There's a thrill to it. The shining delight of sheer destruction, with all the tragedy and needless suffering that go with it. Call me an adrenaline junkie.
Precisely because I love it and am well suited to it however, I abhor what is happening. What is happening is not war, it is farce.
America defeated the Communist threat in the Cold War. America defeated the Japanese. America built the greatest nation in the history of this world. America survived a Civil War, and established a new order for the ages.
America can beat this threat too. And we can do it without sacrificing our values, or giving up to fatalism, or escalating the conflict to genocidal levels.
Trent and Tom Holsinger have relied on wholly emotional points. Yes, a nuclear detonation in America would require the strongest possible response. However, both have neglected to address my point of why we aren't taking strong anti-proliferation measures such as accounting for well known plutonium and enriched uranium sources.
If our aim was to stop a nuclear bomb going off in America, then why did we not invade Iran instead of Iraq? Or for that matter why not invade Pakistan? They've been selling nuclear technology for years around the world. That would be something I support. Take the freaking bomb away from the Pakistanis!
They haven't answered these very logical points. Because they don't care to. They want to whip up war sentiment by conjuring the worst case scenario, and they want to assume that taking action to prevent that scenario is already hopeless.
Why if we are rightly so concerned about a nuclear attack on America then why aren't we taking the most logical steps toward preventing that? Why aren't we attacking and destroying the nations actually
And it is here that their true allegiance becomes clear. They are not for protecting America, but protecting the political interests they have adopted. To criticize the lack of action on nuclear proliferation would criticize those that they have chosen to support. These interests have no desire to actually stop nuclear proliferation. To do so would take away their excuse to seize power. And that would be treason if it could be proved. So they really don't believe in protecting America by any means necessary, just their political masters for whom they act as apologists. What I care about is protecting America. That is why I oppose them. They offer neither security nor liberty.
And it is here that their true allegiance becomes clear. They are not for protecting America, but protecting the political interests they have adopted. To criticize the lack of action on nuclear proliferation would criticize those that they have chosen to support. These interests have no desire to actually stop nuclear proliferation. To do so would take away their excuse to seize power. And that would be treason if it could be proved.
So they really don't believe in protecting America by any means necessary, just their political masters for whom they act as apologists. What I care about is protecting America. That is why I oppose them. They offer neither security nor liberty.
If our aim was to stop a nuclear bomb going off in America, then why did we not invade Iran instead of Iraq?
Likely, the reason was that Iraq would be easier to get out of the way. As it stands now in the post-saddam world, Iran is an easier problem to deal with than it was with Saddam still in power, particuallry given the state of the boders, there. The idea of a base of operations for western pwoers against such as Iran comes to mind, but also there's the concept htat the very presense of a free Iraq...a more stable and open Iraq, gurantees less stable footing for Iran's current regime, and is more likley to aid their removal, if not by peaceful means, at least less than Nuclear means... and possibly without any major military action.
Or for that matter why not invade Pakistan?
I suspect that is two things; They were easier to negotiate with than Saddam; the Govenrment there is still more pro-wstern than many... and also partially related to the answer above... as regards the stabilty of the neighborhood given Iraq's new state.... and also the idea that Pakistan is easier to negotiate with, given coalition forces are still less than 24 hours away.
Then too, there's the limited range of Pakistan's nukes... around 1200 miles or so, as I gather it, was the range of the test missle they fired a few days ago.
Finally, I'm unaware of any plan by the Iranian or Pakistan governments to eliminate US leaders. Iraq certainly had that going for it.
add to th first paragraph of the above:
You are bleeding all over this topic.
You are so worked up that you can't even retype the spelling of my name correctly.
>Fatalistically assuming that we are
What is almost impossible for one generation of engineers is hard work for the second and easy for the third.
The first atomic bomb was exploded in 1945. Today is 2004.
That is a gap of 59 years.
The latest reports on the Iranian nuclear program speak of identifying specific trace signatures of Russian enriched uranium. This isn't weapons grade mind you, but it is good enough so that a couple of dozen centrifuges can make bomb grade nuclear material rather then the large industrial scale of 100's required for "yellow cake" uranium.
The latest reports from Libya exposed a huge market of illicit WMD component manufacturers ranging from Europe, to Russia, to China to Malaysia complete with an “off the shelf” Chinese nuclear weapons design.
So, we have an operational Chinese nuclear weapons design, we have numerous suppliers of enriched but non-weapons grade nuclear material and a WMD market place to buy the components and talent to make a bomb.
Given all of the above, anyone who says we aren’t going to get nuked is insane.
>then indiscriminately tarring an
Ignoring the people joyously dancing in the street on the day of 9/11/2001 is another sign of your unbalance, Mr. Oldman.
Arab culture joyously volunteered to cover itself in the blood of our innocents.
It isn't what either Holsinger or I said.
Mega-death is coming, it cannot be stopped, and it is coming in many forms.
For example, imagine a desert state dependent on oil income that has only 10% of its work force made up of locals and the rest foreigners. Where every power plant, every desalinization plant, every piece of oil equipment, every piece of modern infrastructure is run and maintained by foreigners. Where the urban population has exploded in the last 30 years, the population has doubled, and even if they remembered how to live in the desert, their population far exceeds the Desert's ability to support them.
What are the demographic implications for those people if a civil war cuts off this oil income for a period of years and all the foreigners leave?
The name of that place is Saudi Arabia and civil war is its future.
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