Wednesday, July 28, 2004
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Disagreeing with Arnold Kling
I read this same section of the report, and I think Kling is being a bit unfair in his interpretation of the Commission's recommendations.
To see why, you have to go back to the Commission's diagnosis of the problem. Kling opens his essay with a quote to that effect, but it's too truncated. Here's what's said on pages 362-3:
This is a useful distinction, but one that Koing blurs. Certainly the 9-11 Commission does not recommend passivity in the face of the Al Qaeda threat. On p. 364, it states quite clearly: "Certainly the strategy should include offensive operations to counter terrorism. Terrorists should no longer find safe haven where their organizations can grow and flourish."
The war against radical Islam, however, cannot be won quickly and cannot be won with force of arms alone. Kling's metaphor here is World War II, but the better metaphor is the Cold War. Saying that one set of ideas is bad isn't enough -- a compelling alternative must be presented. On this front, the United States has done a piss-poor job at public dilpomacy -- and the Commission is right to raise this as an issue.
Kling worries that engaging in a hard-fought war of ideas could lead to passivity. Look, we've gone to war against two Muslim countries in the span of three years -- compared to that, anything will look passive. These uses of force were necessary -- the first to eject Al Qaeda from its base of operations, the second to inject the notion of democratic rule into the one region of the world where it has failed to emerge indigenously. Despite missteps, the public in both sets of countries seem increasingly receptive to western ideas of democratic representation. Iraq is moving towards a provisional assembly. Afghanistan has a constitution and a populace that's enthusiastic about exercising their democratic rights (a fact I blogged about two weeks ago).
Promote, that, consolidate that, and in a generation, radical Islam takes a dive. The popularity of Islamic fundamentalism fades very quickly in an open society. It's the job of the United States to promote the virtues of such a society, and consolidate the regimes in the region receptive to such a message.
In the war against radical Islam, Kling is correct that we need hard power. But we do need soft power as well.
"The popularity of Islamic fundamentalism fades very quickly in an open society."
How do you explain the relatively recent Saudi funded fundamentalist take-over of many American Mosques and Islamic societies? Yes, most of the beleivers do not share the new leader's extremism, but they are silent while hatred is preached and grows.
How do explain the radicalization of European Muslims, which is growing by leaps and bounds? Sure, they are not assimilating quickly into European societies, but the culture they live is more open and democratic than any in the Middle East is likely to be in our lifetime.
An open society simply means the freedom to choose. The evidence that I've seen is that Islamic fundamentalism is chosen by people in open societies, too.posted by: Jos Bleau on 07.28.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
I wonder what our "soft power" plans actually are.
The Cold War soft power carrots were international aid, US visas, trade and the US beacon of freedom. But much of this was elevated by the fact that the Soviets were selling the same sort of soft power but on much different terms. Additionally, the Soviet Union's atheism was another aspect to US soft power.
I don't see where the US is able to create a new era of soft power to confront Islamic Militancy. The only soft power I can foreshadow is one that seeks to influence liberalising forces in the Middle East to encourage an Islamic reformation. An emergence of a renaissance period that rivals christianity.
Who are the Protestant/Catholic reformation figures who will emerge within Shi'te and Sunni Islam? Until this happens the region is well on its way to further tribal confrontation and war with eachother. The key for the West will be to determine ways to keep the bullseye off their nation states.posted by: Brennan Stout on 07.28.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
I haven't read the whole report yet, but I thought one of the most aggressive statements was the reccomendation that the U.S. root out actual or "potential" terrorist sanctuaries "utilizing every element of nation power." This is clearly a nod to both soft and hard power, it is also a nod to preemptive action.posted by: PD Shaw on 07.28.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
Iranian politicians (including its former President) have advocated using an Islamic bomb against Israel, and the state fancies itself as revolutionary, with an ideology to be propagated elsewhere. The idea that an Iranian bomb is no more dangerous than a Pakistani bomb -- which is just the toy of a decadent miltary dictatorship -- is silly.posted by: Appalled Moderate on 07.28.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
Dan brings up the distinction raised by the 9/11 Commission between AQ and radical Islam. But then DAN fudges the distinction between the two in the rest of his post. Here's how I see it:
1. As to Al Qaeda: the 9/11 Commission says that hard power is the only effective means to combat it (can't negotiate with them, etc.) Kling doesn't disagree.
2. As to radical Islam: the 9/11 Commission gives short shrift to hard power and pays excessive attention to short power. This is what Kling complains about. Indeed, the report says very little about the use of hard power against radical Islam (other than AQ). To the extent that this war is like the Cold War, Dan would do well to acknowledge that hard power - not just soft power - was used during the Cold War, and that we need to continue to use it now as well.posted by: Al on 07.28.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
Re above: "short power"? Should read "soft power".posted by: Al on 07.28.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
The Samson Option: Israel's Nuclear Arsenal & American Foreign Policy
According to Seymour Hersh, "the size and sophistication of Israel's nuclear arsenal allows men such as Ariel Sharon to dream of redrawing the map of the Middle East aided by the implicit threat of nuclear force." .... Ze'ev Shiff, an Israeli military expert writing in Haaretz said, "Whoever believes that Israel will ever sign the UN Convention prohibiting the proliferation of nuclear weapons... is day dreaming," and Munya Mardoch, Director of the Israeli Institute for the Development of Weaponry, said in 1994, "The moral and political meaning of nuclear weapons is that states which renounce their use are acquiescing to the status of Vassal states. All those states which feel satisfied with possessing conventional weapons alone are fated to become vassal states."
..... Seymour Hersh warns, "Should war break out in the Middle East again,... or should any Arab nation fire missiles against Israel, as the Iraqis did, a nuclear escalation, once unthinkable except as a last resort, would now be a strong probability." Ezar Weissman, Israel's current President said "The nuclear issue is gaining momentum (and the) next war will not be conventional." Russia and before it the Soviet Union has long been a major (if not the major) target of Israeli nukes. It is widely reported that the principal purpose of Jonathan Pollard's spying for Israel was to furnish satellite images of Soviet targets and other super sensitive data relating to U.S. nuclear targeting strategy. (Since launching its own satellite in 1988, Israel no longer needs U.S. spy secrets.) Israeli nukes aimed at the Russian heartland seriously complicate disarmament and arms control negotiations and, at the very least, the unilateral possession of nuclear weapons by Israel is enormously destabilizing, and dramatically lowers the threshold for their actual use, if not for all out nuclear war.
Seymour Hersh sites other threats in The Samson Option. Referring to the U.S. failure to support Israel's invasion of Egypt in 1956, including in the face of nuclear threats from the Soviet Union, one unnamed former Israeli official told Hersh in the late 1980s: "You Americans screwed us...We got the message. We can still remember the smell of Auschwitz and Treblinka. Next time we'll take all of you with us."posted by: NeoDude on 07.28.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
You think others know about this in the Middle East?posted by: NeoDude on 07.28.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
Opinions like Kling's scare the crap out of me. They are exactly the recipe for how to lose this war. We are not fighting a state. By doing the right things we can win over the hearts and minds of Muslims around the world. We will still have non-state actors to fight. But the idea that invading and bombing nations that have radicals in their midst is a recipe for disaster.
We don't have a war like WWII going on right now. But if Kling has his way I think we might. That is not something I am excited about.posted by: Rich on 07.28.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
You know, I wish these WWII analogizers would just come out and say what they want us to do: kill a bunch of Muslims and start over. Because that's what their prescriptions amount to. These people are batshit crazy.posted by: praktike on 07.28.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
And this is precisely why I find Kerry so troubling. The Democratic Party line is to focus on Al-Qaeda, Al-Qaeda, Al-Qaeda. Any thing else we do is alleged to be a distraction from focusing on Al-Qaeda.
Al-Qaeda is a particularly ugly symptom of a much broader systemic problem in the Middle East. We can't afford to wait one hundred years for the Middle East to sort itself out. Eliminating Al-Qaeda doesn't get rid of the problem. Delaying dealing with the rest of the problem until Al-Qaeda is completely destroyed isn't something we can afford.posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw on 07.28.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
But war is tasty tonic, to be inebriated by the intoxicating acts of war is to free The Spirit, to allow it to fly like a God…well that’s what Hegel was tellin’ the Prussians or Germans or some exceptionally beautiful by-product of western civilization.posted by: NeoDude on 07.28.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
Obviously, unofficial threats can be more explicit and more threatening than those issued by politicians -- especially those below which were published in credible publications like the Los Angeles Times or WorldNetDaily, and even those published by extremists like those at Masada2000.Org. (And such extremists are very powerful in Israel's political system.) Those issuing these threats obviously feel no fear of criticism or ostracism by either the Jewish or gentile communities, something which makes them more frightening.
In April 2002 Jewish academic David Perlmutter in the Los Angeles Times inferred Israel under some circumstances would launch revenge attacks against targets worldwide: "Israel has been building nuclear weapons for 30 years. The Jews understand what passive and powerless acceptance of doom has meant for them in the past, and they have ensured against it. Masada was not an example to follow--it hurt the Romans not a whit, but Sampson in Gaza? With an H-bomb? What would serve the Jew-hating world better in repayment for thousands of years of massacres but a Nuclear Winter. Or invite all those tut-tutting European statesmen and peace activists to join us in the ovens?
"For the first time in history, a people facing extermination while the world either cackles or looks away--unlike the Armenians, Tibetans, World War II European Jews or Rwandans--have the power to destroy the world. The ultimate justice?"
we can't even depend on our allies to be "thoughtful" how are we gonna depend on the republican partyposted by: NeoDude on 07.28.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
First, thanks for another insightful post. However, I believe the crux of your promotion idea rests on the sentence "The popularity of Islamic fundamentalism fades very quickly in an open society." Well, maybe.
Let's be clear about our goal. I, for one, cannot accept a half-baked truce where we say "well, at least they don't produce as many terrorists as they used to." Why don't we just give Osama a peace prize when he lays off for a couple of years? The goal needs to be making these hostile groups innocuous to us or at least competitive on levels other than body count. Who knows? In the US, they could culturally play a bridge roll in mediating between the current chasms. (How many fundamentalist Protestants have given a benediction at the DNC lately?)
With is goal in mind, I can tell you that Islamic Fundamentalism doesn't fade completely away just by being in an open society. After all, in societies like the US and UK that allow market segregation, they (like most people) choose to market segregate. Being an insular part of the UK has not render them innocuous (thank you Richard Reid)--though you may argue the jury is still out on this one. If the threat still exists in democracies, can promoting democracy ever be the answer? It comes down to the nature of the beast. If the enemy is a corporation that can be starved, so be it. Asset seizure of unfavored religious groups has a long and glorious history in the US even when they are not attacking us. Just ask the Mormons. If the enemy is a subculture that can fester in market segregation, it will take more to subvert it. This brings all sorts of questions repugnate to the post-modern mind in dealing with civil liberties and the equality of cultures. (Formost, could France's way REALLY be better?) Very sticky indeed.
I believe we will prefer to invade a host of other countries before truly crossing this bridge, yet promoting and consolidating anything incapable of ENDING the current threat from radical Islamists does seem like midnight basketball--an easy step in the right direction that can only be a success when we forget why it is necessary in the first place.posted by: View from London on 07.28.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
the Middle east will be a hard place to deal with if we do not put a leash on Israel, pretending that problem is really not a problem, will end up being a bigger problem.posted by: NeoDude on 07.28.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
"if we do not put a leash on Israel"
Isn't that kind of like putting the leash on the mailman instead of the dog?posted by: Michael Parker on 07.28.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
noposted by: NeoDude on 07.28.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
i mean we got a mailman going postal (killing, for the Brit) on his route, so it would be best to put him under observation. let him mellow out...ya know?posted by: NeoDude on 07.28.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
A "neccessary war" -- that's cute. As other people stated, Kling basically wants to bomb to kill a bunch of muslims basically and wraps it in psuedo-policy drivel. Dan for all your talk about "soft power" -- you obviously don't give two shits about it given that the policys you promote have led to near 100% enimity of America in the muslim world. (including liberalized-muslims in American & Europe).posted by: Jor on 07.28.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
Things in Afghanistan sure are lookingn up!
Dan, IF Andrew comes around to reality before you do, that will be pretty pathetic.posted by: Jor on 07.28.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
As to radical Islam: the 9/11 Commission gives short shrift to hard power and pays excessive attention to short power. This is what Kling complains about. Indeed, the report says very little about the use of hard power against radical Islam (other than AQ). To the extent that this war is like the Cold War, Dan would do well to acknowledge that hard power - not just soft power - was used during the Cold War, and that we need to continue to use it now as well.
Yes, we used "hard power" during the Cold War. But I don't think the Cold War analogy fits well with what we're hearing from the hawk/neo-con crowd these days.
I hear a rising expectation that we will confront Iran militarily in the fairly near future. Which, if it happens, would make a third "hot war" in a space of three, or perhaps four years.
Think of a period during the Cold War when we fought three wars in the space of three or four years. Or even, perhaps, two wars at the pace we've gone into Afghanistan and Iraq.
The neo-con vision doesn't seem to have the historical pace of the Cold War, and perhaps has more in common with a traditional World War. Seems like we're always either at war or in the run-up to war, if we follow their policy.
By contrast, I sense a Cold War mindset might have led us to the war in Afghanistan, and perhaps, as a follow-up, a war in Iran, if they refuse to give up their nuclear program. It might have skipped the war in Iraq, in part because the tie between Saddam and al Qaida wasn't that compelling.
There's the hype and there's the reality. The hype is that Afghanistan is becoming a democratic nation with elections. The reality is that warlords control most of the country, the heroin harvest for export is going to be a record crop yeild, and that Medicine sans Frontiers or better known as Doctors without Borders just decided to pull out of Afghanistan.
These are the sorts of things that made "Mike" or "Anonymouse" so despondent about the chances of the success of "soft power". For "soft power" to work it has to go beyond internally focused PR. It has to actually change the "facts on the ground". This is the reasoning behind the State redistribution of the reconstruction money, which despite a year of moaning and groaning and gesticulation about how it was going to change the lives of the Iraqis curiously almost entirely none of it was spent.
Billions of dollars from the "Oil for Food" UN fund were spent, but most of that disappeared without a proper accounting trail into the "black box" of the Iraqi Interim government and very little of it found its way into capital investment and business spending. Curious since my party the Republicans have been whining for years about UN corruption in that very same program.
I think Mike, and his intellectual twin Holsinger, are wrong when they suggest massive large scale military conquest and disruption of the region but so far the "soft power" people haven't given me a lot of hope either.
Frankly, there is a subtext here which is almost entirely ignored in politics but since we are finally dealing with reality now matters a great deal. Competence matters. Ideology is not as important as competence. Until we learn this, all of our ideas are going to fail. Years of promoting a political kiss-ass structure that prevents genuine actual working policy has left the USA a crippled giant. Execution matters.
It's as simple as that.posted by: oldman on 07.28.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
all that matters is that bush does not look like a wimp and he will be a right-wing hero...even if defeated by kerry, he can say he wasn't a wimp like his daddy and congregations will come to hear the destroyer of evil give his personal testimony and tell about his incredible relationship with god.
this cheerleader from andover used the united states as his "set" to show he was everything his father wasn't...he's a PUNK!!!posted by: NeoDude on 07.28.04 at 11:37 AM [permalink]
"In my view, moderate Muslims today are in a position that is analogous to that of ordinary Germans and Japanese in World War II. Although they may not be personally committed to the rabid ideology that is behind the behavior of the warmongers, they are in awe of it."
'In my view, moderate Americans today are in a position that is analogous to that of ordinary Germans and Japanese in World War II. Although they may not be personally committed to the rabid ideology that is behind the behavior of the warmongers, they are in awe of it.'
I think this was true a year ago. If moderate americans can come to their senses so quickly, maybe moderate muslims can too.
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