Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 29, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

A GLOBAL COUNTERINSURGENCY....Apparently the latest chatter from our friends on the hawkish right revolves around the idea that the United States might be too squeamish to win any of the various wars we're fighting at the moment. Perhaps a bit of casual genocide is in order?

Since it would appear that mere appeals to human decency aren't going to carry much weight with this crowd, how about a practical objection instead? Here's a reminder of how the Soviet Union fought its war in Afghanistan during the 1980s:

Although initially, Soviet operations were directed primarily against the mujahidin, once the Soviets realized the popular support for the resistance movement, they deliberately turned to a terrorist strategy of "migratory genocide" and "rubblization."....Fighter-bombers and medium bombers hit targets deep inside guerrilla territory, seeking to destroy the village infrastructure supporting the mujahidin.

"Free-fire" zones were created along the main roads and extended back to the hills behind them, and the villages within these zones were "virtually obliterated." In addition, field crops, food storage facilities, and the irrigation systems so vital to Afghan agriculture were bombed in the attempt to drive the people off the land. Soviet aircraft also deliberately attacked civilian caravans coming into or leaving the country, thus causing many casualties among women and children. Small bombs shaped as toys or other attractive objects were used with the intent to maim children, and these caused many livestock casualties as well.

....Since the war began, probably more than 200,000 Afghans have been killed and more than one-third of the population has been forced to flee to Pakistan, Iran, or the Afghan cities....There has been enormous slaughter of livestock....and the famine in places has been compared to that in Ethiopia.

I picked this description pretty much at random. You can find similar ones in dozens of places. I think three points are germane here:

  1. At the time, the United States was horrified by the Soviet brutality and genocide in Afghanistan. Remember?

  2. It didn't work. The Soviets were defeated and left Afghanistan in 1989.

  3. The Soviet campaign led fairly directly to the creation of al-Qaeda and the international jihadist movement. It's fashionable these days to suggest that the United States itself is to blame for the founding of al-Qaeda because we're the ones who armed the mujahidin, but that's far too facile. We may have helped things along, but it was the unimaginably brutal Soviet campaign that radicalized Afghanistan and rallied the jihadist community in the first place.

The fight against Islamic jihadism is essentially a vast, global counterinsurgency, something that the United States is lousy at. But we'd better get good at it fast, and the first step is to discard the fatuous notion that more violence is the obvious answer when the current amount of violence isn't doing the job. History suggests very strongly that the truth is exactly the opposite.

Kevin Drum 1:08 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (72)

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SAme policy the US used in Vietnam and already in Iraq. Soviets must have been paying close attention.

It would also explain Israel's bombing of civilian targets and non-Hezbollah populations deep inside Lebanon.

Posted by: SombreroFallout on July 29, 2006 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Bingo, Kevin. The sooner we get it through our collective thick skulls that we will never, ever be able to kill our way to peace, the sooner we can begin rational dialogue with those who hate us.

Unless we plan to slaughter one billion Muslims and become the worst mass murderers in history, this is the only way. Amen.

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on July 29, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a reminder of how the Soviet Union fought its war in Afghanistan during the 1980s:

Great attempt at moral equivalence. Now America is like the Soviet Union. What next? Compare Bush to Joseph Stalin just like leftist Howard Dean compared Katherine Harris to Stalin? Here's one big difference between America and the Communist Soviet Union: America is liberating the Arab and Muslim world. The Communists were trying to engage in a Communist dictatorship of them. That's where you're wrong. America stands for freedom and democracy while the Communists were against this. The Islamofascists like Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and the Baathists fight us because they hate freedom and democracy. That is what is going on right now and why we must win.

Posted by: Al on July 29, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent post, Kevin. Esp concluding paragraphs.

The Soviet campaign led fairly directly to the creation of al-Qaeda and the international jihadist movement. It's fashionable these days to suggest that the United States itself is to blame for the founding of al-Qaeda because we're the ones who armed the mujahidin, but that's far too facile.

At some point there was a severe break with our ally al Qaeda. US intelligence would obviously know when and where and why that occurred. Yet there's been NO discussion over what happened or why there was a decision to be obstinate in the face of their concerns. Anyone who doesn't think those decisions led directly to 9-11 isn't paying attention. Still al Qaeda's responsibility, obviously, yet knowing what irresponsible policies/positions/actions put our country at risk should've been the first order of business in any open society/democracy.

Posted by: SombreroFallout on July 29, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

There exists a point where force becomes counterproductive, granted.

However, we live in a world where listening to terrorist phone calls sparks outrage that we're infringing on terrorist rights. we're clearly very, very far from that point.

Posted by: American Hawk on July 29, 2006 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, great, Kevin. Great solutions you've put forward. Talk about an arm-chair quarterback.

"We'd better get good at it fast" ?!?

Unbelievablly glib and worthless commentary. This is exactly why liberals will continue to lose elections.

Keep up the good work.

Posted by: All Talk on July 29, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Bush is not a student of history. In fact, he is not a student of current events. He couldnt think his way out of a paper bag much less out of the mess he has made of Iraq or come up with any kind of policy that would restore what little clout we had in the ME. We must stay the course so he wont be put in the position of having to try to come up with a real solution. No, he is going to leave that to future presidents. Ha! Now theres avoidance!

Bush is the dumbest fuck that has ever occupied the White House. And more and more people around the world are going to pay for it.

Posted by: jcricket on July 29, 2006 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Steven Kriz wrote: The sooner we get it through our collective thick skulls that we will never, ever be able to kill our way to peace, the sooner we can begin rational dialogue with those who hate us.

Hey! You sound kinda like a Christian!

You must be the last one. I've been searchin for 'em up on the mountaintop (DC), and down by the Sea of Galilee (Lake Ponchartrain), and all points in between, and they're just real scarce. You'll hear rumours, but that's it.

Posted by: SombreroFallout on July 29, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

we're still facing the consequences of a war fought nearly a century ago. what makes us think that more war, more killing, will solve our problems? we can fight an effective counter insurgency but it takes a wisdom far beyond that possessed by our current leadership.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on July 29, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

ABC
Israeli soldiers are on the way, including an armored unit being transferred from Gaza to Lebanon. They have been told civilians have left the region where they will fight.

"Over here, everybody is the army," one soldier said. "Everybody is Hezbollah. There's no kids, women, nothing."

Another soldier put it plainly: "We're going to shoot anything we
see."

VOA
As Israel's military offensive in Lebanon continues for a third week, the death toll on both sides of the border is climbing. There has been intense fighting between Hezbollah and Israeli troops, and Israeli airstrikes have continued to flatten the towns and villages of southern Lebanon. Israel has never claimed to be fighting for hearts and minds, but besieged Lebanese southerners say Israel's tactics will only increase support for Hezbollah.

Posted by: me on July 29, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Might have been a different story without the Stingers and the rest of the outside support.

Unfortunately, there are way too many other examples through history of genocide working all too well.

Posted by: ronnie on July 29, 2006 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

There are some bench-marks for mass killing:Mao 60-70 million?,Stalin 40-50 million,Hitler 20-30 million? Americans with their obsession for setting records could/will/may make those numbers tiny. After all U.S.A. U.S.A. We're Number 1 We're Number !.

Posted by: R.L. on July 29, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

american hawk you're right about the first part; wrong as al about everything else. it's not about "terrorist rights;" it's about the constitution, a document you apparently are not familiar with or care little about. if we can't protect ourselves within the rule of law, what's the point? and what does that have to do with the use of force?

Posted by: mudwall jackson on July 29, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think the people who hate us want rational dialogue with us. We can have a dialogue and it would go something like "The State of Isreal must be destroyed". After all, the crux of the matter is that since the U.N. approved the Arab/Israeli two state solution in 1947, Arabs and Muslim have never accepted it. They hate us because we support the right of the Israel to exist.

Posted by: Berlins on July 29, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Here's one big difference between America and the Communist Soviet Union: America is liberating the Arab and Muslim world. - Al

And you think the Soviets weren't saying the EXACT same thing? I'm sure they were liberating the Muslim world so it could suckle from the teat of mother Russia, everybody says they are liberators fool. It comes with having a paternalistic government that thinks it knows better than everyone else what is right and good, like us now.

The Islamofascists like Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and the Baathists fight us because they hate freedom and democracy. - Al

Wait. They hate freedom and Democracy AND they hate oppression and Communism? Well that's a neat trick. I'd say they hate being interfered with, just like EVERYONE else on this fucking planet!

However, we live in a world where listening to terrorist phone calls sparks outrage that we're infringing on terrorist rights. - American Hawk

You might have had a point if the outrage had ANYTHING to do with concern for the terrorists rights as opposed to the rights of supposedly free citizens of the United States. Stating that the concern is for the rights of the terrorists is just all kinds of dishonest, but at least you are sticking to the RNC script.

Posted by: Eric Paulsen on July 29, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

You want to see genocide! Wait until we ever go into Africa!

Posted by: R.L. on July 29, 2006 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

The Rule of Law is important as long as you can enforce it.

Posted by: Berlins on July 29, 2006 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Opposition to immorality only by raising practical objections to it is equivalent to the concession of the basic argument, for then it becomes just an argument over the accounting of the costs involved rather than principles.

How about just calling these guys genocidal thugs and opposing them just on moral grounds?

Posted by: nut on July 29, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Great attempt at moral equivalence. Now America is like the Soviet Union. What next? Compare Bush to Joseph Stalin just like leftist Howard Dean compared Katherine Harris to Stalin? Here's one big difference between America and the Communist Soviet Union: America is liberating the Arab and Muslim world. The Communists were trying to engage in a Communist dictatorship of them. That's where you're wrong. America stands for freedom and democracy while the Communists were against this. The Islamofascists like Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and the Baathists fight us because they hate freedom and democracy. That is what is going on right now and why we must win.
Posted by: Al on July 29, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, you really never learned to read. He was giving an example of how overwhelming force achieved nothing in the case of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He was not making a moral equivalence arguement. Your sad excuse for a point is like saying that students at West Point should not be allowed to study the blitzkrieg because that would make them Nazis. Studying logistics to find examples of success or failure arising from following certain policies is not the same thing as saying everything in history is equivalent.

However, we live in a world where listening to terrorist phone calls sparks outrage that we're infringing on terrorist rights. we're clearly very, very far from that point.
Posted by: American Hawk on July 29, 2006 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

You never actually read what people write, do you? Liberals complaints were that going around FISA laws was illegal and gave the administration too much power without oversight. No one has a problem with wiretapping terrorists. Liberals have a problem when the government feels it can wiretap anyone it feels like without a warrant. Adding more noise does not help fight terrorists, but adding more Arabic translators, stop firing the ones we have for being gay, reducing the ratio between noise and actual intelligence we gather and knocking heads together so that different agencies share vital information helps to fight terrorism. The Bush wiretapping program accomplishes none of these things while also casting a wider net over more static, making it harder to sift through all that additional static to discover which conversations are actually between terrorists. The Bush people just care about increasing the power they lost during the Nixon-Ford years. If they were serious about fighting terrorism, they wouldn't care if our Arabic translators are gay or not.

The rule of law was supposed to be the basis of much of conservative theory, but American conservatives are not followers of classical liberalism. As John Dean has pointed out, they are more authoritarian personalities that are attracted to the Big Chief, even if the Big Chief cannot accomplish anything.

Both of you have based your entire world view on strawmen arguments. It's time to grow up.

Posted by: Reality Man on July 29, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think the people who hate us want rational dialogue with us. We can have a dialogue and it would go something like "The State of Isreal must be destroyed". After all, the crux of the matter is that since the U.N. approved the Arab/Israeli two state solution in 1947, Arabs and Muslim have never accepted it. They hate us because we support the right of the Israel to exist.
Posted by: Berlins on July 29, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Except that hatred was not directed at us until the 1970's, when we drew closer to Israel under Nixon and the beginning of the occupation of the Palestinian terroritories. Only a few years before that Israel had actually fired on a ship in the US Navy. It was Eisenhower who bitchsmacked Israel, France and Britain to get them to stop messing around in Egypt. How often was the US really a target of any terrorism from the Arab or Muslim worlds before the 1970's that weren't directly linked to communist movements?

Both of these links show a lack of terrorist attacks against American targets relating to Israeli-American relations prior to the 1970's:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/target/etc/modern.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_anti-American_terrorist_incidents

Posted by: Reality Man on July 29, 2006 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Al sounds like one of those Israeli "cyber-warriors" that the Jewish government is deploying across the Internet.

Posted by: David B. on July 29, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

American Hawk, you do realize that the discussion here is about Lebanon and Iraq, right? In Lebanon, people are having their rights infringed upon by watching their families killed by cluster bombs. In Iraq, they're having their rights infringed by watching death squads kill their wives outside the front doors of their shops, while they sit powerless to intervene. I would say they have considerably more to worry about than someone tapping their phones, and that we reached the point where force became counterproductive on or about March 23, 2003.

Posted by: brooksfoe on July 29, 2006 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Here's one big difference between America and the Communist Soviet Union: America is liberating the Arab and Muslim world.

Funny how no Arabs or Muslims seem to feel that way. I guess when the American-made bombs are falling on your kids, it's hard to perceive their true liberatory effect with clarity. And when death squads are roaming the streets of your city with Americans either unwilling or unable to stop them, it's hard to really keep in mind that this is all evidence of how you've been liberated.

Posted by: brooksfoe on July 29, 2006 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

This was the message of the Left four years ago. Conservatives wanted war for many reasons, mostly nefarious or hysterical, and liberals had difficulty understanding the outcomes of using war powers and/or difficulty with taking a position that was not a popular platitude involving America's honor after 911. Because Leftists have been marginalized and Liberals so muddled in their response to conservatives, the US has put itself in a similar position as the USSR after it occupied Afghanistan.

The force used so far has not achieved its goal of pacifying the many political factions in either Afghanistan or Iraq. The force used so far has been pretty brutal for the local populace, especially in places like Fallujah. The idea to escalate violence against peoples is repugnant both emotionally and logically. There is no reason why the US cannot be an ally to the enemies we create. Most people in the Middle East, I still think, are open to US friendship and respect our liberty despite US support of the historical wealthy minority rulers, for oil, and Israel. As the violence continues and escalates this support will wane.

Many conservatives still use the excuse the US did not fight to win the war in Viet Nam. They imply that if only the US had completely destroyed N. VN and killed so many more hundreds of thousands with a total war strategy we would have won. What the US should have done in the late '50's is become Ho's friend, and should now reach out and try to satisfy the meager demands of Hezbollah and Iran. That would cool things off immensely. Iraq, since we invaded, is more complicated. We need to pull out and pay hundreds of billions of dollars in reparations. Maybe we could supply some psychological counseling.

Marshall McLuhan said radio was a hot medium informing people to act out, whcih could lead to violence. He said TV was a cool medium informing people to reflect and observe. The UN or other organization should give TV's to everyone in war torn areas and make sure there is plenty of popular programming. I think the Rwanda genocide was partly fueled by the use of radio exhortations to kill the Tutsis. Instead of the UN placing an impotent force in Rwanda at probably great expense, it should have given everyone a small B&W TV and broadcast S. African programming. Combined with a better distribution of wealth, a large underlying historical problem, TV might have prevented the Rwandan event. It might be the best way to help the people in Iraq stop sectarian violence, as long as our military leaves.

Posted by: Hostile on July 29, 2006 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

only the US had completely destroyed N. VN and killed so many more hundreds of thousands with a total war strategy we would have won.

We killed well over 1 million civilians, at a minimum, and it didn't do the trick. We would have had to kill millions more, not hundreds of thousands more. But you're right.

Posted by: brooksfoe on July 29, 2006 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

You can argue, as Kevin does quite effectively, that we can't kill our way to winning the war on terror, therefore we must engage. You can also argue that we have to kill them before they kill us, because clearly Al-Q, Hez, Hamas etc... aren't really interested in rational dialogue. They CAN'T be our only options.

I find the acceptance of 'low-level conflict' to be at least as morally repugnant as large-scale indisciminate bombing campaigns; if you accept that some of your people are going to die because you find any alternative worse, you are abandoning your responsibility as a leader. A leader's moral imperative is to defend and protect the people he leads, and none other. Clearly it's wrong to carpet-bomb to kill a rat, yet the rat must be killed. The rat doesn't respond to reasoned dialogue, he doesn't respond to threat. Our best methods of killing him are unacceptable morally or politically. In short, we do not at present have a mechanism that works when dealing with terrorists and their sponsors.

Rather than the partisan rancor which seems to dominate all debate in this society at present, why is it not possible for reasonable people on both sides to recognize that neither the blue solution of talking the problem to death nor the red solution of turning the region into a sheet of glass has worked, is working or will work?

I applaud the idea of bringing democracy to the ME, because over time that probably will be the salvation of those folks if they find one. But it's not really working yet because lots of the bad guys have the support - whether real or coerced is immaterial - of lots of the people, hence the Hamas election and Hezbollah's stake in the Lebanese government. For democracy to work, everyone has to be on board, and no one can have private armies. You can argue that we should just excise the problem - kill the bad guys - but that would take more time, resources and attention than our political realities allow.

So what's the solution? I'm not that smart. I'm just trying to get people to agree that all the methods we have of dealing with these issues are totally inadequate, and perhaps with that recognition there will come a focus on new ways of thought that don't involve buying into the myths that if we leave them alone, they'll leave us alone or that we can kill enough of them to make them leave us alone. We must focus on a complete solution - one that neither abandons our moral principles nor abandons any of us to victimization by the fasco-fundamentalist Islamic death cult. I'm not that smart, and I haven't heard anyone else who is, but a bunch of really smart people dedicated to the idea of a new solution might be. I don't know how that happens but it occurs to me that someone reading this might have an idea, or an idea that would lead to someone else's idea, etc...

Until another solution is found, all the bloviating by both sides will just be hot air. Terrorsts will continue to kill, and every so often governments will respond 'disproportionally' because tit-for-tat is not really all that great if you're a tit or a tat. Look, the problem has to be solved. Let's figure out how.

Posted by: dilettante on July 29, 2006 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

You want to see genocide! Wait until we ever go into Africa!

Yeah, we're staying out of that one. See how well it's going in Africa right now without us screwing it up?

Posted by: fish on July 29, 2006 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

How well would Soviet strategy and tactics have worked in Afghanistan in the absence of American assistance to the mujaheddin?

I hate to question Kevin's analogy, but it seems to me they would have worked pretty well, to the extent at least of suppressing the insurgency and enabling the Soviet-backed government to stand on its own. Similar applications of massive force against a civilian population had after all many precedents in Russian and Soviet history, and in the history of other parts of the world -- for example, Iraq -- also. They did not always work to suppress insurgencies, but they worked often enough.

The thing to remember, though, is that they worked in the cause of establishing governments that ruled primarily through fear. The track record of massive force applied to the civilian population surrounding insurgents in paving the way for a civilized government, let alone a democracy, is fairly meagre. This is why this tactic is inappropriate for Americans to consider.

Posted by: Zathras on July 29, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

fasco-fundamentalist Islamic death cult

A good way to start would be to abandon your demonizing of people, who mostly have legitimate grievances.

Posted by: Hostile on July 29, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Look to Chechnya to see the outcome of what would have happened in Afghanistan if the US had not been a weapons supplier. The destruction of Chechnya is a model some want to use in Iraq and Lebanon.

Posted by: Hostile on July 29, 2006 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Berlins wrote:
I don't think the people who hate us want rational dialogue with us. We can have a dialogue and it would go something like "The State of Isreal must be destroyed". After all, the crux of the matter is that since the U.N. approved the Arab/Israeli two state solution in 1947, Arabs and Muslim have never accepted it. They hate us because we support the right of the Israel to exist.

Posted by: Berlins on July 29, 2006 at 1:44 PM

Iran sent multiple letters to Bush to negotiate re nukes in the past 3-6 weeks. Bush refused.

Bush has NEVER negotiated substantively or in good faith.

When has Israel or the US taken substantive steps to establish a Palestinian homeland? That objective has not been moved forward, nor has there been any commitment to it: even though it is THE only possible solution to the root causes.

Nor has there been any move to democratic or civilized treatment of internal populations. Address the political issues to remove the military causes. It's the first issue of the American revolution.

I fully support the state of Israel. But their methods are doing great damage to their cause. The inability to hold public debate in American on this is causing OUR country great damage. It's essential that pro-Israel Americans learn to debate their fellow citizens in good faith.

Posted by: SombreroFallout on July 29, 2006 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

You know why Germany is so safe today? Not by killing our enemies, but by making friends with them.

Posted by: Jrgen in Germany on July 29, 2006 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Immediately prior to the invasion of Iraq, John Bolton went on every American TV outlet and virtually screamed that France & Germany "are irrelevant," they "should just shut up and follow orders."

Anybody care to guess how long it took Germany & France to get the message?

That language was no accident.

And it applies equally to American citizens.

Posted by: SombreroFallout on July 29, 2006 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Hostile:

"A good way to start would be to abandon your demonizing of people, who mostly have legitimate grievances"

Pardon me. My intention is not demonization. Legitimate grievances, however, are never solved by blowing people up. That practice, of course, brings into question the legitimacy of those grievances; contrary to intent, you'll actually be less likely to have your *issues* dealt with seriously. You, on the other hand, are likely to be dealt with very seriously indeed.

Excuse the behavior of 'frustration' if you will. It does not nullify the behavior. If the grievances are indeed legitimate then only by *not* indulging in the behavior that the people I so insensitively referred to as a 'fasco-fundamentalist Islamic death cult' have been manifesting for the past 25 or so years will these grievances possibly be addressed. Short version: Stop killing people and we'll listen.

More failed paradigm, though. Can anyone actually address my question?

Posted by: dilettante on July 29, 2006 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

dilettante:

The language Bolton used, quoted in the post immediately prior to yours, is derived directly from the Nuremburg defense used by leaders of the Third Reich: "we were only following orders."

It didn't work then, and the Bush Admin's willingness to use it now nullifies any legitimacy their objectives may have had. We may not have fascist rule, but borrowing fascist methods by ordering sovereign nations around is egregiously reckless.

There's never been ANY willingness to listen to legitimate grievances by Bush. Nor by Israel.

Problem is, that's the fundamental characteristic of legitimate government. Of democratic government.

It will be impossible to "spread democracy," without the actual practice of responsive and therefore legitimate government here at home.

We don't have that right now.

Without that, we've got nothing to spread. No example set. No fingers to point.

Posted by: SombreroFallout on July 29, 2006 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Sombrero:

I believe the proper order is 1) stop blowing people up then 2) we listen.

Is anyone happy with our current leadership? I cetainly am not, but I'm not about to compare them to the Third Reich, either. Besides being indefensible, it doesn't seem likely to help. Seems like we'd be better off concentrating on replacing them. Rhetoric like the above makes me believe that this isn't likely, and that I find a far greater threat to the republic than one administration.

You want change in leadership, find people with a vision that can communicate it. Calling people Nazis isn't going to win any converts. Unfortunately, to win elections, you *do* need converts.

Posted by: dilettante on July 29, 2006 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Berlins writes:
I don't think the people who hate us want rational dialogue with us. We can have a dialogue and it would go something like "The State of Isreal must be destroyed".

We always get this argument from the rabidly pro-Israel crowd. "They" want to destroy Israel, so there's no point in even trying to talk with them. That's how this recent crisis got going. First, Israel refused to recognize the democratically-elected government of the Palestinians, and basically declared war on it, via seizure of tax monies due to the Palestinian peoples and outright military attacks upon them. While this was going on, Hizbullah attacked across the Lebanese border, and instead of going to the legitimately-elected government of Lebanon first (or EVER), Israel just began massive air strikes deep within the nation of Lebanon itself.

According to our enabler government and Israel, these actions were "justifiable" because "they hate us, so they probably don't want rational dialog with us, anyway."

If you look back on 20th century history, you'll find that the Communists hated the US and other western countries. They even declared that they would "bury" us. Did that stop ANY American President from talking and negotiating with the Soviet Union, Communist China, or the Communist government of North Vietnam? Did it stop ANY other government from dealing with the Communists, face to face, using diplomacy (at least at first) instead of air strikes and machine guns? Heck, we even fought WWII as ALLIES of the freedom-hating Communists!

Israel needs to grow up. You deal with the governments that exist; you don't just keep breaking heads until all grovel before you. If you're troubled by a non-governmental organization, you get in touch with the leadership and talk with them. And you don't whine that this "rewards bad behavior." This isn't kindergarten; it's life or death to Palestinians. Take note that YOUR lives or deaths are not the only thing that matters, particularly to other people.

Nobody's going to guarantee you a "right to exist" and if your policy is to kill your neighbors until they do, it's going to end badly. As the German guy, Jorgen, noted, the only good way to destroy your enemies is by making them your friends.

The more of them you kill, the harder this will become.

Posted by: Zandru on July 29, 2006 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

Dilettante:

That's wishful thinking and is an inversion of any pragmatic understanding of Realpolitik.

It completely reverses the practice of responsive and responsible governance upon which all legitimacy of our government rests.

NO one engages in bombing campaigns -- unless they have a grievance that has not been addressed through the political process.

So long as our government does not adhere abroad and at home with our defining principles -- and refuses to become politically responsive -- then we can expect populations denied recourse to political means of pressing their legitimate grievances to resort to violent means.

Please note: I did not call Bush & Co. names, but merely identified the facts of their actual language. I did not label or smear them as people -- I merely identified an attitude and the same method/compulsion that everyone else has. So stay on subject.

The language is literally the same, so do not patronize me. How do YOU account for the series of decisions antithetical to America principle?? Let's go. Justify, excuse, or ignore?

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/7/29/83838/8216

Posted by: SombreroFallout on July 29, 2006 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Al (not expecting a response):

If al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, etc. hates us because of our "freedom and democracy", why didn't they attack us in 1801 or 1901 or 1955 or any time before 2001? Doesn't make much sense to say something like that....

Actually, bin Laden has told us why he is bent on our destruction and it has nothing to do with our "freedom and democracy". It has everything to do with our unwavering support of Israel and it's unending oppression of the Palestinian people. Get a clue, man. You are just a dupe for Bush's propaganda, aren't you?

SK

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on July 29, 2006 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

SK asks "If al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, etc. hates us because of our "freedom and democracy", why didn't they attack us in 1801 or 1901 or 1955 or any time before 2001?

Arghhh!!! First, Al-Qaeda didn't come into existance until the late 1980s, so they couldn't have attacked us - or anyone - until then. Second, they did. Remember the World Trade Center bombing of 1993? The attack on the USS Cole in 2000? Various other embassy bombings throughout the world between those dates?

Your paragraph 2 is pretty good, though. Our support for all of Israel's actions, plus US troops moving permanently into Saudi Arabia, were the proximate causes of the second (and conclusive) attack on the World Trade Center.

Posted by: Zandru on July 29, 2006 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

This creep Podhoretz ends his essay in the New York Post: Can it be that the moral greatness of our civilization - its astonishing focus on the value of the individual above all - is endangering the future of our civilization as well?

Since the moral greatness of the USA is endangering its civilization, I guess he would prefer it to have the moral creepiness of Israel.

Posted by: Bob M on July 29, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Great attempt at moral equivalence. Now America is like the Soviet Union. What next? Compare Bush to Joseph Stalin just like leftist Howard Dean compared Katherine Harris to Stalin?

Methods are not the same as intentions. You're smarter than this, on occasion.

Here's one big difference between America and the Communist Soviet Union: America is liberating the Arab and Muslim world. The Communists were trying to engage in a Communist dictatorship of them.

Liberation through small-scale genocide! We'll kill off most of you, but some will be left over to take advanatage of capitalism! Buy a Big Mac today!

Pure genius, Al. Pure...genius.

Posted by: Dys Cent on July 29, 2006 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

"Al" and his "friends" are actually gay communist liberal Al Qaeda sympathizers who are trying to trick us into being as stupid as George W. Bush so that they can keep pushing foward their evil agenda at our expense and the maximum loss of life. And so far it's working beautifully! *snicker*

Posted by: Kenji on July 29, 2006 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

Stop killing people and we'll listen.

Two things bother me about your post, D. Your point of view indicates Israel's enemies are to blame for starting the violence and that Israel and/or its supporters in the US have a superior morality. Knowing who cast the first stone is not going to help resolve the conflict and Israel's and the US's grievous use of overwhelming force and systemic oppression of the Iraqi, Palestinians and Southern Lebanese negates whatever moral high ground Israel or the US may have ever had. A long time ago. What is needed now is for the strong to concede to many of the needs of its weak opponents. The costs would be very low and the benefits very high. This is the kind of gesture that the world is waiting for.

Posted by: Hostile on July 29, 2006 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

... the first step is to discard the fatuous notion that more violence is the obvious answer when the current amount of violence isn't doing the job. History suggests very strongly that the truth is exactly the opposite.

I guess it depends on your goals, doesn't it? Less violence just isn't apt to bring back the baby Jesus.

Posted by: RaptureReady on July 29, 2006 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

I disagree with Kevin's bald assertion that the Soviet Union created AQ.

For one thing, AQ is a conspiracy. Random bombing creates fear, mistrust and dislike, but it is not a magic fairy dust that makes a consiracy arise like a monster in a role-playing game.

Second, it would be more realistic to argue that jihadists created the Soviet response. Before the coup and Soviet invasion there was a liberal republic of Afghanistan, building schools and clinics and staffing them with women. These efforts at modernization were attacked by the warlords and jihadists.

To not understand that the CIA for a half century has supported minority factions and drug-smugglers in countries we disapprove of is simply not to understand our history. In the 50s the drug trade financed the war on leftist unions in Italy, in the 60s the drug trade financed the tribal wars in the mountains of Vietnam, in the 70s the drug trade financed the war against the liberal government of Afghanistan, in the 80s the drug trade financed the wars in Central America, and in the 90s the drug trade financed the Albanian insurrection. Get a clue!

In fact, even today we're supporting Islamic terrorists inside Iraq, and turning a blind eye to the wholesale pardoning of the drug lords of Colombia.

In a similar vein, we did not 'create' the problems in Iraq today. While Saddam had a tight lid on the existing boiling cauldron of anger and desire, there could be no doubt that Saddam would eventually pass, and with him the regime that could prevent the coming democracy. This was well known even in the 80s.

Considering all the known facts, it's an inescapable fact that the creation of AQ was a 'masterstroke' of American covert policy- one that subsequently went dreadfully wrong.

Posted by: serial catowner on July 29, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

Serial Catowner and others have done the thread proud, but I nearly had a coffee-up-nose moment when Hostile, in a very good post, opined "maybe we could provide psychological counselling". It wasn't because I approved.

Posted by: opit on July 29, 2006 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

Moral equivalence is actually very relevant in global contexts.
Most of us believe in freedom and democracy, but when when those concepts are exteneded to incorporate bombing civilians (pick your favorite example, mine are Hiroshima and Nagasaki), I dare to propose that AQ et al still has a long way to go.
I'll go as far as considering capital punishment, but only on a individual basis, please.

Now, can we skip the "but we have better motives"-argument and look at the naked consequences instead?
If you go abroad and start killing non-combatants at random, you are on very shaky ground, no matter your convictions.

Posted by: OmniDane on July 29, 2006 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

Hostile: Look to Chechnya to see the outcome of what would have happened in Afghanistan if the US had not been a weapons supplier. The destruction of Chechnya is a model some want to use in Iraq and Lebanon.

Lotsa things wrong about the equivalence of Chechnya and Afghanistan, starting with Afgnah. having over 25 times as many people and 40 times the area. Add to this the change in the availability of opium in Afghan. for Soviet soldiers to zone out.

Israel might make the model work in S. Lebanon if we keep supplying them with munitions.

Posted by: natural cynic on July 29, 2006 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

I think if we create free-fire zones throughout Israel and systematically bomb Israeli villages until they become Christians, we will eventually be able to solve the problem.

But I fear that the United States might be too squeamish to kill enough Jews to make a significant difference, although, one can only hope.

Posted by: pal on July 30, 2006 at 2:38 AM | PERMALINK

Lotsa things wrong about the equivalence of Chechnya and Afghanistan, starting with Afgnah. having over 25 times as many people and 40 times the area. Add to this the change in the availability of opium in Afghan. for Soviet soldiers to zone out.

Israel might make the model work in S. Lebanon if we keep supplying them with munitions.
Posted by: natural cynic on July 29, 2006 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

We've been supplying Israel with arms for years and they haven't been able to stop Hamas, the PLO, Islamic Jihad or Hezbollah despite all the time that Israel has spent in Lebanon and the Palestinian terroritories. We haven't been stingy about these arms either. Israel has long been our greatest recipient of military aid and had more leeway than any country in how they can spend it. You would also be surprised how available a lot of drugs are in Lebanon. If Iran can smuggle arms to Hezbollah, why can't someone smuggle drugs to the IDF? Iran also has many drugs as well, some coming from Afghanistan. If Israel continues to be violent and to occupy southern Lebanon, one shouldn't be surprised if different Lebanese communities band together to force Israel off of its land. People who make this claim never are able to say how exactly Israel is going to accomplish this task. The last time Israel tried this in Lebanon, Hezbollah was formed to drive Israel out of Lebanon. Israel went into Lebanon in the first place to chase the PLO. The PLO was created in response to the Israeli presence in Gaza and the West Bank. Every time Israel tries this, some new terrorist group sprouts up, thus compounding Israel's problems. In previous threads, I've listed a long list of failed attempts at violently cracking down on insurgencies that vary in their geographic location and type, the insurgents' identities, etc. Even the highly-regarded Mossad has shown itself to be rather lacking in this regard. How much more can the US subsidize Israel's failed policies and somehow expect them to win, especially when we are still in Iraq and Afghanistan, need to keep troops in South Korea and Japan, among other places in the world and continue to have a giant budget deficit while cutting taxes?

Posted by: Reality Man on July 30, 2006 at 3:03 AM | PERMALINK

Correction: "People who make this claim never are able to say how exactly Israel is going to accomplish this task." should be "People who make your claim never are able to say how exactly Israel is going to accomplish this task."

Posted by: Reality Man on July 30, 2006 at 3:05 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin:
Bravo! It's good to see you getting your brain around what is happening and squeezing a little more.

Posted by: ChetBob on July 30, 2006 at 4:08 AM | PERMALINK

It's fashionable these days to suggest that the United States itself is to blame for the founding of al-Qaeda because we're the ones who armed the mujahidin, but that's far too facile.

That explanation for the founding of al Qaeda is indeed far too facile. But it is not facile to suggest that the US basically ignoring the plight of Afghanistan after it had armed the mujahidin and after having helped drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan, may have contributed to the creation of an environment that eased the creation of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, with its al Qaeda allies.

Posted by: raj on July 30, 2006 at 6:43 AM | PERMALINK

dilettante: "I believe the proper order is 1) stop blowing people up then 2) we listen."

In most cases, they started blowing people up precisely because no one was listening. Why would they think if they go back to being peaceful that someone will listen this time? It is clear that won't work. The only way the people in power ever listen is for insurgents to make it impossible for them to be ignored.

Not so long ago there was a "cease fire" in the Palestinian territories. Hamas stopped blowing people up. No one listened. In fact, the Israelis continued, during the cease fire, to assassinate Hamas' leadership (going after criminals, dontchaknow). So, after a while, Hamas returned to blowing people up.

Expecting terrorists to stop committing terrorist acts before you will talk or even listen is a non-starter. Terrorists would be complete idiots to do that. The practical thing for them to do is to ratchet up the violence until you are forced to listen. The practical thing for you to do is to listen now.

With this much ill will and so many terrorist actions on both sides of this conflict, "standing on principles" like this is just a vote for the status quo (i.e. a vote for Israel).

Posted by: shargash on July 30, 2006 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

I think the idea is that if your neighbors hate you, attack and bomb them until they are afraid to hate you.

Bush and Olmert are like the ideal halloween victim. Even if they are wearing gasoline soaked carpet slippers, when someone leaves a burning bag of dog crap on their door step, they can't resist jumping up and down on it.

Posted by: wmcq on July 30, 2006 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

This is what happens when the Western Progressive Ivory Tower (Said, Chomsky etc) revise history in order accomodate an ideal which denied evidence of 1400 years of Caliphate.

Islamism has been around since 635 AD, not January 1, 2000 and will continue long after December 31, 2007.

Posted by: syn on July 30, 2006 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

For all those who wish to blame Isreal and America and who adhere to the Geneva Convention, why hasn't anyone questioned the fact that Hizbollah does not wear a uniform yet considers itself an army?

And shooting their rockets and bombs amid woman and children?

Are these acts by Hizbollah in direct violation of the Geneva Convention.

For all those who think this will end when Bush completes his term in office will be surprise to learn that the media bubble you have lived under all these years has gone bust. Bill Moyer's bullshit isn't going to work anymore.

Posted by: syn on July 30, 2006 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

If I knew that the KKK had militia armed with 10,000 bombs decided to kidnap two Mexican soldiers and hold them hostage in Toronto and if the Mexican goverment demanded those soldiers be returned or else America should consider this an act of war yet America ignored Mexico's request while the KKK, from locations surrounded by black women and children, began bombing Mexico because the KKK hates Catholics, I as an American citizen would demand that my government disarm and demantle the KKK while returning the Mexican soldiers to Mexico.

I get the feeling that some on this board would just allow the KKK to continue to bomb Mexico because the KKK supplied humanitarian relief to poor Socialists and that Mexican Catholics deserved to be bombed anyway just because they are Catholic.

Posted by: syn on July 30, 2006 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Got her from Instapundit. I will never forgive him for sending me into this dysfunctional sewer.

Posted by: Lee on July 30, 2006 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

But we'd better get good at it fast, and the first step is to discard the fatuous notion that more violence is the obvious answer when the current amount of violence isn't doing the job. History suggests very strongly that the truth is exactly the opposite.

Except for our victories over Germany and Japan. The law of deminishing returns applies to all human endeavor, and your Soviet example certainly fits that bill, but to suggest that wars aren't won by killing more of your enemies is at best highly ignorant, and to suggest that the history of warfare suggests this is innane.

I suggest you try discerning the difference between "war" and "violence." You use the two concepts interchangably above, and they're not the same thing. Once you figure out what war actually is, then you might understand what's required to end one.

yours/
peter.

Posted by: Peter Jackson on July 30, 2006 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

Syn:

"If I knew that the KKK had militia armed with 10,000 bombs decided to kidnap two Mexican soldiers and hold them hostage in Toronto and if the Mexican goverment demanded those soldiers be returned or else America should consider this an act of war yet America ignored Mexico's request while the KKK, from locations surrounded by black women and children, began bombing Mexico because the KKK hates Catholics, I as an American citizen would demand that my government disarm and demantle the KKK while returning the Mexican soldiers to Mexico."

This liberal would too, and so would most of my liberal friends and family, as well as the liberals on this board.

It's also true that we (the U.S.) would probably not allow the KKK, or any other NGO to have 10,000 bombs. I say probably because if the KKK or another rightwing NGO were to attempt to acquire 10,000 bombs and the government were to try to take them away, I can't help wondering if the NRA would prevent them from doing so!

But why do none of our nutgroups in this country have that kind of weaponry, and why are they not bombing Mexico? In other words, why are they less fanatical than Hezbollah/Hamas/Al Qaida? Or are we Americans automatically morally superior to Middle Easterners? I don't think so, and some of our recent actions in the Middle East hardly put us on a higher moral plane. But we don't have the conditions here in the U.S. which give rise to the particular types of actions of Hezbollah et al. Yet.

One of the reasons is that, as oppressed as some of our nutjobs feel, we as a nation are not occupied by a foreign power with a very different culture, speaking a very different language and not making a whole lot of attempt to speak ours.

True, not all Islamic nations are currently under foreign occupation per se. But their governments are more autocratic that ours is and their people have fewer opportunities for expressing discontent through nonviolent means. Much as I loathe the Bush junta and believe they would like to oppress us, they lack the power to do so, and I don't believe that they will gain that power, in the long run.

"I get the feeling that some on this board would just allow the KKK to continue to bomb Mexico because the KKK supplied humanitarian relief to poor Socialists and that Mexican Catholics deserved to be bombed anyway just because they are Catholic."

As is true of so many of you conservatives, since you don't do nuance, you fail to understand the position of most liberals. We DEPLORE Hezbollah's kidnapping Israeli soldiers, and bombing, and we also DEPLORE Israel's bombing in Lebanon. Why can you not understand this? How hard is it?

As for your scenario above, a far more equivalent scenario would be the following: some rogue Quebecois separatists kidnap a couple of our Border Patrol agents. They also lob the odd bomb into our more northern states. They are reported to hide behind women and children (it is in dispute whether Hezbollah has actually done this to any degree). We retaliate by bombing huge swaths of southern B.C., southern Alberta, southern Ontario, most of Quebec, bomb airports in Ontario, Montreal, and Vancouver, and kill 10 times as many people as the rogue Quebecois kill of our citizens.

Posted by: Wolfdaughter on July 30, 2006 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

"The sooner we get it through our collective thick skulls that we will never, ever be able to kill our way to peace, the sooner we can begin rational dialogue with those who hate us." Kevin Drum

We killed our way to peace in World War II...is that experience exempted from "never, ever"?

And what kind of rational talk do you want to have with Ahmadinejad? Will you rationally discuss whether the total number of Jewish Holocaust victims was six million or zero? Will you rationally discuss the merits of allowing psychotics to possess nuclear weapons? What is your template for reasoning with someone who sincerely believes that Allah wants him to engender the end of the world?

Let's arm you with the benefit of hindsight: Hitler hated us. How would you have dazzled him with reason?

Posted by: ellen marie on July 30, 2006 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

I fully support Hezbollah. I think Nasrallah is a bold hero of his people who will win victory over the Zionist dogs, God willing.

I want the Islamic world to have nuclear weapons, so we can wage nuclear Jihad against the evil Western countries and bring America to its knees. If we commit mass suicide in the process, it is in the name of Jihad, and we will all find our places in Paradise.

(There had better be enough black-eyed virgins to go around for everybody.)

I fear American conservatives as a worthy opponent, but American liberals are such fools. Oh how we love to use them and their hypocritical love for peace. May there always be American liberals. May they re-take the House and Senate. O Allah how I wish John Kerry were president!

I am a righteous Jihadi. I am allowed to do many things forbidden to ordinary Muslims, because I fight for my people. For instance, eating Jewish babies for breakfast. With a side of falafel and grilled to perfection, it makes a meal fit for a martyr-in-training!

I love Palestine. I love Osama bin Laden. I adored Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, though my full-length poster of him in my spare soldier's cubicle needs some new tape in the back. How I thrill to the smell of burning Shi'ite flesh!

I have a big beard just like the Prophet -- but it's a little scraggly. I wish I could trim it, but the hadiths tell me not to touch it.

Damn.

Posted by: Radical Islamist on July 30, 2006 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

ellen marie:

Kim Jong Il is certifiable and he has nuclear weapons.

Your point?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on July 30, 2006 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: dd on July 30, 2006 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting so according to Kevin all out war does not win wars it merely makes more enemies. Hmmmm....wonder what happened in Japan and Germany. We killed enough people and the rest of them stopped wanting to fight. The end state of war is when one side breaks the other sides will to make war. Japan was a lot more dedicated than any of these Islamic thugs we are fighting. When we had killed enough of them they decided to stop wanting to fight.

The idea that wars are not won by killing people is dangerous. This does not mean that we have to kill all the people or millions or any number...we merely have to kill enough of them to make them stop wanting to fight. They themselves determine when the killing stops.

All the nonsense of current wars prolong and delay the day of reckoning they do not avoid it. When a country sends signals as we are given to doing we are only sending a signal of weakness to our current enemies.

Posted by: Pierre Legrand on July 30, 2006 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

"Small bombs shaped as toys or other attractive objects were used with the intent to maim children, and these caused many livestock casualties as well."

Not exactly. If I recall correctly, the bombs "shaped as toys" were the imaginary creation of a CIA agent who passed a story along to some reporters. The reporters didn't do their homework, since there were no actual "toy" bombs. The truth was, there were bomblets that had an interesting shape and color, but they certainly weren't designed to look like toys.

Of course when fighting the Evil Empire, no one wants to correct the record as to the exact physical nature of the ordinance. Better to just believe a story, especially when there is so much evidence.

Speaking of which, can anyone find a picture? Even one?

Posted by: jon on July 31, 2006 at 12:12 AM | PERMALINK

All the nonsense of current wars prolong and delay the day of reckoning they do not avoid it. When a country sends signals as we are given to doing we are only sending a signal of weakness to our current enemies.

Posted by: Caitlin on July 31, 2006 at 5:36 AM | PERMALINK

The fight against Islamic jihadism is essentially a vast, global counterinsurgency, something that the United States is lousy at. But we'd better get good at it fast

We know how to FIGHT a couterinsurgency. What we lack is the political will to prosecute an insurgency until we achieve victory. The reason we lack this will is because leftists and Democrats will always attempt to undermine support for any war.

All war plans by any insurgency against the United States are built and dependent upon the Democratic party undermining America's will to fight.

Posted by: HA on July 31, 2006 at 7:17 AM | PERMALINK

Some day Israel and the USA will learn you can't fight your way to peace you've got to die your way there.

So self-defense, just foolish nonsense. Trying to make the world a better place by taking out dictators just doesn't work. If you're outnumbered by 15 to 1 maybe we'll consider letting you have a "proportionate" response, but nothing that could let you win... just enough to feel you're doing something while you die.

Lie down and die, wait for your killers to come. Don't fight, just give in. Peace is the only answer...

This message is directed at the western world and Israel, Islamic nations and dictatorships need not abide by the above statements.

Any idea how this will turn out? Well heck, history shows that once a side backs down and disarms, they win. Thats how we got out of WW1, WW2, the Civil war, the Spanish-American war, heck even the Revolutionary war. If George Washington hadn't had the strength of character to back down in the face of oppression we'd never be here. If he'd fought the British we'd probably all have been killed in a series of unending wars.

Because history shows, violence doesn't solve anything.

Posted by: Gekkobear on July 31, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Gekkobear

hehe...much more eloquently stated than my dismal attempts.

Posted by: Pierre Legrand on August 1, 2006 at 1:47 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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