Monday, June 21, 2004

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Strong stuff

Spencer Ackerman, filling in for Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, scores an interview with the anonymous author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terrorism. The author -- let's call him Mr. A -- believes both Afghanistan and Iraq to be complete disasters in both policymaking and the application of military force.

While this no doubt warms the cockles of those who oppose the Bush administration, Mr. A's policy prescriptions are likely to scare the ever-living crap out of those same critics. A sample:

To secure as much of our way of life as possible, we will have to use military force in the way Americans used it on the fields of Virginia and Georgia, in France and on Pacific islands, and from skies over Tokyo and Dresden. Progress will be measured by the pace of killing …

Killing in large numbers is not enough to defeat our Muslim foes. With killing must come a Sherman-like razing of infrastructure. Roads and irrigation systems; bridges, power plants, and crops in the field; fertilizer plants and grain mills--all these and more will need to be destroyed to deny the enemy its support base. … [S]uch actions will yield large civilian casualties, displaced populations, and refugee flows. Again, this sort of bloody-mindedness is neither admirable nor desirable, but it will remain America's only option so long as she stands by her failed policies toward the Muslim world.

Needless to say, this provoked Matthew Yglesias to write an epithet I was thinking after reading that passage. Kevin Drum is similarly rattled -- and Drum follows up with an e-mail missive from Ackerman confirming that what I just quoted was not taken out of context. The following is from Mr. A's interview with Ackerman:

My argument, I think, taken from the whole book, is that we've left ourselves with no option but the military option, and our application of military force against our foe, whether it's Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere else, has not been particularly intimidating. They've ridden out two wars. They're on the offensive at the moment. What are we left with? If we don't use our military power, we really just sit and take it.

This kind of rhetoric makes even the most "out there" neoconservative -- except perhaps for Jim Woolsey -- look like a peacenik by comparison. Even the most imperial-sounding neocons don't talk about "a Sherman-like razing of infrastructure."

I think this kind of thinking is nuts -- forget whether it would actually work in the Middle East and consider the collateral damage such actions would create in every other region of the globe. If you want an actual alliance -- not mere rhetoric, but actual alliances, coordination of territorial defense, and actual balancing -- of every other significant power in the globe arrayed against the United States, well, Mr. A's strategy is the way to go. Don't worry about soft power if this strategy is implemented -- worry about whether the U.S. government would have sufficient hard power resources to simultaneously ward off threats from China, Russia, India, Japan, North and South Korea, France, and Great Britain while simultaneously imposing martial law in this country following the insurrection that such a strategy would undoubtedly inspire.

That said, I'm betting that this logic will resonate with a healthy fraction of Americans.

posted by Dan on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM


Look at it this way, Dan;
If we'd gone in like Sherman, and done as he says, how would it be now with him and his fellow leftists? Does anyone think for one second he'd NOT have been pointing an accusing finger at the "bloodthirsty idiot Bush" and caling for international warcrimes tribunals, and the election of John Kerry?

posted by: Bithead on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

You're just a 20,000 casualty terrorist attack on, say Chicago, from seeing a large number of Americans favoring what, in parts of the internet you apparently do not frequent, is called the glass parking lot option.

Unfortunately, I agree with both you and Ackerman. It's nutty thinking, but it is what will be required to bring this to a conclusion. The other option is to live with it, an alternative with which American patience would wear thin.

posted by: Richard A. Heddleson on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

If we'd gone in like Sherman, and done as he says, how would it be now with him and his fellow leftists? Does anyone think for one second he'd NOT have been pointing an accusing finger at the "bloodthirsty idiot Bush" and caling for international warcrimes tribunals, and the election of John Kerry?

Why in the world would you think this guy is a leftist? Because he thinks the Bush Administration has screwed up American involvment in this region beyond all saving?

I've got news for you. There are a lot of people on the right, serious foreign policy professionals and military personnel, who think that Bush and the neo-cons have managed to turn into a grave the hole in which we start any involvement in the middle east.

Frankly, this guy sounds like a real right-wing hawk to me, though I've only read the excerpts, not the book. He's just not a neo-con hawk.

posted by: paperwight on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

I've got news for you. There are a lot of people on the right, serious foreign policy professionals and military personnel, who think that Bush and the neo-cons have managed to turn into a grave the hole in which we start any involvement in the middle east.

Doubtful. I've yet to see any serius thinkers come up with statements like that.

posted by: Bithead on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

This guy is not frightening, moonbats are normally fairly passive. What's you say, he can't possibly be a moonbat? Well read a couple passages from his prevous book, "Through Our Enemies’ Eyes"

" [B]in Laden’s philosophy and action have embodied many of the same sentiments that permeate the underpinnings of concepts on which the United States itself is established.'

"Osama bin Laden appears to be a geniunely pious Muslim; a devoted family man; a talented, focused, and patient insurgent commander; a frank and eloquent speaker; a successful businessman; and an individual of conviction, intellectual honestly, compassion, humility, and physical bravery (3)."

"[B]in Laden’s character, religious certainty, moral absolutism, military ferocity, integrity, and all-or-nothing goals are not much different from those of individuals whom we in the United States have long identified and honored as religious, political, or military heroes, men such as John Brown, John Bunyan, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Paine (5).'

Keep in mind this book was revised AFTER 9/11. He goes on to compare our Declaration of Independence to Osama's two Fatwa's in 1996 and 1998.

In short, move along, there is nothing to see here!

posted by: Marc on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

I think the anonymous author points out the simple case that every serious thinker has always known --if you choose to abandon efforts to win hearts and minds, then your only other recourse is to destroy your enemy utterly. This was the reason so many opposed the Administration's choices, as being counter-productive to the effort to convince the Middle East not to hate us --to win their hearts and minds.

The Anonymous author merely reminds everyone of where we are now: having first chosen to abandon the hearts and minds approach, and now having driven ourselves into a place where the option largely no longer exists, we are left with precisely the two options opponents of the war feared we would be left with: surrender or slaughter.

Opponents of the war have warned all along that the track record of incompetence and ideology-over-reality would lead us to this place. Now all that is left is to make the last, terrible choice. But it has been known for a long time there was only one place this road could go.

posted by: Thorou on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

Bithead,you are either a complete idiot or a liar. Given that Drezner on this site has repeatedly said Bush has mangled post-war Iraq, you really are living in lala-land. I'm not going to bother to link to the dozens of neo-con mea culpas. Its great that the outright mendacity of this administration has permeated to its true-beleiven' followers.

posted by: Jor on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

Is that guy for real? If anything it sounds like someone trying to false flag wacko right wing nutballs into discrediting the right overall.

posted by: Tollstoy on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

Is it not obvious that America is not,currently,at war with the larger Islamic world? Launching a total war on "Muslim foes" because of actions of al-Qaeda terrorists makes about as much sense for the US as for the British to have attacked Dublin or Boston,MA, in retaliation for IRA bombs in London.

If one's definition of "enemy" includes anyone with a grudge against the United States,then one really can't stop with the "Muslim world" (which is not one Warsaw Pact,BTW).
I mean,how about China and North Korea (Commies with nukes.Not long ago,that sort of thing used to worry people.What happened?).Fidel Castro could develop biological weapons.He could give them to terrorists to use against America.(What are you waiting for?Don't tell me you trust the old bastard).The French - they hate America - and have nukes.The Russians - same thing.

Just because someone wears a turban ,or spouts anti-American views doesn't mean they're about to murder American people,or lend support to others who will.Treating them as such won't help matters at all.

posted by: Jussi Hämäläinen on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

I should point out here that if you start attacking people wearing turbans, you're more likely to attack Sikhs than Muslums.

posted by: Jon Juzlak on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

Bithead,you are either a complete idiot or a liar. Given that Drezner on this site has repeatedly said Bush has mangled post-war Iraq, you really are living in lala-land. I'm not going to bother to link to the dozens of neo-con mea culpas. Its great that the outright mendacity of this administration has permeated to its true-beleiven' followers.

Oh, true, Dan has.
But then again, Drezner is decidedly not a conservative. but rather a moderate.

posted by: Bithead on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

There are some conservatives (mostly the "paleo" cons) who were against the war from the beginning; just look at a random issue of Pat Buchanan's American Conservative magazine.

posted by: tc on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]


The excerpts and quotes I've read of Anonymous's work would indicate that he feels the effort to win hearts and monds was over long before Bush's ascent to the Presidency.

To win hearts and minds, according to Anon, we would, amongst other things, have to completely abandon Israel. Presumably, we would have to execute all the Jews here in the USA as well. After all, we all know there is a vast Jewish Conspiracy, it says so right there in the Protocols.

Frankly, that is too high a price to make nice with people who will follow up by asking us to slit our own throats.

As I see it, there are and have been four main options:

Option 1: Continue doing what we had always done, playing footsie with Muslim regimes that were nasty, but 'friendly' to our interests, opposing those that weren't, and pretending to be interested in a Israeli-Palestinian 'peace' process that anyone with any sense can see is doomed to fail.

Option 2: Total War. This doesn't have to be genocidal, despite what many claim. There are still Germans and Japanese alive in this world, after all. But it does have to basically obliterate any functioning society that the other side has. A Shermanesque march starting in Casablanca and ending when our troops are high-fiving Hindus in Kashmir would do the trick. Lobbing a few nukes would not. Lobbing a lot of nukes would, but there are certain detriminal side effects that we would do best avoid.

Option Three: Total disengagement. Pull back, not just from the ME but from everywhere. F*ck the UN (a sound policy anyway), f*ck NATO, f*ck all them international agreements. Pull back. Out of Europe, and the hell with them next time the Germans or French decide to invade everybody else. Out of Korea and Japan and Taiwan, and screw 'em when the Chinese and Japanese start fighting over those tasty morsels of Siberia and the sea lanes around Singapore. To hell with the World Bank and the IMF and all the rest of it.

Option One was no longer acceptable after Spetember 11, 2001. Option Two isn't acceptable to most Americans, although anyone who hasn't noticed the mood shifting in that direction hasn't been paying attention. Option Three is damn near guaranteed to lead to an international collapse along the lines of what happened in the 1920s and 1930s. Like it or not (and I personally hate it), the USA _IS_ the world's policeman.

That gets us to Option Four, which is "Try something else." The Administration is trying democracy promotion in Muslim countries, and good luck to them for trying. Personally, I never thought it would work, but I am glad they are trying. I wish they were doing a better job of it, but at least they're trying.

So far, I have not heard of an Option Five, but I'm willing to entertain suggestions.

posted by: Parsley Boy on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

There were other conservatives who were all for the war as a means of dispatching a threat to the security of the United States. These conservatives now find themselves forced to acknowledge that the key element making that threat formidable -- Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programs -- was at a minimum present on a vastly smaller scale than that needed to have justified such a large commitment of American blood and treasure. Moreover, the only thing about that commitment that seems to have been planned for in a professional way was the invasion itself.

It is fair to point out that to many liberals and most Europeans a large arsenal of unconventional weapons in Saddam Hussein's control and a postwar occupation aimed at realistic objectives and supported by all the resources at our disposal would still not have justified war. Nothing but another 9/11, and maybe not that, would have done the job for them. But as a practical matter that point is moot. The question instead is what we do now.

Mr. Anonymous has a clear answer: we panic. Everything has failed, everything will fail, and total war against the whole of the Muslim world is our only recourse. His logic does not commend itself to me. A lot of things have changed since September 11, but many things haven't. Muslims are still much more likely to be killed by Muslim terrorists than non-Muslims. Many more Muslims would be killed by Muslim terrorists if the terrorists' principal local antagonists -- the governments of Muslim countries -- fell. And those governments, even the cowardly, obtuse Saudi goverment, all know it.

These are all formidable disadvantages for the terrorists, and advantages for us. Still another is that Western civilization offers many things that people in the predominantly Muslim countries want. The reverse is not true. And as far as terrorism in America is concerned, this country is still bounded by oceans on either side, something we can make use of if all else fails.

Real apocalypses in human history are somewhat rare, and the odds are pretty good that we are not looking at one of them now. This Anonymous fellow (and pardon the digression here, but why couldn't he have gotten himself a pseudonym with a little panache? It's not that hard) has let his falling out with Bush administration policy embitter him enough to make him think that striving toward an apocalyse is now our only hope. Well, I doubt it. There are some things we ought to try first before panicking.

posted by: Zathras on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

But Zathras, what do YOU think we should try before panicking?

posted by: Parsley Boy on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

I think that A's writings are the essence of madness - the same madness that animated the Cold War logic parodied by Dr Strangelove. There is a certain madness to rationality when it is divorced from common sense. We have eliminated the possibility of peaceful coexistence, so the only alternative is total war, and hence we should be prepared to use and take nuclear casualities.

If this sort of logic had been used doing the cold war, then the entire earth would have had to live through the real life version of The Day After Tomorrow. The man's trying to use a scary trial balloon to shake up people's thinking.

As it has except for the terminally clueless. It is a false dichotomy. We have not lost all hope of "hearts and minds", just all hope of the present incompetent morons conducting such a campaign successfully. We have not failed to use police state tactics to contain Alqueda, we have not really begun trying. If we tried, really made a serious start at either and failed I could see A's logic playing out.

However until then let's not talk ourselves into Armageddon based on one less than stellar Administration's bumbling. We can still do this, if people are willing to wake up and smell the coffee and put real grown ups in charge. Won't be pretty but through a mixture of outreach and tough tactics intelligently applied, the job can be done.

The only question, as it always has been, will the American people choose to empower the people who can get it done or will they continue to play petty partisan bickering? I'm not sure of the answer to the question. It still remains to be answered, a great unknown on which all our fates rest uneasily.

posted by: oldman on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

"But Zathras, what do YOU think we should try before panicking?"

Draconian immigration controls on young Muslim males by the civilized West might be a good place to start. No more visas, no more scholarships, no more work permits until the Muslim states can guarantee peaceful migrants.

Not fair I realize but certainly a lot cheaper in terms of lives and the lack of egress will force the Arab states to deal with their own psychotic malcontents instead of exporting them to Europe, Canada and the United States.

Saudi Arabia has suddenly become far less complacent about terrorism when the products of their Wahabbist-Hanbali brainwashing schools began venting their fury against the regime for lack of access to American targets. Syria too, which has yet to meet a terrorist group it doesn't provide safe haven to, once reacted to a potential Muslim Brotherhood uprising by slaughtering 70,000 of it's own citizens. The Arab leaders understand very well who and what they are enabling.

We need to recall that what these states are doing is the equivalent of the U.S. dumping neo-Nazis, skinheads,Christian Identity loons and the KKK on other countries...except that the aforementioned racists are not as demonstrably violent as the Islamists.

posted by: mark safranski on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

“Killing in large numbers is not enough to defeat our Muslim foes. With killing must come a Sherman-like razing of infrastructure. Roads and irrigation systems; bridges, power plants, and crops in the field; fertilizer plants and grain mills--all these and more will need to be destroyed to deny the enemy its support base. …”

Where did they find this screwball? Oh my God, the hatred of President George W. Bush has gotten so out of control that apparently any madman who criticizes his administration is taken with a large degree of seriousness. I am utterly shocked at these policy suggestions. They contradict everything that I personally advocate. The last thing we should do is destroy the economy of the Muslim world. We instead need to to turn these people away from self pitying victimhood, and toward a taste of the good life. This is why I’m so optimistic concerning the situation in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m mostly looking at the growing economies of these two fragile democracies.

Much of the trouble with the Palestinians, for instance, is due to the welfare society fostered by the United Nations and the Old Europeans. The same holds true for many lazy and pampered Saudi men. They are soft, bored, and seeking existential meaning. Men (and even a few women) who don’t hold solid jobs are highly susceptible to the siren call of Eric Hoffer’s True Believer. Only a few moths ago, on this very blog, Trent Telenko, of Winds of Chance was very irritated at me. The gentleman is convinced that the Palestinian culture is now committed to suicide and death. I contended that we merely must kill and jail the hard core nihilistic militants. The vast majority of Palestinians, in their heart of hearts, prefer the bourgeois life. Americans have to be perceived as fair people. Our message to the Muslim world should unhesitatingly state that we will destroy our enemies---and assist our friends.

posted by: David Thomson on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

“Draconian immigration controls on young Muslim males by the civilized West might be a good place to start. No more visas, no more scholarships, no more work permits until the Muslim states can guarantee peaceful migrants.”

Immediately after 9/11 I argued with a number of commentators on The Atlantic Monthly’s discussion board against such a prohibition. No, we must encourage Muslim males and females to work and study in the West. The last thing we should desire is that these existentially challenged young people continue to wallow in their Islamic culture of self pity and defeatism. There is only one thing, however, that has to change: we must treat them as if they possessed blond hair and blue eyes! Political correctness endangers all of us. No longer can we afford the nonsense that Muslims are allegedly immature children victimized by Western imperialism.

posted by: David Thomson on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

It is a feeling I get every time I hear of another American beheaded or another vicious sermon issued by a Muslim Cleric. That feeling was put into words by anonymous. The feeling is that I just want to blow 'them' all away.
This feeling must never the less be suppressed at all times. It is not rational thinking. It is anger.

Some of the points anonymous makes I agree with (e.g. the great difficulty in bringing democracy to nations that have a hostile philosophical and cultural base). Never the less, his essential argument could not be more wrong. I believe more brute force is necessary at times, and America should not apoglise for taking the necessary measures to defend itself. That said, it is most defiantely not necessary to declare war against the entire Middle East

posted by: James Gribble on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

Actually, gentlemen, Mr. A would be perfectly correct about the tactics America would have to use -- if the _people_ of the Middle East were our foes. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan had the active support of the German and Japanese people up to the day each surrendered; and we fought them with just those tactics.

But in the Middle East we are not dealing with popular regimes; our opponents are bandits, tyrants, and corrupt autocrats. We don't need to make war on the people, so we don't need to use Mr. A's tactics -- and nothing could excuse such tactics, if there's an alternative ...

posted by: Michael Brazier on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

During the Cold War,there were people in the US claiming that the the West had 'no choice' but start a nuclear war while it still had an advantage in firepower.During the Cuban missile crisis,some of President Kennedy's military advisers were advocating that the US take out 'the Cuban threat' by bombing the missile sites.Thank God cooler heads prevailed,for we know now that it would have been the start of WWIII,if that course had been chosen.

With Anonymous,I see the same kind of paranoia at work that led many rational people to completely overestimate the Soviet threat.Saying that we need to meet the threat from al-Qaeda,and its co-travellers,with the kind of firepower that was never used against the Russians,the Chinese (who are still there,btw) or the rest of the Warsaw Pact,seems to me totally overblown.Well,totally bonkers is the word.

posted by: Jussi Hämäläinen on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

Just scroll down Dans blog and spot an article on the future economic trends in the ME, or lack thereof. Note the rapid increase in work force muslims versus the lack of job growth opportunities; great fodder for the Bin Ladins.

Note that a few months ago there was a serious discussion on well known centrist blogs Totten for one, regarding the possibility of having to turn the ME into scorched earth if Iraq does not work.

A frightening scenario that might lead who knows where but there are a lot of freightening scenarios out there if Iraq fails.

posted by: tallan on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

I don't see this message resonating through the American public, for both good reasons and bad ones. First, the American public -- due to a failure of leadership from both parties -- has been unwilling to sacrifice much of anything in this War. We may be at War, but we sure as heck are not a nation at war. As a result, Mr. Anon's spoutings don't merely sound "a bit out there". They seem totally deranged.

Second, though you can't tell it from our talk shows and internet message boards, we aren't a nation of extremists. When someone pushes a policy that is a far right (or, I suspect, far left, agenda),the American people react. Ask Newt Gingrich. There's no way this message of Total War is gooing to find much of an audience.

Third, A seems to have a higher respect of Al Q's abilities and capabilities than is warrented. Strikes me that Osama is the George W. Bush of terrorism, and his subordinates are a bunch of Dick Cheneys -- he has grand strategic aims and lousy implementation. Take, for example,the recent extermination of Saudi Al Q leadership. What intelligent terrorist force would concentrate its entire leadership in one place? Even the most competent recent operation -- the Spanish bombings -- has resulted in major arrests of Al Q leadership. Al Qaeda has proven unable since 9/11 to launch an attack outside of Iraq and get away without major impact on its operations.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

It seems to me that we are giving A. too much credit. He didn't endorse razing the Middle East for the sake of razing the Middle East. He thinks we are out of options unless we completely rethink our policy toward the region -- Israel, etc. True, he thinks it's too late for this. The bigger problem for me is that he doesn't give any specifics on what needs to be rethought -- i.e., do we need to give up on Israel altogether, or do we need to reinvigorate a peace plan? And which peace plan, if option B? I think this guy has received a lot more attention than merited.

posted by: less here than meets the eye on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

I don't know who some of the commenters are kidding, but there is simply no way that this guy falls into the camp of the Dems or the left generally. This whacko's clearly all yours. (I mean, read the rest of the comments - the only people who think he might have a point are the morons who STILL think we should have invaded Iraq).

He wants us to (a) beat up a largely impotent part of the world, and (b)demonstrate to the rest of the world that we can't be trusted with the power differential that we have? As stupid as stupid can be.

He's one of yours, fellas.

posted by: SomeCallMeTim on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

Amazingly (to me anyways), what's been absent from this discussion - and possibly that option #5 that Parsley Boy is looking for - is true international collaboration in the fight against Islamist terrorism.

Believe it or not - and perhaps the cynical anti-Europeans among you will choose not to believe it - but there is actually a lot of resentment in European countries, including and especially in France and Germany, against any kind of perceived or actual "Islamization" of their societies. Russia is already actively fighting islamic terrorists in Chechnya.

I'm not mentioning this to say "look, they are already doing good stuff", no, actually a lot of what they are doing, especially the Russians, may well be misguided and misdirected.

But the foundation has already been laid in those countries for a true international coalition against Islamist terrorism. It's just that our government decided to alienate our potential allies by starting this unwarranted and unrelated war in Iraq rather than to form a working alliance and collaborate against the real terrorists.

Option #5 would also have to include sorting out the conflict in Israel. Now that Sharon is actually on the right track, the whole international community needs to forcefully "support" his plan - and I put that in quotes, because his plan definitely needs some enhancements. Right now we are effectively allowing a few thousand Jewish settlers, who are on their own religious fundamentalist mission, to hold the whole World hostage. For the sake not just of us and the Palestinians, but even more so for the sake of the rest of Israel's population and the future existence of Israel, the settlers in Gaza and the outlying West Bank settlements have to be removed. By all means, finish those fences and walls and keep Jerusalem and the major surrounding West Bank settlements, but then withdraw all troops from the rest of the West Bank and all of Gaza.

It is sheer madness that we would consider resorting to "total war" solutions, as some anonymous writer outlines them, before we would try sensible approaches that have been waiting to be tried for years and years and that simply need a little bit of extra political will to be executed.

posted by: gw on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

Well, let's not kid ourselves o' Tim - Anon's proposal will look like sick lunacy to the average American until al Qaida's next Mohammed Atta pulls off a biochemical 9/11 and kills 30,000-50,000 people. After that it will become conventional wisdom and perhaps a politically irresistable course of action. This would be grieviously unfortunate to say the least.

Our problem is with a relatively tiny number of fanatics who are being enabled in their murderous agenda by various Arab and Muslim regimes and a passively supportive or neutral populace.

I'd really rather not go the route of total war for obvious moral and strategic reasons but we're not dealing with the actual culprits with consistent severity - which helps make another 9/11 more likely not less.

We ought to begin treating the financial backers of al Qaida and the radical clerics who recruit for them and teach in the Madrassas as if they were combatants. And not a target here and there like Israel does but a major operation to capture or kill as many enablers of terror as possible in a very short period of time from Egypt to Pakistan. This means ignoring a lot of sovereign borders of putative allies but these regimes are not really allies anyway nor is the enemy following any known rule set of warfare.

This is not to argue that we should ourselves, fight them without rules but that we need a new set of rules that can set civilized standards while taking into account the way the enemy fights.

posted by: mark safranski on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

The mistake is in thinking that winning hearts and minds means creating a bunch of flag waving America lovers. Our problem isnt that the neocons have presented a fantasy scenerio, its that we arent taking their implications seriously enough.

All this focus on Reagan should have reminded us, we dont have to sell democracy and freedom, they sell themselves. All we have to do is find a way to secure Iraq enough to let self determination flourish. That requires a just system (as Russia tought us). We can accomplish that i think.

The bottom line is we have to be brave enough to realize Iraqis may end up _despising_ America, but it will be immaterial so long as they join us in the 21st century politically, economically, and in human rights. The Turks dont love us, but neither are they strapping explosives to their bodies. We dont need friends, we need contemporaries.

A successful Iraq is a greater blow to Islamofascism than any number of dead terrorists. Lets keep our focus where it belongs. Killing bad guys is incidental, helping Iraq establish itself is paramount.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

The problem is that A is a little ahead of the curve because he lives in and amongst people who do a lot of forward thinking. While I don't approve of A's strategic plan we may get there by default if we continue on the present course. Absent a major shift in the intelligence bureaucracies our only choice will be to sit by and watch more terrorist attacks happen. One or two more major terrorist attacks and the American public will start getting to the point of consideration of the use of nuclear weapons.

People can blather all they want about how Europeans have absorbed major terrorist attacks, etc. Well Europeans are not Americans. Anything who thinks that Americans, used to being the dominant figure in world affairs, won't resort to the use of nuclear weapons on civilian populations is clearly not in touch with the public.

That's why we have to start playing a better intelligence game. Those are the stark options psychologically. Either succeed on the intel front or A's option. That's the importance of this guy, the fact that he's foreshadowing where the bulk of America is going to be if a WMD goes off on American soil.

posted by: Oldman on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

That's why we have to start playing a better intelligence game

Agreed, the intel game needs to be taken better.

But let's recall who it was who objected to it being played at all, to the point of removing the funding for it, shall we?

posted by: Bithead on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

What would such a strike accomplish? I dont doubt American would support a nuclear strike on a declared enemy, but what are we going to do, kill 3 million Iranians (half of whom are working to bring down the mullahs) because a dirty bomb went off in Atlanta? Even the most rabid hawk would have to blanch once CNN started beaming back the images, especially when the perps ended up being from somewhere else.
What I do advocate is a new policy of dealing with rogue nuclear regimes. We should make it US policy that since NK and Iran refuse to abide by the nonproliferation treaty, should a nuclear weapon ever be detonated on a US interest we will hold all such regimes directly accountable and reply in kind. This may well work as a powerful deterrant, anyone who decides not to play ball with us will be at the mercy of the least stable terrorist on earth. If the regimes wish to be off our hit list they would have to disarm. Hopefully we would never have to act on such a policy.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

Oh, I know! I know!:

John Ashcroft.

posted by: Ciel on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

It's clear that not much history is being taught in school. Nor is much being learned. Compounded with the modern American urge to see everything as a fad (I.E., here today, gone tomorrow), it's amazing that ANY policy is attempted. Here's Option 5 - give the current policy some time. Maybe after a 25 year occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan they MIGHT get to the level of a poor South American democracy. I think that's pretty good. In a hundred years they MAY have a much better one. But to declare this current policy as a failure or bumbling or some of the other comments I have seen here demonstrates a lack of intelligence and perspective that is staggering. Only an intentional idiot expects a dramatic change in one year!!! As a nation we have been arguing and killing over abortion for 30+ years. It will go on for some time to come. One day, the issue will be resolved. With this history coming from the best democracy the world has, we still see people writing in this blog that they expect Bush to conquer Iraq with no problems, no mistakes, no reconsiderations. No torture, no collateral damage, with a guarantee that the Iraquis will be a pure democracy better than what we have here in a year. Childish nonsense!!!

posted by: jack on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

jack: Only an intentional idiot expects a dramatic change in one year!!!

Then don't vote for the intentional idiot again.

Also, please note that our "current policy" is not to occupy Iraq for 25 years, but to withdraw from Iraq any time after June 30th, as soon as the new Iraqi government requests it. And while they may not do that right away, because we picked the right guys so that they won't do it, an elected Iraqi government next year may be an entirely different matter.

posted by: gw on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

Agreed Bithead. It was the Democratic congress that hamstrung the CIA and it was Clinton who presided over the CIA and FBI in the 90's morphing into the worst conceivable state of affairs. The real setback in the WoT is that they systematically let the agencies rot from within, and it was mitigated by their constant high level alert status in the Clinton Admin.

The system being broke and needing constant jury-rigging, enter the Republican Administration of GWB and they aren't on high-alert constantly and the system collapses.

Frankly it's still broken - the intel system. It's pathetic. We're supposed to be a super-power and we don't have any experienced 'interrogators' who can disappear someone, extract information from them, and then discretely remove all evidence of their location? Sad if you ask me. Our assassination skills are non existent. Hell we can't even find them or have anyone with experience in sorting out whether someone else is lying to us. Almost all our intel officers are placed under official cover in another US government job, which does not breed us love among other civil servants let me tell you because they're all afraid of being mistaken for the CIA ... and we have very few people under nonofficial cover despite the fact that those are almost always the most valuable ones.

And don't get me started on the FBI.

Anyway, it's all very ugly. After 911 we could have chosen to really tear into this problem and fix it, for which we would be a lot safer and the terrorists alot more scared. As it is we're even further behind the curve.

In everything that's gone wrong, over and over again, at the center of it all has been a weak or corrupt or inept intelligence network. Let's fix that okay before we start nuking other countries? That way at least we could nuke the right ones if we had to. At this rate we'll end up targeting the wrong country our intel is so bad.

posted by: oldman on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

What's the glass parking lot option?

posted by: Anne on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

Anne, The "glass parking lot option" is turning the middle east into a glass parking lot.

Sand, when heated to a sufficiently high temperature, melts, flows like water, then turns to glass when it cools. Do this over a large enough area, and you have a surface as flat as a parking lot, and made of glass. There are only a few ways to pull this off, and the U.S. has a bunch of them.

posted by: Michael Parker on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]


I hope you don't stay awake at night worrying that we all might turn inside out and explode.

You also assume the Arabs won't do it to themselves. Consider Lebanon in the 1980's.

That will seem like a walk in the park compared to what is coming in Saudi Arabia.

posted by: Tom Holsinger on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]


Not discounting the poisonous ideology pumped out daily by random Saudi Mullahs and believed by half the royal family, it sure does seem that the Saudi branch of Al Q is (was) run by a bunch of homicidal maniacs who get their organizing style out of the terrorist group in the Life of Brian. These guys are dangerous, in the way that serial killers are dangerous. But the current batch is too stupid to take over.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]


Less than 4% of Saudi citizens are gainfully employed per the official statistics of the Saudi Labor Ministry. There are about 600,000 employed Saudis of about 18-19 million Saudi citizens, compared to about five million foreign workers residing in Saudi Arabia.

IMO this is due far more to deliberate decisions by the Saud clan leadership to head off potential threats to their political control of the country than to any special characteristics of the Saudi people.

Jim Dunnigan had a different opinion at

"The use of millions of foreigners to keep the economy going is neccessary because, after over half a century of oil wealth, the Saudis have not been able to train and motivate enough Saudis to takes care of many essential, and menial, jobs. Many young Saudis prefer unemployment to a job that does not confer sufficient prestige, or involves too much effort or responsibility."

IMO creation of a viable Saudi economy means creation of a technocracy which can replace the Saud clan, while perpetuating dependency by the population on oil money funneled to them through tribal control mechanisms was seen by the Saudi rulers as safer than letting the population their own income independently of direct Saud control.

So the Saud leadership hasn't tried hard, or at all, to get their population to work or to create an economy which is not utterly dependent on oil income.

This is a prescription for demographic disaster. You have no idea how ugly it will be when the place collapses. IMO that is no more than 5-10 years away.

Paraphrasing Ackerman's Mr. A:

"With [the Saud clan's loss of control will] come a Sherman-like razing of infrastructure. Roads and irrigation systems; bridges, power plants, and crops in the field; fertilizer plants and grain mills--all these and more will ... be destroyed ... [S]uch actions will yield large civilian casualties, displaced populations, and refugee flows."

Tom Holsinger

posted by: Tom Holsinger on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

Well said. Fareed Zakaria has an absolutely tremendous article in this weeks Newsweek on Saudi Arabia. Probably the only peice of actual journalism i've seen in Newsweek in years.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

OK People—it’s time to take the gloves off. Are we going to sit here in fear and indecision, listening to the traitors in the State Department and the CIA, while the Islamofacists pick off Westerners one by one, and force our government into retreat and defeat?
I propose that the US government immediately institute a new policy. Every time an American citizen or a citizen of an allied nation is beheaded, we round up five enemy personnel and publicly behead them and throw their bodies into a herd of wild, crazed and hungry swine.
Further, I propose we immediately aim nuclear tipped missiles at Mecca and Medina, and encircle the Dome of the Rock with high-powered explosives, and announce to the Muslim world that the next attack on an American citizen or property, or the citizens or properties of our allies will result in the immediate vaporization of their holy sites.
This is all-out war, and we had better start treating it that way. The survival of western civilization is at stake!
For links to news, views, politics, and government, bookmark All Things Political.

posted by: All Things Political on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

Agreed Bithead. It was the Democratic congress that hamstrung the CIA and it was Clinton who presided over the CIA and FBI in the 90's morphing into the worst conceivable state of affairs. The real setback in the WoT is that they systematically let the agencies rot from within, and it was mitigated by their constant high level alert status in the Clinton Admin.

Pardon me; I must wait for the ground to stop moving and the angels to stop singing and playing their horns.

Your comments about things not imprving all that much since are questionable, but I will say that what resistance there has been to re-establishing the intel teams has come from the predictable sources... Usually the ones standing under the waving flag of Abu Griabe.

For all the complainst about Bush acting strongly without a mandate, coming from the usual suspects, this is clearly one area he has not made any serious moves in, apparently thinking there isn't the political support for it.

posted by: Bithead on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

Not to redirect the thread or anything, but it seems to me that the people venting about how stupid and insane and criminal the state of American domestic and overseas intelligence is haven't really thought about the subject that carefully.

American foreign intelligence was focused for decades on the one country that could destroy this one (incidentally taking the rest of the world with it), the Soviet Union. Domestic intelligence was directed primarily at domestic criminals. Obviously these priorities have changed, and it is fair to point out that the people responsible for changing them during the 1990s were very slow to act. But they weren't slow to act because they were stupid, let alone insane and criminal. In large measure they were slow to act because the things we know now they did not know then, and because changing the direction of any large bureaucracy (let alone several of them) is a time-consuming business.

This is not a complete defense by any means, and the Clinton administration in particular bears a heavy burden of responsibility for having responded so sluggishly to a terrorist threat that first manifested itself within months after Clinton became President. That said, however, it is no easy matter to take intelligence agencies that had worked for years on ways to penetrate the CPSU and Soviet nuclear forces and set them to work on political movements in Muslim countries. The separation of intelligence gathering against foreigners and the law enforcement function of the FBI likewise had deep roots; it was not and is not realistic to expect that these can be dealt with through a stroke of the pen.

There is another, more troubling aspect to this question, one that I confess to being at a loss as to how to address. Effective reform, structural or otherwise, of American intelligence services is unlikely to emerge from within the intelligence community itself. It will require political direction, to overcome bureaucratic stalemates and Congressional resistance. Our political system in recent years has not produced Presidents capable of providing that direction even if their attention were not mostly consumed with the mechanics of the permanent campaign. This year the American people will have to choose again between two show horses able to address difficult issues like this one only haltingly if at all. There are people in American public life capable of providing the leadership necessary to make real progress in this area in a relatively short time frame, but the way politics works today such people have no chance of getting elected President.

I am reduced to hoping that something will turn up. Something has at previous crossroads in our history, including at least a couple more momentous than the one we are staring at now. But the political situation today is deeply discouraging.

posted by: Zathras on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

Mohammed, June 19, 2004:


...I can see through smoke and blood that we are winning
this battle, we who believe in freedom and democracy and the simple citizen who
hopes to be able to choose a leadership that represent him and care about
his needs.


Some people accuse us of watching negatively without trying to aid in eradicating
this retarded group of terrorists and fascists; NO, that?s not true and Thursday?s
attack prove this. Those who were killed today were the loyal and true sons of
Iraq. They have decided to carry arms and fight within a legal institution that
represent the Iraqi people; the Iraqi army. They did this whilst knowing the
dangers that standing in these lines carry, as these lines of volunteers were
targeted several times and hundreds of Iraqi youths were killed. To me, these are
soldiers who have died honorably in a battlefield.

I assure you that these lines will never stop no matter how many times they target


These terrorists and fascists and the governments that support them are not
only sick but they are also very stupid, as they think they?re accomplishing
their goal by inflicting such severe losses and damages among Americans and
Iraqis, when it merely have made their defeat closer. Had they fought like men,
it would?ve been possible that some naive people would support them in the name
of "liberation" and all this nonsense, but now and as they have been targeting
mainly Iraq as a government, citizens and the whole country, they?ve lost any
chance of achieving their sick dreams...


posted by: Mark Amerman on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

The best weapon against terror is terror?

Looking at wars of the XX century those more destructive in short time were those that lasted less. I keep thinking it's less damaging (for a society) to have a war like WW2 that lasts 4 years than an a Civil World War that lasts for 30-40 years . Seems much more easy to make peace and move along when just 1-2 generations were in war than when a span of 10 generations were, knowledge isnt lost too. In that case the hate enter each gene and any political discurse, and the only knowledge that remains is the war knowledge, hampering the recovery. ex: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
With a couple 1000s deaths in a couple of months Jordan expelled Arafat and his gang, but since then they have been in peace, while in Lebanon the aproach was less heavy handed due to political lebanese system but in the end the destructon was worst at all levels.
The Iraq war has been very positive , it draws Al-queda resources, needs them to recruit more agressively, making more errors being more prone to intelligence, the war is mostly made in Arab soil, the civilians casualites are mainly arab too, this can lead to a lack of al-queda support
in areas that otherwise could be theirs.
Without this war, Al-queda will be building an infrastruture that later would have been much more dificult to defeat because it will have ahd permated every Arab country. I dont have doubts that many of jihadist would have to die, unless we have shock terror power of the allies in ww2
that made nazis/japanese surrender. The Tughees in India ended when chiefs where hung with 1000 supporters.

With sensible and somewhat cheap Bush approach (dont attack Saudis because of US and international economy) giving too much power to Iraquis in second year of ocupation, not enforcing rules against Iraq tradictions
Like US did for Japanese in WW2 (women vote , Emperor power, etc)

US is still in a road map that goes a-b-c-?-X
In the end a mass casualty in US will change the rules. Then will be pure a-X.

posted by: lucklucky on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

The best weapon against terror is terror?

Well, I guess that depends on whom it is you're trying to defeat. As i pointed out (I think it was here) the other day; when you have a group of people children included, willing to blow themselves up to take out a few Americans, what kind of action on our part, do you suppose, will change their minds? I will grant this is not an easy issue. But it strikes me that with very few exceptions, people so dedicated...(dare I say brainwashed?) are not likely to be sweet-talked out of that dedication and the attendant actions to that dedication.

On the other hand, some will be, and those I think we agree that we'd rather not see die, but alas, not nearly enough to end the problem.

posted by: Bithead on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

I have a provocative question to ask regarding Mr. A. He desires the defeat of President Bush. Does that mean Mr. A believes John Kerry is very likely to follow his revolting suggestions? I’m not trying to be facetious. Why does Mr. A prefer Senator Kerry over our current Commander-in-Chief?

posted by: David Thomson on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

Zathras: I think your comment is very insightful.
I think what we must look for is a president who can/will make cabinet-level appointees who can move the beauracracy toward this.

posted by: cj on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

Dear Bithead,

You shouldn't be surprised. I've opposed GWB not on the grounds of competence not ideology since the beginning.

The fact is that I was rather hopeful about an intel overhaul from the debacle of the Clinton era in the new Republican order. However the real damage was that by overplaying their hand on Iraq, WMD, etc. Bush now "needs" the intel agencies who helped fubar the whole thing in the 90's. Now he can't force them to change.

He had one chance after 911 to change things. He choose to go after Iraq. His real target should have been the FBI and CIA bureaucracy. That would have gotten us real results. And then in a few years we could have done Iraq.

I'd be perfectly happy to condone torture if we were getting hard evidence of stopping 911-type plots or getting the heads of top terrorists. As it is it's a kind of queasy S&M snuff-flick kind of fantasy thing. I can't abide incompetence and immorality. One or the other, but not both.

If one is in the business of the ends justifying the means, Bithead, then one had better get cherry results and the hard evidence to back it up.

That's the lesson for the day. Be excellent and wicked, or good but ineffectual, and the world will love you. Be moronic and mean, and everyone will hate you.

posted by: oldman on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

Dear Zathras,

Usually you write interesting stuff that I can only be envious of. It is therefore with great regret that I now have to say that your most recent post is a complete pile of horse ----.

After 911, Bush had the credibility from the American people to do practically anything. A constitutional ammendment wasn't inconceivable.

He chose to spend this credibility on Iraq. Now there's no hope of changing the intel agencies in anything less than geological time scales.

The truth is that we needed it to be done, it could have been done, and it should have been done. Instead the roaches again scurried and escaped their just fate.

We don't need more nuance on this issue, we need clarity. The shoddiness of the intel agencies has been the single common theme in our all failures and stumblings Democratic or Republican on the WoT for a decade and a half. It's time to change. We could have built new intel agencies from scratch in the time we've wasted "nuancing" this issue to death.

So with all due respect, you're dead wrong. A shame because most of the time, your writing shades right into the beautiful.

posted by: oldman on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

I appreciate the compliment, Oldman. I'm afraid the criticism misses the point.

Credibility with the public is of minimal relevance to the subject we're discussing here. To move forward a program of effective intelligence reform, a President would either have to know enough about the subject to direct the reform himself, or be willing to delegate his authority to someone who did and back him to the hilt.

Obviously not only substantive knowledge but a willingness to use Presidential authority to break bureaucratic deadlocks and secure Congressional support for a preferred course of action is required here. This is a moot point because recent Presidents haven't had either, and no one who does could possibly get elected in the current climate.

As to the precise shape reform should take, you are welcome to your opinion that what is needed is clarity. I share your view, as do a great many people in Congress, the Pentagon and the intelligence community who unfortunately agree on little else. Intelligence reform would need not only to correct current intelligence weaknesses but guard against new ones (three examples among many: the potential for abuse of intelligence resources domestically. Domination of intelligence by the Pentagon. Emphasis on Islamic terrorism that leaves us lacking intelligence about China). I think there are answers here, but they are not self-evident.

posted by: Zathras on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

That's the lesson for the day. Be excellent and wicked, or good but ineffectual, and the world will love you. Be moronic and mean, and everyone will hate you.

Even assuming your read of Mr. comes down to this;
On the whole, between someone who has the right ideas, but is less than fully adept at making them real, and someone whose ideas I absolutely despise, but who is compitent to make his bad ideals reality, the former seems to obvious choice.

PAW: Between moving in the correct direction, albeit slowly, and marching smartly in exatcly the wrong direction....the former is my choice, as the lesser of two evils... which you may recall is ways the choice where government is concerned.

Either way, Kerry does not win.

posted by: Bithead on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

There have been miserable struggles that have ended well in history. The Huks, for one, the Malaysian pacification of communists from the 1960s, the end of the Shining Path terror in Peru. In all cases, everyone said it was hopeles - and it was not.

The one thing they all had in common was property rights. Is the US doing anything, anything at all about property rights? I don't think so. Give the terrorists some land, give them title deed so they can borrow on it, develop capital, make money and suddenly they have a stake in the system. People only rebel when they lack a stake in the system. Give it to them and watch them go away, happy to shut up and make money. It's working in China. It'll work just as well in Iraq. People are always going to be people.

posted by: Coral on 06.21.04 at 06:10 PM [permalink]

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