Thursday, March 18, 2004

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Open Al Qaeda thread

Multiple news stories about a senior Al Qaeda figure being surrounded by Pakistani forces here, here, and here. Anticipatory Retaliation says it's Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden's second-in-command.

Discuss below.

posted by Dan on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM


If confirmed, I'd have to say getting al-Zawahiri is more important than getting Bin Laden himself--even though the PR value of Bin Laden is higher, it's not at all obvious that Bin Laden has much real operational expertise. OBL seems more the financial and ideological leader than the operational mastermind.

Given the cell structure of Al Qaeda, however, I don't know that we'll see any immediate effect if al-Zawahiri is taken out; it's hard to direct day-to-day ops in Iraq if you're holed up in the boonies of Afghanistan and Pakistan and have foresworn satellite connectivity. But al-Zawahiri's capture may lead to better intel on ongoing AQ operations, as the earlier captures (e.g. Saikh Khalid Mohammed) have.

posted by: Chris Lawrence on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

To clarify a point I've made elsewhere (but hasn't been attributed to me here) there are a sea of reports indicating that fighting is ongoing and is expected to continue for the next few hours. These reports also suggest that the individual cornered is, indeed, al-Zawahiri. However, my initial post suggested that al-Zawahiri had either been captured or had surrended. Unfortunately, beyond the Bloomberg report mentioned in my post, I have found nothing to post to coroborate suggestions that he has either surrendered or been captured. Additional reports do suggest that he has been wounded in the fighting. So, in all, I feel that I must retract my original claims as they seem to be either premature or overblown or both. I will continue to update my blog as events warrant.

posted by: Bravo Romeo Delta on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

A quick review of public statements suggests that the Pakistanis know better than anyone how hard it is to keep one guy with local friends pinned down in that part of their country, and after releasing optimistic initial reports are trying to sound cautious. A lot can go wrong.

A lot can go right, too. Glad as I would be to see this Zawahiri slug blown up by an American bomb it might be best in the long run if he and bin Laden were run down by soldiers from a Muslim country. I have to say I would rather see this one dead than captured, though. We'll see.

posted by: Zathras on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

Yay if it is!

posted by: Brian Ulrich on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

I'm glad to hear this, but wasn't there reports that it was the Pakistanis who were surrounded and captured yesterday? Wierd news reversal if true. I hope it's true. It would be nice to see the Pakistanis crackdown on the lawlessness that makes the border between them and Afghanistan non-existant.

posted by: Carolina on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

You know - the other thing they could be fighting so fiercely to defend is the dead body of Z or UBL...

posted by: Tommy G on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

I certainly hope this is true. He is more dangerous as an organizer than Bin Laden, although ultimately the image of Bin Laden would be more meaningful.

I do wonder about the timing of this. Given the stories in the last few weeks about the backroom dealings with respect to AQ Khan in Pakistan, I don't think anything that goes on with Pakistan is above question. I wonder why this is happening on the same day that Powell announced that Pakistan is a "major non-NATO ally". That sounds like pretty elite company, especially for a nation that has been the worst culprit in nuclear proliferation.

I hope this is a case where we will get more with the carrot than the stick, but I hope that we are not going down this road just because our stick is busy in other parts of the world (see: Iraq).

posted by: Rich on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

Sort of off topic, but MEMRI has a short blurb (scroll to March 17) which indicates that Iran has Zarqawi under arrest (he's the guy thought to be behind a lot of the car bombings et al in Iraq) and is offering to trade him to the US - anyone heard more about this ?

posted by: fingerowner on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

It would be nice if we did indeed get him, but since it's the Pakistani government making all the claims, I think we should wait til they produce the guy.

posted by: Ray on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

Good news if it's true. I doubt that it will have a strategic value but a real moral boster. I will believe it when they show me the bird in hand, that's a pretty big bush.

posted by: Ron in Portland on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

Commander, tear this ship apart until you've found those plans, and bring me the passengers! I want them alive - no disintegrations.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

ummmm....this isn't the surprise you hinted at yesterday, is it?

posted by: JoJo the Dog-faced Boy on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

So far it's wild guesses, and to throw mine into the ring I'd guess it wasn't al-Zawahiri. They probably have somebody cornered, but I doubt there's any real way for them to know it was al-Zawahiri himself and they're just guessing. Remember, Musharaf himself just a couple of months ago was casting doubt on the possibility that bin Ladin was even alive or in Pakistan if he was.

Granted that was self-serving b.s., but the first question asks regarding any source is whether that source is in a position to know the information they claim. In this case, it doesn't seem so. What is more credible is that they cornered somebody and may be jumping to the conclusion that it's al-Zawahiri.

We may have to wait some time before they produce whoever it was, even if they do scoop him up relatively quickly. Interrogation and all.

Sloppy news control however. If it is al-Zawahiri, his entire network now knows to disperse and go to ground in advance. If it's not, they'll be having another laugh at our expense. Again.

posted by: Oldman on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz acknowledged in an interview that the U.S. was expecting favors in return for the tolerance of the pardon of A. Khan, and the threat of sanctions was also dangled. I have posted the details and additional background story behind the joint U.S.-Pakistan border offensive here

posted by: sytrek on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

I just heard a telephone interview with a Pak journalist that has interviewed UBL in the past. He has been in this area in the last 24 hours and his sources say al-Zawahiri has already fled the area.

posted by: marc on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

Getting Ayman al-Zawahiri, while still very important, will not eradicate all terrorism. This fight to the death will unfortunately continue for a number of generations into the future. al-Zawahiri’s existential commitment to Islamic extremism defies common sense. He hates western civilization---while still benefiting from its educational and cultural institutions. Reactionary Islamism long ago abandoned the study of medicine. al-Zawahiri is a fully credentialed medical doctor. Does it get any crazier than that?

posted by: David Thomson on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

“This fight to the death will unfortunately continue for a number of generations into the future.”

My previous comment needs to be clarified. I should have said:

“This fight to the death against the Muslim extremists will unfortunately continue for a number of generations into the future.”

Terrorism will almost certainly be with us until the end of time. There are two main reasons for this reluctant conclusion:

1.) A number of people will inevitably be attracted to true believing nihilistic behavior. These individuals could really care less about the alleged cause. As far as they are concerned, any old excuse will do. Have you read Eric Hoffer’s, “The True Believer?” If not, what are you waiting for? Hoffer brilliantly explains the mindset of these monsters.

2.) It’s too damn easy to kill people in crowded situations. One does not need a lot of money and a high degree of expertise to perform these evil acts.

posted by: David Thomson on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

David Thomson,

You speak the awful truth that our leaders will not...namely that the fight against terrorism has no end.

Given that I am wondering if you think fighting terrorism like a conventional war forever is the right answer, or should we look for alternative ways to fight this war?

I was struck last week by the line of David Brooks in the NYT where he said something to the effect that "Any change in policy, regardless of what that policy is, in response to terrorism is appeasing terrorists." Brooks, of course, had Spain in mind, but I am wondering if his comment is really true if we look at the response of the US to 9/11? I think he is wrong, but I am increasingly curious what does victory look like when fighting terrorism and what does defeat look like? How do we know that we are winning when this is a war with no end?

posted by: Rich on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

Defeat would be permitting the Al Q types to make Afghanistans of all/most of the nations in the region.

Victory will probably be visible when Iran and Saudi Arabia stop trying to export their religion, and most Al Q leaders are killed and captured.

That's my two cents.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

Dave and Rich,

Yes, terrorism is here to stay, and yes, it has always been there, in every society, perhaps a lasting testament to man's capacity for evil (or, to flip it around, our unquenchable thirst for justice and freedom).

But a little perspective is in order here. Terrorism is most often, in most places, little more than background noise; it lives in the borderland between criminality and political activism. Most of the time, therefore, it can be contained by law enforcement and (take your pick) political apathy or a content citizenry.

What we've got with AQ is a throwback to something as old as terrorism and infinitely more dangerous: Holy War. This Holy War has two components: it is a "cold war" between states in conflict (i.e. between the US and Iran, or even Saudi Arabis), with elements of a "hot war" (Afghanistand and Iraq) just to confuse things. It is also, however, a war of terrorism WITHIN the west (also within the non-west, but we have less control over that).

Thus terrorism will continue to be with us, and it will need to be met with strong police action--yeah, that's right, what goes on here is not the "war" part, it's the terror part. The WAR part is what takes place beyond our borders. It is the dismantling of the structures that funnel terrorists and their ideologies from THERE to HERE. Without this forward strategy, we are f*cked.

This is the question for our time: who among us is willing to sign on to both parts of the war on terror? The Spaniards have spoken, and they think police action alone is sufficient. I find this ironic, given that Spanish police captured and RELEASED at least one of the guys who blew up 200 citizens last week. Yet I haven't heard any calls from Spanish activists for a "Patriot Act" of their own. This is where I get very suspicious, even hostile toward Europeans. Why? Because they now believe that AQ won't target them, provided they promise to sit on their hands like good boys and girls. How much more of this "catch and release" game are we going to see from them, now that AQ "spokesmen" have promised to leave them be, in reward for having elected their guy?

In sum, Bush has 6 months to impress upon US voters that Kerry's strategy against AQ--i.e. to abandon a forward strategy against terror in favor of more police action with uncertain allies like Spain--is a danger to us and our children. Kerry, conversely, has 6 months to convince us that Europeans can be trusted with some degree of veto power over our arsenal. Perhaps he won't have to, if nothing much happens between now and then, the top AQ guys are captured, and we slide back off into bickering about free drugs for the elderly, gay marriage and offshoring jobs.

In other words, to a great extent our election too is set to be swung by the actions or inaction of terrorists, rather than "we the people." This is the most disturbing thought of all.

posted by: Kelli on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

I think it's pretty easy to envision what defeat could look like. Appalled Moderate said, Afghanistans of all the nations in the region, would be pretty far along the road to defeat. But to take it even further, if that were to occur, or possibly even if it doesn't, terrorism would just gain steam and power and weapons and would become impossible for us to control - and we'd see more and more and worse and worse attacks on western cities, eventually with WMDs as soon as they could get them. I don't even want to think about what such devastation would do to our democracy and way of life.

Victory is a little harder to envision, if only because if the vision of defeat is almost apocalyptic, its opposite, the vision of complete victory becomes a little utopian. Even if we succeed in democracy promotion throughout the middle east, life there will never be perfect - it's certainly not perfect in the US or any other nation in the world. But if we succeed in making the middle east a better place, (so the theory goes, at least) eventually the fuel that feeds bin Laden's fire will dry up. Victory will be hard to judge because we might go a few years without an attack, but we'll be wondering if the enemy is just regrouping or if they're through. It's a tough war because it doesn't have such an obviously identifiable or symbolic endpoint - the capture of bin Laden won't do it, certainly.

But even though victory may be elusive, it doesn't make the battle futile, because as long as we continue to fight, we can hopefully avoid defeat - a scenario I don't think any of us could live with.

posted by: Nicole on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

“You speak the awful truth that our leaders will not...namely that the fight against terrorism has no end.”

We have full time police departments and military organizations for the same reason: the at least metaphorical reality of Original Sin is alive and well on planet Earth. Human beings are sinners. The individual inclined to embrace terrorism rarely cares about the particular cause. It could be Marxism, Islamism, Nazism---or Budweiser is less filling vs tastes great.

“Given that I am wondering if you think fighting terrorism like a conventional war forever is the right answer, or should we look for alternative ways to fight this war?”

I don’t quite understand the question. However, the Bush administration is doing just about everything that is possible. I’m convinced that John Kerry would put us in harm’s way. He is too willing to suck up to the Old Europeans. The man naively believes that these people have valid concerns which must be addressed. I, of course, believe that they are pampered softies unwilling to tackle their responsibilities. We must never forget that the United States has mostly protected them for the last sixty years.

“This is where I get very suspicious, even hostile toward Europeans.”

I’m glad to see that you’re waking up to reality. The Old Europeans have been morally weakened by socialism. You don’t, by the way, have to take my word for that. The polls provide abundant evidence that Americans are more willing to take economic risks.

posted by: David Thomson on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]


Like what? Their desire to kill us is not because they are poor (many come from the best educated and wealthiest families). They want to kill us because we are not Muslim. Period. They want to strike down all the infidels. They give us a simple choice -- convert to Islam or die.

Their goals are not negotiable. They want to kill us. All of us. And you don't want to fight back.

What else would you have us do? Hating Bush is not a reason to oppose fighting back. It may be sufficient for Democrats, but not for rational people.

What other option is available? They have given us a simple choice if we don't convert -- fight or die. Do you advocate that we all convert?

posted by: stan on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

I am somewhat troubled by what I’m reading on this board. People are sounding like we have reached a great turning point in history because AQ attacked again and Spain had an election that didn’t go the President’s way. President Bush decided we needed a “forward strategy”. The Europeans disagreed. Loudly. Now we are going to have an election in this country about the wisdom of that strategy as well as about many other issues. So what? Perhaps some people’s vote will change if there is another terrorist attack, but mine will not. I will remain as committed as ever to “winning” the war on terror.

WE ARE NOT DEFEATED in any sense that matters. The conflict between the west and Islam is fourteen hundred years old. There were only close to defeating us twice in this conflict. The French turned them back in the eighth century at the Battle of Tours and, in large measure, the Poles did so at Vienna in the sixteenth century. Islam has been in retreat for a thousand years. The main difference in today’s conflict is that our weapons and communications technology has advanced far beyond our maturity as civilized people. We are as passionate/crazy/committed/uncivilized as ever, but now we have cell phone detonators and nuclear weapons.

This is a blip – not the end of western civilization as we know it. Relax.


My stepson and his wife are missionaries. They are busily exporting our religion. Should they stop?

posted by: TexasToast on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]


Nope. At least, as long as they are not preaching the stoning of adulterous women, and the enforcement of their religion by the state.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

Hey everyone,
I just saw this link on Brad DeLong's site that relates more news on the Al Qaeda hunt in Pakistan. It is from "The Australian", and I have not seen it corroborated in another newspaper.

Bottom line: the story claims they slipped away...

Click for Story

posted by: ch2 on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

I think we can do just fine in the world by ignoring people's desire to convert us or hate us. We cannot ignore their desire (and capability) to kill us. These are two very different things. There are Americans who want to convert Arabs as well, and my feeling is that the correct response is to let them talk, and they should not be fought with guns.

I am just disturbed by the idea that the only response to someone who is out to get you is to fight them on their terms. Al Qaeda attacked us because they wanted a response. They want the battle, they want a chance to be recongnized. We were given no choice in the case of 9/11, but that does not mean that every terrorist act and every weakend terror group deserves the same response.

There are times when I wonder if what we are doing around the world is really just playing into the hands of Al Qaeda. It seems to me that the perfect world response to terrorism is to ignore them right up until the point that they are about to attack and just stop the attack. However this is not a perfect world, and we were shown that we needed to reduce their capability to attack and pre-empt their planning capability. But where does that stop? When is that battle won?

By drawing us into the battle they have acheived a kind of victory, they have shown that they can affect our actions. Hopefully we can acheive victory by finding the right level of crippling their base and improving our ability to just anticipate what they are going to do next.

posted by: Rich on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]


I agree with you: the end of the world is probably NOT at hand. We could all kick the rhetoric down a notch or two, but the silly season of American politics is upon us and we news junkies tend to get caught up in it all.

I'd like to address the little aside you threw in at the end, there, about the missionaries in the family. To answer your question, I'd vote no. If they want to put themselves on the line for the sake of their belief system, who are any of us to deny them the right?

However, this raises an interesting point. The media and critics of the Bush admin's approach to the WOT tend to equate AQ's "hatred of us" with policies of the US Government. Change the policy, we can all go back to normal. In fact, the real sticking points in the clash of civilizations revolve around cultural changes which are NOT official policies of the USG (or have not been until very recently), but are in fact beloved on the NGOs and lefty groups who so despise Bush. Case in point: women's status in the Third World. But we could also look at individual freedoms of all kinds, including the freedom of people to listen to missionaries like your wife and stepson without fear of retribution.

Bush's critics want the USG to push ever harder to demand greater rights and freedoms abroad (a good idea it is, too). But they think (erroneously) this can be accomplished by just talking to the parties involved and liberally dishing out cash. The naivete of this position is obvious to us, but not to the general public here or in Europe. This is unfortunate. This is what keeps me up at night.

And you know, TT, you should NEVER tell a woman to relax. It just makes her more agitated than ever!
Critics of the WOT don't want to talk about how

posted by: Kelli on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

"And you know, TT, you should NEVER tell a woman to relax. It just makes her more agitated than ever!"

You are absolutely correct! I just have to keep learning this lesson over and over. :)

posted by: TexasToast on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

I suspected all along that this was just smoke and mirrors for Collin Powell's visit. Don't they realize they are eventually going to have to explain why they didn't get him?

posted by: Ron in Portland on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]


The only answer to asymetric warfare is asymetric consequences.

If you hack at us, we will destroy you. If you take out a building, we will cause you to lose your country. You tell us that death does not frighten you, that you embrace it. Fine. But we will ensure not only your death, but the death of your allies and the death of your cause. Because of what you have done to us, we will make your country a place where the women use make up and can vote the straight feminist/green ticket. You celebrate death. We'll make sure your descendants celebrate yours.

That's the only way we end this bout of terrorism.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

I don't think we can truly say we've won this war until a new international order takes shape. Curretnly, without either a real American empire or an effective international law regime--or even an effective alliance of the democracies-- there's no way to truly suffocate AQ. Their goals are apocalyptic, without any concrete agenda that can be satisfied or negotiated. They can only be crushed, and that depends on a level of worldwide effectiveness--by states, by an empire, or by states in concert (an alliance)--that will not we see the shape of this new world that "struggles to be born."

Maybe the right historical parallel is the Thirty Years' War, in which you had constant shifting of sides and no agreement among the parties as to legitimate ends and tactics. Out of this came the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 (?) and the core organizing principle of state sovereignty that provided a solid framework for an interstate system that lasted for 300 years.

What new organizing principle can guide us in an age of non-state actors waging apocalyptic war with WMD upon civilians?

Somehow I doubt that we'll get an intelligent answer from the world's current crop of semi-clueless (Bush admin) and totally clueless (Kerry and the anti-Bush Dems, Prodi and other Euroleft idiots, Chirac-Putin style kleptocratic cynics) non-leaders.

Blair might have an interesting answer--after thw British quislings throw him out.

Perhaps Philip Bobbitt is on the right track with his theory of the "market state" that invites and incentives cooperation rather than compelling obedience.

posted by: tombo on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

Getting back to the subject, I suggest you pay attention to Dan Darling at Regnum Crucis:

"UPDATE 8: The fighting has stopped for now as tribal elders try to convince the al-Qaeda to surrender. If Ayman al-Zawahiri didn't escape during the first cease-fire, he now has a second chance. Former ISI chief Hamid is reportedly plotting with Sami ul-Haq of the Jamaat-e-Ulema-e-Islam party to overthrow the Musharraf government and replace him with Abdul Qadeer Khan in Khattak. Pakistani paramilitaries have also come under attack in Karachi in broad daylight, possibly in retaliation for the Waziristan operation."

Here's the URL:

posted by: Tom Holsinger on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

A new international order? I kinds miss the New World Order GHW Bush and Jim Baker created. TO bad Clinton didn't know what to do with it. I really wish GW Bush hasn't thrown the last remaining bit of it out the window.

Well, cheer up! It looks like GW Bush is going to do his damndest to turn over Iraq to the UN, so maybe the new international order will consist of the US performinging miltiary actions and the UN doing the cleanup.

Feeling safer already,

btw, you didn't realy suggest we go through something like the 30 years War in order to create the illusino of stability, did you? The Peace of Westphalia worked because the great powers agreed to play the great game off the continent - in the Americas, African, Asia, and the Levant. The world isn't that big anymore, and the non-Europeans have the abiltity to strike back in case you haven't noticed. Wow, maybe that's the the true purpose of our new mission to Mars...

posted by: Carolina on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]


To answer your question more seriously,
What new organizing principle can guide us in an age of non-state actors waging apocalyptic war with WMD upon civilians?

IR theorists, for the most part, treat Nuclear Wepaons as a political, not military weapon. During the Cold war, the west and the warsaw built arsenals of atomic, hydrogen, and nuclear weapons to unreal levels. In fact, even after the Warsaw pack fell behind on contruction, both sides still have enough weapons to turn the earth in to a "reaking, radiating ruin" (props to the UCers who can correctly attribute that phrase). moreover, falling behind didn't really matter (except to the LeMay like loonies who saw nucs are just really, really big convention weaponry). Both sides developed the capacity to survive a first strike by the other side. With the development of second strike capability, the world settled into an uneasy detente - neither side willing to make too many scary moves to fear of starting us down the slippery slope to enhilation.

After the USSR fell, and WMDs were traded like hotcakes in the back of Kazak vans, a new concern arose. The number of smaller powers with nuclear capability was mostly limited to places like Israel and South Africa (and the ever popular Cyrsanthemum project). Those were entirely developed out of self defense, and not really a threat to great power interests. When India and Pakistan started chasing the bomb, countries grew more concerned. I must have gamed out an India-Pakistan crisis at least twice a year in high shool in college. My senior year, the folks at Yale tried sprining it at a Model UN conference. The entire room (we were playing security council delegate) was so bored with it, that we all agreed to stay out of it and frankly ignored it. I can't remember if war occured or not. The point of it is, is that great powers can't do much about little countries with no second strike capability using the bomb. It's effectively suicide for them and their people. Sometimes the best thing is to stay out of it. When the leaders realize they're not going to get international support (or rigteous revenge after they're nothimg more then aashes), they might back down. I suspect the US and China have used this to constrain India and Pakistan by threatening retribution on whomever performs the first strike.

That's why we tend to think of them a political or defensive weapon, not offensive.

Non-state actors might be different, by interests still apply. Crazy apocalyptic lunatives with true nuclear strike capability (Devilvery vechicle, multiple war heads) would almost be better off foementing conflict between two powers (kinda like Dr. Strangelove any movie where country A accidentaly blows up a city in Country B) then trying to start their own little Dr. Evil enterprise. That should cause the true end of world senario they desire.

Islamic terrorists (as far as I can tell) aren't apocalyptic. They want to destory the forces that oppose them (Hobbes says that's rational), but they really don't want to destory their own forces. After all, hard to have that new UMMA is the world is blown to tiny, microscopic little bits. We should all pause in gratitude that the Wahabists don't follow Elijah Mohammaded. If the believed the spaceship would come intime to save them... In anycase, Islamists want to reconquer traditionally Islamic lands (for a start) and return to the days of the Prophet This might mean they won't mind lobbing bombs at the US, but it does means they're not going to try to brign about the end of the world.

Nucs, then, are a political weapon for Islamists. If you want to see a good example of WMDs are terror weapons, I suggest you look at Japanse history, 1944-1953 to see what a world order where one group with a terrifying weapon effectively held the rest of the world hostage, until they too, developed nucs. Forunately we have more then then, so I think it's advanatge US once again.

As for a new new organizing princples. Well, last time the implacable enemies of the WMD producers, carefully built alliances, and the non-WMD countries chose sides to ally with. I think that would work this time too. Now then, which gentleman running of the office of President is likely to build strong alliances?


posted by: Carolina@ on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

Sorry about the grammar and spelling on the last post. I've had about 3 hours of sleep and clearly can not be trusted to type intelligibly without a word processor. I hope my glaring mistakes (I hope my old English teachers aren't reading this blog) didn't obscure my points.


posted by: Carolina on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]


Keeping in the realm of an open-thread on those against the war on terror - I have to ask:

Is this the weekend that Kerry implodes? Things are not looking very good for our pretentious lord of the slopes...

posted by: Tommy G on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

Most of the strategic thinking posted around here could benefit if a shift was made to rethink the WoT through the lens of viewing it as a decentralized global guerilla war with the proponents attempting to inspire a religious theocratic movement with only secondary revolutionary overtones.

posted by: Oldman on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

Point well made, OM - It is a Decen GGW, the theocracy bit is just an attempt to demonstrate/engage some sort of Pop Movement IOT inspire the numbers they'll need to reach critical mass.

(Un)fortunately, they're dying at such a prodigious rate...

Some might say an "Irresponsible" rate, eh, David?

posted by: Tommy G on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

Looks like further reports support my guess that there was no specific reason for al-Zawahiri to be involved, and that it was mostly gossip. On the other hand, if they've cornered several hundred people up there and they're killing tribal natives - reports of 'foreign fighters' have often been exaggerated in the past - they may be provoking a backlash from the tribes who follow a code that generously might be called 'an eye for an eye,".

posted by: Oldman on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

“Is this the weekend that Kerry implodes? Things are not looking very good for our pretentious lord of the slopes...”

John Kerry’s campaign is rapidly disintegrating. So much so, he will probably not be the Democrat nominee. The man is his own worst enemy. President Bush is already ahead of him in the most recent polls. Kerry will be lucky to still be within 6-8 points in another week. The Massachusetts senator is a liberal snob. It was simply a question of sooner or later.

posted by: David Thomson on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

Gods, Dave - I hadn't thought of that. What do you suppose will happen at the convention? OM - do you think your boy will make a play?

posted by: Tommy G on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]


"When you wish upon a star

Makes no difference who you are

Anything your heart desires will come to you.

If your heart is in your dream

No request is to extreme

When you wish upon a star as dreamers do.

Fate is kind

She brings to those who love

Her sweet fulfillment of their secret longing.

Like a bolt out of the blue

Fate steps in and sees you through.

When you wish upon a star

your dreams come true"

posted by: TexasToast on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

I dunno.
The numbers David presents are accurate. Of greater import however, is the trends. They do not look good for sKerry.

posted by: Bithead on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

C'mon people, the lowering of expectations for Bush is hilarious. I believe that only two of the past 12 presidents seeking re-election were behind their challenger at this point in the election cycle. At this point in the cycle Bush should have at least a double digit lead in the polls. Let's not be naive, he is the President with the full weight of the office. Kerry should be trailing, and that isn't anything dramatic, I don't believe that anyone should have believed that Kerry would lead Bush until Nov. This will be 8 months of hell, Kerry will lead sometimes in the polls, Bush will lead sometimes in the polls. But don't be mistaken, this is a 50-50 electorate and unless something really dramatic happens in favor of either candidate, you won't know who the winner will be until Nov 3.

posted by: Dastardly on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

Um , Dastardly, where are you getting your info on it being a 50/50 electorate? Better check your Calendar.

And what lowering of expectations are you talking about? Better check your news source.

And, actually, I do believe that a lot of those polled are mallable by the daily reporting (perception is reality)- so I'm not surprised to see the president's numbers drop because of the absurd idea that "He's losing jobs".

Dave - what the devil are you talking about regarding sCary not making it to the convention?

posted by: Tommy G on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

Dear TommyG,

My assessment is that Dean hasn't given up the ghost. The other delegates in Iowa that Dean won informed me that Dean hadn't formally withdrawn yet, and was planning to have all his delegates go all the way to the state level caucus process. In addition, Needlenose blog has been giving some great live coverage of Dean for America events as Dean reorganizes his group. Interesting point: he's still getting donations.

Will Dean make a play for it? My sense is that it's late in the game, but if it happened soon and Kerry's superdelegates were willing to switch the vote it's a technical possibility. But Kerry will have to stumble worse than he has.

The Democratic voters still aren't outraged enough by his nonperformance to toss him out on his ear. By the time that happens, it may be too late. If however, Dean made a comeback certainly my offer to lend my services to him still holds ;-).

I think Democrats are getting a taste of why I choose Dean over Kerry. Whatever his other merits, I don't think Kerry "get's it" about how serious this matchup yet. Certainly I've been disappointed in his lack of vigorous offensive on his part in campaigning, and running a rather traditional (if so far successful mind you) campaign.

If he was willing to enlist more speakers on his behalf to carry water for him, there wouldn't be such a media vaccuum right now. But he's got a more traditional campaign format. So if he doesn't authorize it, nothing get's done. Hence the shutdown in his campaign operations while he retools.

I also think that many liberals are too sanguine over Kerry's chances of success. Even when he was leading Bush in the polls, I maintained that the advantage clearly lay with Bush. With Rove's fast reaction "pin point" ad machine running, Kerry is getting killed even though in general some of the Bush ads kind of suck.

It's that old saying in politics - you can't beat something with nothing. And right now Kerry is yielding the field to Bushmeister, and it's hurting him - bad.

posted by: Oldman on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]


posted by: Bithead on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

Actually Oldman, I think there is more to it than just the handsitting, thought that is a problem. Rove is spending $100 million to portray Kerry as a blowhard snob, and Kerry is bouncing off secret service men at a fancy resort. When Kerry makes a fool of himself, at least it’s on his own nickel – Bush required the use of a billion dollar aircraft carrier.

The other important thing that is happening is that the AQ attack in Spain has made the “war on terror” the front burner issue again. WOT is Bush’s best issue. Bringing it up so spectacularly favors Bush for lots of reasons.

First, we feel betrayed. For examples, read the posts upthread and in the last AQ thread. Most advance the argument that the Spanish electoral result was a major defeat for the US and that the Spaniards were appeasers. It appears now that there may have been other reasons for Aznar’s defeat, and it wasn’t the anti-American slap perceived by many on this board and elsewhere. It was a blip. Still, when we feel somebody chickened out on us, we tend to rally round the flag – and Bush is holding that flag.

Second, it appeals to our individualism. We don’t want to have to “ask” the UN to do anything. We won this damn war, didn’t we? In a strange way, we are the “rogue” state, because we, unlike most anyone else, wont give up one little bit of our sovereignty. We must lead, and everybody else has to follow or get out of the way. This is horrible policy, but it looks like pretty good politics.

Third, it appeals to our desire to feel strong. Spain’s “treachery” makes most folks feel that we are in this virtually on our own. We won’t admit that this is mostly our own fault because we wanted to tell everybody else not only how to play, but we wanted to a carry the ball every down. When they wouldn’t play our way, we took our ball and went home. Since we feel alone, we need to keep telling ourselves that we are the baddest dude in the hood. Bush is saying this every chance he gets. Even though Kerry charged a gun emplacement in Vietnam while Bush went to the dentist in Alabama, Bush is talking about strength and Kerry is talking about talk.

Finally, it changes the subject. The more we talk about the war on terror, the less said about jobs, or the deficit, or the threat to fire actuaries for telling Congress the truth, or other domestic issues that favor the Ds this time. In fact, the only domestic issues that Bush has brought up for longer than one news cycle are taxes and gay marriage. Everything else he says is the war or attack ads.

So, it’s really not that surprising that Bush has closed the gap. If I were a betting man, I’d bet that we have another “war shock” in October if this election stays close. Kerry had better be ready.

PS November is a long way away.

posted by: TexasToast on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

On this one-year anniversary of Bush's war, it sickens me to see the Bushmaster gloating over the people he has killed. Strutting and crowing over his perception of success and how the war he and Cheney steamrolled will very likely achieve the re-election it was originally conceived to.

I expect his re-election will escalate his arrogance and empowerment to new levels, confirming the negatively our great country is engendering throughout the world. He's playing to Al Qaeda's sympathizers.

On one hand, I think he deserves the message America could send him by rejecting him on election day. But the mess he's made will be very difficult to clean up, and he and his cronies will be on the sidelines reveling in telling everyone how it could have been if they were left in office.

On the other hand, I think he deserves four more years in spite of the damage it will do to America. In doing so, we will be educating a new generation world-wide in the impact of unbridled hubris and simplistic solutions founded on good principles but without understanding the need for addressing complex realities.

I want a Constitutional amendment to preclude from office for at least three generations any relative of an elected President or Vice President. We could have prevented this in the first place.

posted by: gram on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

Gram - please. We're trying to have a serious discussion here. WHy don't you try the takebackthemedia site?

Hell, I'd have offered hiom your site just for the traffic - but I don't think you want that kind of traffic.

Anyways - I agree with your assessment, and although you know I I'm voting for the President, I always thought that Dean was the D's best chance for a win - but their establishment didn't want him and left him hanging, and convineced their electorate to abandon him over the whole "fake" scream incident.

BTW - You're exactly right about Karl's machine. Now mind you, I like it, but even I was astonished at the speed in which they turn things out. What was it - 3 whole days from the original ad that got K's reaction ("I actually did before I didn't")until it being re-aired with that priceless reaction replacing the adss original ending?

I imagine his people are fairly reeling, not to mention wondering why the %^&$ he's out vacationing on a Ski slope, *snow-boarding* for the love of god! You don't think Carl is editing *that* film right this very morning, Mr McCauwfle?

posted by: Tommy G on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

“Dave - what the devil are you talking about regarding sCary not making it to the convention?”

John Kerry’s campaign is starting to leak water. The dam will soon burst. We must never forget that the heart and soul of today’s Democrat Party belongs to Howard Dean. He pushed John Kerry into insanely voting no for the $87 million to our troops in Iraq. This action may have helped the Massachusetts senator to defeat Dean---but Karl Rove in now experiencing near orgasmic delights. The same holds true regarding Kerry’s idiotic charges against the so called Benedict Arnold executives.

President Bush only went down in the polls because of the viciously unfair liberal media. However, these slime balls have given it their best shot and the worst is behind our nation’s leader. He is already ahead of Kerry in a few polls and I will be very surprised if Bush doesn’t have a clear six-eight point lead before the end of this month. The voters always told the pollsters that the President was their first choice if the war of terror was the top priority. Well, guess what? I think this issue is back on the front burner.

Many Democrats were never that excited about John Kerry. They simply thought that he had the best chance to beat Bush. But what happens if this increasingly becomes less likely? It is obvious that they will subtly, or not too subtly, try to get Kerry to drop out before the convention.

posted by: David Thomson on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

Agreed. But aren't they - the establishment Dems (EDs)- the one's who pushed out D in favor of K in the first place?

Who whould the EDs push to replace him with, then? Unknown governor or DG?

BTW- your theory has the virtue of rationalizing the media concern about their ability/appetite for keeping up the intensitiy of an extra-long election cycle.

Interesting...what do you think, OM?

and Bits - Hills for Kerry? (Love it)

"I know of three words that they understand..."

posted by: Tom Foster on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]


Sorry to deconstruct your neat schoolyard metaphor (" We won’t admit that this is mostly our own fault because we wanted to tell everybody else not only how to play, but we wanted to a carry the ball every down. When they wouldn’t play our way, we took our ball and went home"), but we haven't gone home. We're still on the field. BTW, so are French commandos, fighting alongside us in Afghanistan.

So, fine, we should admit our mistakes, eat some humble pie, go to Canossa if necessary. If Bush needs to address the EU Parliament, or l'Assemblee Nationale, then do it ASAP.

But none of that makes this "mostly our fault." Chirac insulted Clinton for years. de Villepin would have tried to railroad and humiliate any US sec'y of State.

The French bear as much blame for the transatlantic mess as anyone. And that moron in Madrid, young Zapatero, is hallucinating when he calls Iraq a "fiasco" just as the country agreed a new constitution, prepares to return to Iraqi rule, and as polls show overwhelming (70% vs 29%) popular confidence in the country's progress and direction since the invasion.

If the French political elite decide to continue to kick us, then we truly will be on our own in the fight beyond Europe. If the Madrid idiot and his compadre Prodi continue to parrot AQ's line, then AQ may well succeed in knocking the southern Europeans out of the fight--again, this fight is global. It's not about Bush or Iraq.

I doubt that the French will be so vain and stupid as to continue with this Atlantic pissing match, but one should never underestimate the importance of Gallic envy and anti-Americanism. Think of the Spanish Loyalists in 1936, who hated each other as much as they hated the fascists. We all know who won that war.

Is this the end of the West? Or just western Europe?

posted by: tombo on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

above sh read, "Spanish Republicans." Anarchists and Communists fought each other in Spain, to the fascists' great benefit.

Probably time for us to simply accept that such a large number of this generation of European elites and voters are so hostile to US hegemony that they would sooner be neutral than actively help us against AQ. Perhaps the next generation of Euros will think differently, but we should start preparing to

-- fight this war on our own
-- shift our attention and resources away from a declining continent toward the rising, vigorous Asian powers that truly can help or harm us

We may not be witnessing the first act in the decline of the West. But it is almost surely the decline of Europe. Let's just admit this and move forward.

posted by: tombo on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]


To continue the sports metaphor.

We may still be on the field, but we may be preparing for the wrong team. Think about it this way. Assistant Coach Clarke apparently told Head Coach Bush that the bad guys just scored three touchdowns against us using a passing game and we might want to wok on our pass defense (counterterrorism efforts). Coaches Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld, despite this, apparently think that the only way to win is to stop the running game (conventional war against Iraq). Instead of emphasizing pass defense, they decided to make the playoffs by scheduling a game against a running team (Iraq), despite the fact that we just had three touchdowns scored against us via hale mary passes. Head Coach Bush bought it and responded to the passing barrage by putting even more emphasis on the running game in Iraq while telling everybody that Iraq just got a new rifle-armed quarterback (WMDs).

There is no doubt we can beat the running game. The problem is, AQ represents a different kind of threat. They just scored again in Spain. The Europeans are adjusting their defense.

Maybe the Wolfowitz/Rumsfeld strategy will work. Perhaps a strong defense against the running game combined with a new emphasis on rushing the passer will get us a super bowl ring. Perhaps we might listen to our allies who might have a few ideas about the defensive secondary?

Apparently the Israelis have decided to mug quarterbacks.

PS I’m not willing to concede that Europe no longer matters. One may disagree with their strategy, but it’s not surrender.

posted by: TexasToast on 03.18.04 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

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