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Tilting at Windmills

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July 30, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

GLOBAL COUNTERINSURGENCY, PART 3....Glenn Reynolds responds here to my post on Saturday criticizing the "bomb 'em into the stone age" crowd, and says via email, "It's possible you might even agree with my suggestion." Let's find out!

But first, an aside: my comment about "casual genocide" wasn't aimed at a few random blog commenters, as Glenn suggests. I was responding primarily to John Podhoretz, who suggested pretty clearly in his New York Post column last week that we made a mistake in Iraq by not killing enough Sunni men between the ages of 15 and 35; secondarily to the Ann Coulters and Michael Ledeens of the world, who regularly imply that our only path to victory is to pulverize ever more of the Middle East; and more generally to all the conservative hawks who think the main reason we're not doing better in Iraq is because we just haven't been willing to fight a tough enough war. So that's where that came from.

But on to the main topic. I believe that our fight against Islamic jihadism is analogous on a global scale to a counterinsurgency. To use the hoary phrase, we'll succeed by "winning hearts and minds," and conventional warfare just can't do that. In fact, it's mostly counterproductive: it won't succeed in killing the guerrillas and it will lose us the support of the local citizenry, which in turn will make the insurgency even more formidable. Lebanon is serving as a pretty good case study of this right now. Here is Glenn's general response:

It's not so much a question of more or less violence as it is a question of applying the proper amount of violence to the proper people....In the 1990s, we followed the "ignore it and maybe it'll go away" strategy. As I've noted before, I can't blame people for that it was the strategy that I favored, too, based on what I knew at the time, as I thought that if we waited Islamic Jihadism would collapse under the weight of its own idiocy. But it clearly didn't work. I don't know whether the current strategy is correct or not, though it seems to me that so long as we give Syria and Iran (and for that matter, Saudi Arabia) a pass, we're never going to get much of a handle on this problem.

So do we agree? I can't tell for sure (what's the opposite of giving Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia "a pass"?), but I doubt it. We may agree in theory on the idea of conceiving the overall war against jihadism as something like a counterinsurgency, but in practice I think Glenn will support conventional war at every turn. Conversely, I believe that the evidence of the past half century clearly suggests that conventional war, no matter how brutally prosecuted, is ineffective against guerrillas. If we don't have the strength to face up to this and stop fighting conventional wars just because that's the kind of war we're comfortable with, the end result is likely be a nuclear bomb in downtown Manhattan.

So what's the alternative? I believe it's fundamentally nonmilitary and revolves around engagement: trade agreements, security pacts, genuine support for grassroots democracy, a willingness to practice the same international rules we preach, etc. The idea is to slowly but steadily promote democratic rule, liberal institutions, education of women, and international commerce. When military responses are necessary, they should be short, highly targeted, and designed to piss off the surrounding citizenry as little as possible. This will, needless to say, take a very long time and a lot of self restraint, but it won't succeed at all if every few years we set things back a decade with a conventional war.

And what if this doesn't work? What if we make progress among the great majority, but the committed jihadists retain enough support to become dangerous on a much broader scale than they are today? What if they nuke Manhattan anyway?

If that happens, then we really do have World War III on our hands. There are no guarantees of success, after all. But a series of conventional wars pretty much guarantees this outcome, whereas the counterinsurgency mindset at least has a chance of success. If we're serious about our future, it's the best option we have.

UPDATE: On second thought, I really should include this comment from Glenn's post too:

The real problem in the war on terror, I think, is a relatively small number of terror-backers in Iran and Saudi Arabia. Why aren't we waging unconventional warfare against them? They undoubtedly have toes we can step on in the form of business interests, overseas accounts, vacation homes, etc. Would we make more progress by targeting those sorts of things, rather than fighting their cannon fodder in the field?

If his suggestion that we stop "fighting their cannon fodder in the field" means that he agrees that conventional warfare isn't working, then maybe we agree more than I think. I'm not sure if that's his point, though.

Kevin Drum 6:12 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (149)

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Comments

Somebody has to go first.

Posted by: Global Citizen on July 30, 2006 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

First stop killing women and children with those precision bombs.

Posted by: nut on July 30, 2006 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

What is meant by "liberal institutions"? Sorry for the dumb question.

Posted by: kgb on July 30, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

In the 1990s, we followed the "ignore it and maybe it'll go away" strategy.

What does he mean "we"? As I recall, Clinton was launching bombs at Al Qeda and prosecuting them. His administration also warned Bush that terrorism would be their number one priority. What did the "we" that Reynolds do? The kept screaming "wag the dog" and "Impeachment."

Glenn Reynolds is not a serious person, why would you even want to agree with him?

Posted by: Martin on July 30, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

The nice thing is that Glenn Reynolds now cannot claim that we already tried Drum's alternative. That is, the usual response to KD's suggestions in the third-to-last paragraph is that we've already been doing all that, and it hasn't worked. But GR says that the 90s strategy was "ignore it," so the usual gambit of saying the peaceful solutions have been tried and failed is, hopefully, barred to him. Unless, I guess, he claims that all non-military solutions are equivalent to ignoring it and doing nothing.

Speaking as someone who has worked in the (peaceful) development and democracy-building community, we could get a hell of a lot done for a few hundred billion dollars. We should try it sometime.

Posted by: Burt on July 30, 2006 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

Just read this on the AP site - Israel is calling a 48-hour moratorium on airstrikes after the catastrophe last night in which 56 civilians - 34 children and 12 adult women - were killed as they slept when the building they took shelter in was bombed and they were buried alive under tons of rubble.

JERUSALEM - Israel agreed to a 48-hour suspension of aerial activity over southern Lebanon after its bombing of a Lebanese village on Sunday that killed a number of children...
Posted by: Global Citizen on July 30, 2006 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin sould be applauded for at least not responding to the other idiot, Hugh Hewitt.

Posted by: nut on July 30, 2006 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

Neutron bombs.

If you want to kill lots of people economically, without too much fallout or even destroying the infrastructure, they're the only way to go.

On the plus side they're especially well suited to dry climates like the Middle East (the hydrogen in water vapor absorbs neutrons and reduces their effective kill radius).

One thing I hate is a timid half-assed hawk. If you're going to kill people, then do it right.

Posted by: alex on July 30, 2006 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

A "liberal institution" is any institution that the Right Wing decided to label such. Public schools, public health clinics, you know, those things that are essentially not essential, but merely a drain on the capital resources of a society.

Posted by: Global Citizen on July 30, 2006 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

One thing I hate is a timid half-assed hawk. If you're going to kill people, then do it right.

And that means to stop pretending that opposing forces give a rats ass about killing innocent women and children. Who was the cavalry officer (Gen. Crook maybe?)during the plains indians wars who gave the order to exterminate the entire village, includiong the women and children because "nits make lice."

Posted by: Global Citizen on July 30, 2006 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

Spammers hit this thread early.

Posted by: Global Citizen on July 30, 2006 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

Liberal institutions are those institutions that the conservatives want to demolish in USA while simultaneously claiming that they want to establish such institutions in middle eastern countries after killing off all the able bodied middle eastern males between 14 and 55.

Posted by: nut on July 30, 2006 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

Like trashing our constitution while insisting the Iraqi's write one that the Washington aparatchiks agrre to.

We aren't using ours anymore, we could have just given it to them.

Posted by: Global Citizen on July 30, 2006 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

I believe that our fight against Islamic jihadism is analogous on a global scale to a counterinsurgency.

Islamic Jihadism is being fought by middle-class Muslims who feel that their governments, or their father's governments in the case of Western Muslims, are not defending Muslims from Western oppression.

From a saying of Muhammad:
"The Muslims (the Ummah) are like the limbs of a man, where if the eye hurts the whole body feels pain and if the head hurts, the whole body feels pain and suffering."

American Christians have found a home in the U.S. military. They defend Christianity by defending the nation. It gives them an outlet. Where are the Timothy McVeigh's and the Right-Wing militias? Where is the talk of race wars in the U.S.? We don't see this type of activity because the people drawn toward this type of violence are getting their fill of blood and guts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Muslims need an outlet for their anger. We need to help create strong nations in the Middle-East, with real armies, armies that can defend themselves. This is the only thing that will return the world to the natural balance we have faced for centuries, with clear rules of action, and no need to entertain the benefits of genocide.

Posted by: enozinho on July 30, 2006 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry to besmirch General Crook - it was a Colorado militas Colonel named Chivington, the bloodthirsty asshole who wanted to be the Colorado congressman when CO finally became a state - his hero status faded, his feet of clay were revealed, and he never went to congress.

Posted by: Global Citizen on July 30, 2006 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

The Middle East has gone to hell ever since Lizzie BuMILLER went on book leave!

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on July 30, 2006 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

Glenn said: "In the 1990s, we followed the "ignore it and maybe it'll go away" strategy. As I've noted before, I can't blame people for that it was the strategy that I favored, too, based on what I knew at the time, as I thought that if we waited Islamic Jihadism would collapse under the weight of its own idiocy. But it clearly didn't work. I don't know whether the current strategy is correct or not, though it seems to me that so long as we give Syria and Iran (and for that matter, Saudi Arabia) a pass, we're never going to get much of a handle on this problem."

Why would Syria be amongst a list of countries one would be waiting for a hoped for collapse of Islamic Jihadism? Have Baathists become Islamic Jihadists? I doubt it. We didn't give the other major Baathist regime "a pass" - Saddam's Iraq - and as a consequence we may have very well dramatically *increased* the influence of Islamic Jihadists. Of course, Syria tries to use Islamic Jihadists to further their goals (and they try to use Syria to further theirs), but it seems like a gross oversimplification and ultimately not very fruitful to lump Syria in with the Islamic Jihadist crowd.

Posted by: TK on July 30, 2006 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

"ignore it and maybe it'll go away"

Actually, we never really did this. We continued to support corrupt ME regimes, occupy holy Islamic land, and generally muck about in their part of the world. We would not like them mucking about in our hemisphere, you can bet your ass. Now that oil prices have risen, maybe the next Dem president will take us down a road where we won't need to import ME oil.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on July 30, 2006 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin continues to be a smart guy who is almost incohernet on matters of terrrorism and military. Read what he wrote:

"There are no guarantees of success, after all. But a series of conventional wars pretty much guarantees this outcome [a nuclear bomb in Manhattan], whereas the counterinsurgency approach at least has a chance of success."

He not only provides no factual basis for his conclusions, the is no conceivable factual basis for them. They are pure speculation by him.

The two alternatives posed by Kevin are: (1) exercise of military power in a conventional war manner; and (2) "engagement: trade agreements, security pacts, genuine support for grassroots democracy, a willingness to practice the same international rules we preach, etc. . . . When military responses are necessary, they should be short, highly targeted, and designed to piss off the surrounding citizenry as little as possible."

While I think Kevin's "engagement" approach is muddleheaded liberalism, my point it that he has no factual basis to know the conclusions of either approach, let alone naively "guaranteeing" results. It is a non-serious comment. The alternatives are not even correct -- those who advocate robust exercise of miliary power do not say it should be in a conventional war setting.

One of the problems we face in figuring out the best approach is that we do not have much relevant history to go on. The exercise of miliary power stopped the Nazis in WWII and Sadaam when he tried to take over the Middle East; the threat of military power stopped the Soviets. The notion that "engagement" defeats jihadists seems a liberal anti-miliary pipedream; I cannot think of past success with such an approach. I think the best approach would be robust use of military power combined with some of Kevin's "engagement" theories.

Posted by: brian on July 30, 2006 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, one more point. I knew an upper-middle-class Libyian-American who left high school at 16 to fight Serbs in Bosnia. He learned how to shoot a gun, throw a grenade, but never saw any action. He was driven by the same thing that drives most young men to join the armed-forces, a desire to help what he saw as his people.

If there was a free country in the Muslim world, representing it's people, guys like him would have flocked to join them. At least then, we would know where they are. Right now, nobody knows where this guy is or where he will choose to get his rocks off.

Posted by: enozinho on July 30, 2006 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe in a Jewish community center in Seattle?

Posted by: Global Citizen on July 30, 2006 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Why would Syria be amongst a list of countries one would be waiting for a hoped for collapse of Islamic Jihadism?

Hama Massacre

Hezbollah is a buffer between Syria and Israel, nothing more. Islamic Radicalism is bad for Syria internally, and useful as a deterrent to Israel.

Posted by: enozinho on July 30, 2006 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

"Sadaam when he tried to take over the Middle East"

This is just stupid. Sadaam never "tried to take over the Middle East."

Brian, you are a moron. This quote suffices to stand in for all the rest of your moronic commentary that you attempt to pass off as analysis.

Please shut up and listen to others. You might actually learn something.

Posted by: Joel on July 30, 2006 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

Joel; Brian is a perfect example of the failure of "ignore him and he'll go away." We've been ignoring him for at least as long as I've been coming here. He never gets any smarter and never shuts up.

Posted by: Global Citizen on July 30, 2006 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

And with that slam, I say good day. I have to get ready to go back to that sweltering frickin' city. See you next time.

Posted by: Global Citizen on July 30, 2006 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

Joel,

What as Sadaam attempting to do when he took over Kuwait and was poised on the border of Saudi Arabia? I thought the consensus was he intended to take over Saudi Arabia and then move on to even bigger things.

Posted by: brian on July 30, 2006 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe in a Jewish community center in Seattle?

I believe that guy was Pakistani. The guy I refferenced above, on a personal level, was one of the sweetest, most gentle people I have ever met in my life. As far as I am concerned, guys like him make up the best part of our military. People who give up comfort to be engaged in what they see as the greater good. But just like our soldiers, they can be led astray.

My point is that with the proper outlet, Islamic Jihadism can be reduced to a minor annoyance. At this point, I'd settle for the days when all we had to worry about was lone gunmen.

Posted by: enozinho on July 30, 2006 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

If Iraq weren't turning out exactly the way they planned from the start, would Rumsfeld have said, so idly, when asked if Iraq was getting closer to a civil war,

http://thinkprogress.org/2006/07/30/rumsfeld-deranged/

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I dont know. You know, I thought about that last night, and just musing over the words, the phrase, and what constitutes it. If you think of our Civil War, this is really very different. If you think of civil wars in other countries, this is really quite different. There is - there is a good deal of violence in Baghdad and two or three other provinces, and yet in 14 other provinces theres very little violence or numbers of incidents. So its a - its a highly concentrated thing. It clearly is being stimulated by people who would like to have what could be characterized as a civil war and win it, but Im not going to be the one to decide if, when or at all.


They created Iraq like this purposefully as a new venue of proxy war.

Posted by: cld on July 30, 2006 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin's posts have no meat on their bones. He even misunderstands the war in Iraq, characterizing it as a "Conventional War" when it is clearly a counter-insurgency. Successful counter-insurgency is about representing the political interests of most of the people while militarility defeating those who oppose the political interests of most of the people.

Insurgent fighters are a fighting force like any other.. they need training, resupply, arms. Kevin suggests that any military conflict would be brief and designed not to upset the locals. What if 30% of the population of a country decides to take that country to war, or decides to genocide the other 70%? What if (ex: Darfur) the people who are behaving in a way all decent people should abhor are not willing to listen to our soft power? What is the plan to deal with the nexus of state instability, thugocracy and trans-national non-state warfare? Never mind Iran, what's your plan for Columbia now that aggressive military force combined with political progress is out?

Sometime a problem, like say.. an armed force occupying half of Lebanon which is supplied and trained by Iran and supplied by Syria which refuses to disarm even after the "occupiers" have left.. really does have a military solution. When Kevin calls for operations to be limited and performed in such a way that no innocents are hurt despite Hezbollah basing in civilian areas, he exposes his complete lack of understanding of what counter-insurgent war is or how it is successfully prosecuted.

Also left unaddressed in Kevin's foreign policy vision is what is to be done for all of those suffering NOW while we gradually push our soft power. I guess those suffering in Darfur are on their own.. can you feel the progress?

=darwin

Posted by: Darwin on July 30, 2006 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

So what's the alternative? I believe it's fundamentally nonmilitary and revolves around engagement...

Exactly right. For a contemporary treatment (also short and easy-to-read) see Challenges in Fighting a Global Insurgency, David Barno (Lt. Gen. Ret.), Parameters, Summer 2006. Barno draws heavily on The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century, Col. Thomas Hammes USMC. (The review referenced at Amazon can be found here).

Posted by: has407 on July 30, 2006 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

"What as Sadaam attempting to do when he took over Kuwait and was poised on the border of Saudi Arabia?"

He was asserting his claim to Kuwait as a province of Iraq. Look at a map, Kuwait hardly consititutes the "Middle East."

"I thought the consensus was he intended to take over Saudi Arabia and then move on to even bigger things."

You thought wrong. There was and is no such consensus. The whole idea is risable. As are you.

Please be quiet now. Come back when you finish high school.

Posted by: Joel on July 30, 2006 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

And one could add a policy number 3, which is to infiltrate and disrupt these groups, assassinate leaders, etc. Look up Okhrana on Wikipedia. Israel appears to have been doing this already: we may have to join in. This will not be pretty, either.

Posted by: JRM on July 30, 2006 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

"So what's the alternative?"

Do nothing. Stop invading ME countries, stop overthrowing their leaders, stop supporting the most authoritarian and opressive governments in the ME - which tends to radicalize nascent political movements, don't ever again colonize ME areas or peoples, don't extract their oil, then murder their leaders when they argue for nationalizing their own resources....Etc.

Publicly, in an international forum, declare your intention to never do these things again, and maybe in a generation things will be better.

Continue to prosecute individual terrorists, and then, fucking relax and quite wanking off to this bullshit, make-believe existential drama. Find some other way to stroke your egos, feel alive, important and macho. Ridiculous dorks.

Posted by: luci on July 30, 2006 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

"What if they nuke Manhattan anyway?"

That will probably happen someday (Tel Aviv?) and it's been inevitable since Oppenheimer and friends invented the damn things. It's probably 20-50 years away, so chill out. A coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave, just once. And then it'll probably be from eating cheezeburgers and sitting on your ass. Or a car crash.

"If that happens, then we really do have World War III on our hands"

What's this mean, against who?

Posted by: luci on July 30, 2006 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: enozinho:

[Quoting me, Ted King]: Why would Syria be amongst a list of countries one would be waiting for a hoped for collapse of Islamic Jihadism?

enozinho:

Hezbollah is a buffer between Syria and Israel, nothing more. Islamic Radicalism is bad for Syria internally, and useful as a deterrent to Israel.

----------

I agree - and I'd like to note that I said, "Of course, Syria tries to use Islamic Jihadists to further their goals (and they try to use Syria to further theirs)."

That Islamic Radicalism is bad for Syria internally illustrates that Glenn's analysis does not take into account the complexity of the relations between the different major forces in the Arab and Islamic "world". Are Islamic Jihadists *the* problem or is it a nexus of Islamic fundamentalism, Arab nationalism, the importance of oil in economic dynamics, the Palestinian problem and other such assorted issues? I believe it is the latter. I think a nearly single minded focus on Islamic Radicalism is too simple a perspective to approach the problems we must deal with in the Middle East and the Muslim "world" in general.

Posted by: TK on July 30, 2006 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

I thought the consensus was he intended to take over Saudi Arabia and then move on to even bigger things.I thought the consensus was he intended to take over Saudi Arabia and then move on to even bigger things.

You thought wrong. That was never the consensus, or even a minority view. The invasion of Kuwait was primarily a dispute about slant drilling, oil production driving down world prices and hurting an economically desperate Iraq, age old claims to that territory, and greed.

Posted by: trex on July 30, 2006 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

I believe it's fundamentally nonmilitary and revolves around engagement: trade agreements, security pacts, genuine support for grassroots democracy, a willingness to practice the same international rules we preach, etc. The idea is to slowly but steadily promote democratic rule, liberal institutions, education of women, and international commerce

Trade agreements? This presumes that the economies of the Middle East produce items that they can export. That's certainly not the case today:

Iraq's economy is dominated by the oil sector, which has traditionally provided about 95% of foreign exchange earnings.

Iraq's Exports: crude oil (83.9%), crude materials excluding fuels (8.0%), food and live animals (5.0%)

When you go shopping when's the last time you bought some consumer electronics manufactured in the Middle East, or some pharmaceuticals, or some clothing at Wal-Mart with the country stamp of Lebanon, or a computer game that was produced by a software company located in Syria.

Many people in the region feel it is demeaning for them to work at the bottom of the economic ladder, which is exactly where South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, etc started.

Also, the birth rate is growing faster than the economy in many countries of the region. Simply, the region is a basketcase and all they have to offer the world in trade is oil.

security pacts? How well received by the local populace are the security pacts we have in place with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq?

genuine support for grassroots democracy? On what basis are you supposing that a social structure founded on marrying one's cousin, owing fealty to one's extended family and tribe can be conducive to planting roots for democracy, which directly challenges existing social compacts?

a willingness to practice the same international rules we preach? So, how well did the soft power approach work with Iran?

Posted by: TangoMan on July 30, 2006 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

nn Reynolds responds here to my post on Saturday criticizing the "bomb 'em into the stone age" crowd, and says via email, "It's possible you might even agree with my suggestion." Let's find out!

Why on earth would you want to? It's nothing short of astonishing that you give consideration to Reynolds after his years of intellectual dishonesty -- not the least of which was flagrantly misrepresenting a post of Joshua Marshall's. Absent an abject apology and retraction by Reynolds, there's simply no reason at all to give the guy credibility, let alone a forum.

Posted by: Gregory on July 30, 2006 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin continues to be a smart guy who is almost incohernet on matters of terrrorism and military.

And you continue to be a dishonest guy who strikes a tone of faux moderation when carrying water for the GOP by posting their bullshit talking points. Take your act somewhere else, brian, it isn't selling here.

By the way, brian, speaking of Republicans? They're far from incoherent, I'll admit -- "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" is about as straightforward as it gets -- but they've lost all credibility on national security, probably for a generation. Your uncessant act of criticizing Kevin and/or other liberals is a transparent attempt to changethe subject from criticism of the GOP. Well, ol' pal, it's their mess, and the nation rightly blames them for it. Have a nice day.

Posted by: Gregory on July 30, 2006 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

What are liberal institutions?

The kind that Kevin's talking about are exemplified by the UN Human Rights Commission, where the evil USA is kicked off (pre-9/11) so human rights violations can be adjudicated by Libya, Cuba, China and the Sudan. If you object to this Kafka-esque framework Kevin will tut-tut that America [or at least it's mindless, bloodthirsty Glenn Reynolds types] is not willing to practice the same rules we preach.

Posted by: minion of rove on July 30, 2006 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

What a thought;a measured response! Since 9-11 this country has become tied down in the Mid-East with the attendent loss of life and the dreadful waste of treasure. It's not just fighting wars rather than a smart use of intelligence and police work. Homeland security is fast becoming a wasteland of incompetence and pork. The use of star war technology will absolutely not work against a strong insurgency. We're not alone though, Isreal is repeating their 18 year mistake.

Posted by: darby1936 on July 30, 2006 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

There is less difference between Reynolds and Drum than either of them would like to think.

Essentially they agree on the ends -- more liberal, tolerant, modern and of course democratic -- Muslim and especially Arab societies, and disagree on the means. Reynolds is more apt to support an early use of military force, while Drum puts his faith in non-military engagement first, counter-insurgent military force second.

Conventional military force, though, while effective against states is not so useful once states collapse, as we have found in Iraq and the Israelis are now (re)learning in Lebanon. This Drum recognizes. What he seems not to understand is that the long-term engagement he recommends instead demands a level of commitment to and interest in the Muslim countries from the American people that we have no reason to think is realistic.

This isn't because the American people are stupid. It's because they would recognize that this kind of "engagement" is pretty much a one-way street. To be blunt, apart from oil there isn't very much Arab states, let alone Central Asian ones, have to offer Americans. We would be "engaging" with them over a period of many years to make the modern world a more inclusive, less intimidating place, and they would be doing for us...what, exactly?

Moreover liberals share with neoconservatives --and, I guess, with quasi-libertarian law professors -- a faith that the cultural and political distance between us and the people of predominantly Muslim countries isn't that great. Democracy in their view is the biggest piece of the puzzle. But is that really true?

Not from where I'm standing, though this view is probably a lot less wrong with respect to some countries (e.g. Malaysia) than others (e.g. Syria). I think we are prone to think the cultures in many of these countries are a lot less backward than they actually are. In some cases -- Syria, again, is one and Afghanistan another -- we neglect how much of what "modernizing" influences they have been exposed to have been of the most baleful, corrupting type: influences spread by the Soviet Union. For good measure Americans in particular are prone to take our democratic political culture for granted, and to assume that other countries holding elections as we do are basically the same as we are. This is an assumption characteristically American, and supremely optimistic. Unless our timeframe is measured not merely in years but in generations, it is also probably wrong.

It boils down to how big an effort we are talking about to transform societies in the hope that the risk to us from them will thereby be reduced. I think it's a lot bigger effort than Drum is willing to acknowledge, and suggest that instead of counter-insurgency we consider a different metaphor for the campaign against jihadism: quarantine against infectious diseases.

It is not inevitable for us, though it may be for Europe, that Islamism at home is something we must accept passively, waiting for and guarding against its manifesting itself in some act of terrorism. Rather than trying to wrap up all the peoples vulnerable to Islamism in a warm, engaging embrace I incline toward the belief that we ought to keep them as far away from us as possible. This doesn't mean a policy of isolation, but rather one founded on the recognition that distance between radically different cultures can be a good thing.

We ought to consider that backward cultures coming into contact with modernity can be very dangerous. They are most dangerous to the weak -- many more people have died in Sudan's war against the civilians of Darfur than in all terrorist actions in the last three years combined, and the civil war in Congo has killed more people than any war since 1945 -- who cannot get out of their way. They are dangerous to us only to the degree we let them close.

We should trust that time will eventually close the distances between cultures, and not seek either to minimize those differences or to engage beyond the point we absolutely have to. Obviously one implication of this view is that we ought not to be pouring men and resources into an effort to make Iraq a model for the Arab Middle East. Another is that we recognize that democracy is an extremely demanding form of government, one not all cultures are able to sustain. And a third is that the United States be straightforward about the pursuit of our interests, rather than cloaking them as recent administrations have in the rhetoric of our principles and deepest beliefs.

One of those interests is preventing a recurrence of 9/11, or worse. This will require we treat some visitors, potential immigrants and trading partners differently than we do most of the others. Not everyone around the world will agree with this policy, but nearly everyone should understand it.

Posted by: Zathras on July 30, 2006 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

not totally unprecedented in US history

Philippine-American War, 1899 through 1913:

... take no prisoners and to kill every nig..., er Negrito over the age of 10.

Posted by: CursedBeHam on July 30, 2006 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

It's kinda hard to engage Jihadis when their goal is to eliminate us, not gain better trade agreements.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on July 30, 2006 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

"It's kinda hard to engage Jihadis when their goal is to eliminate us, not gain better trade agreements"

It's kinda hard to engage in thoughtful discussion when the basis is a Mark Steyn column in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Posted by: Joel on July 30, 2006 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

What as Sadaam attempting to do when he took over Kuwait and was poised on the border of Saudi Arabia? I thought the consensus was he intended to take over Saudi Arabia and then move on to even bigger things.

Perhaps Brian you are referring to those photos the US released of Iraqi tanks massed along the Kuwait-Saudi border used to try and convince the Saudis that they were next (though later relased Russian satellite photos taken at the time showed nothing but sand).

Brian, what you don't know is to put it kindly, vast. Yet you feel free to give judgement on Kevin's FP views?!?!?

(P.S. A good starting point would be to treat anything out of the Pentagon or the spook agencies with more than a modicum of scepticism; these guys lie their asses off and don't feel you have the right to know anything.)

Posted by: snicker-snack on July 30, 2006 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

I think your notion that we are fighting "conventional warfare" is erroneous in the first place. Conventional warfare, a la World War II, Korea and Vietnam, involved indiscriminate area bombing without regard to the infliction of civilian casualties. I'll go further: I don't think you have the foggiest notion of what warfare, conventional or otherwise, entails.

If you think we should undertake to "win hearts and minds," you're entitled to that opinion, but you might offer a suggestion or two as to how that might be done. In the meantime, you might want to consider the unambiguous pronouncements of Osam bin Laden concerning the encouragement he took from the West's meager response to Tehran 1979, Beirut 1983, Khobar Towers, World Trade Center I, the African Embassies and USS Cole. He was positively emboldened by the lack of any serious military response, as no doubt Nasrallah is emboldened by the West's cringeing in the face of 64 civilian casualties in Qana. Looks to me like there's pretty much no way these fiends can lose, given the nature of the West's spine today.

Posted by: YrMstHmbl&ObtSvt&c&c on July 30, 2006 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

" Clinton was launching bombs at Al Qeda and prosecuting them." Good God! The fool appears to believe that, and to think it was in some way effective! And Clinton "warned" Bush! Hey, thanks, Bill--and we're sure glad you took out that aspirin factory where, you believed, Saddam was manufacturing WMD.

Posted by: YrMstHmbl&ObtSvt&c&c on July 30, 2006 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

"Looks to me like there's pretty much no way these fiends can lose, given the nature of the West's spine today."

If by "spine" you mean how the Bush administration is repeating the mistakes of the USSR, you're right. If by "spine" you mean how the Bush administration is repeating the mistakes of the Johnson and Nixon administration in Vietnam, you're right. With The Bush administration in power, bin Ladin is winning. He figured them out, and he's playing them . . . er, us.

Posted by: Joel on July 30, 2006 at 8:18 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin said...
So what's the alternative? I believe it's fundamentally nonmilitary and revolves around engagement: trade agreements, security pacts, genuine support for grassroots democracy, a willingness to practice the same international rules we preach, etc. The idea is to slowly but steadily promote democratic rule, liberal institutions, education of women, and international commerce. When military responses are necessary, they should be short, highly targeted, and designed to piss off the surrounding citizenry as little as possible.

To be sure, the enemy (Islamic fundamentalists) are well aware of what it takes for us to win and them to lose. They can calculate the converse. So what wins for them? Playing off of Kevin's post it...

I believe it's fundamentally violent and revolves around avoiding engagement: corrupting trade agreements, undermining security pacts, crushing genuine support for grassroots democracy, etc. The idea is to slowly but steadily undermine democratic rule, liberal institutions, education of women, and international commerce. When military responses are necessary, they should be dragged out in a war with no clear end, with vague amorphous goals that should prove to be unrealixable, and designed to piss off the surrounding citizenry as much as possible.

We're up against sentient adversaries, not the weather. They can read too, and respond with their own strategies.

Posted by: Red State Mike on July 30, 2006 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

And Clinton "warned" Bush!

Sandy Berger told Condi Rice that Al Qaeda would be their biggest security concern and I believe Bill Clinton repeated this to Junior in a private conversation. However, Cheney's Corporate Welfare Bums instead chose to focus on a taxpayer-funded gimme, Pie-In-The-Sky II (aka SDI; they hadn't yet recognized the gimme opportunities in anti-terrorism) and down-graded the focus on terrorists to well, nigh zero (see Richard Clarke on this), I'm not quite sure what a snarky comment about an aspirin factory has to do with addressing Team Cheney's utter and absolute negligence. Is this an inept attempt at distraction?

Posted by: snicker-snack on July 30, 2006 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

"It's not so much a question of more or less violence as it is a question of applying the proper amount of violence to the proper people."

When Reynolds starts nitpicking, it's a sure sign he's running out of arguments!
:)

Posted by: Gray on July 30, 2006 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

So what's the alternative?


Alternative energy, obviously. It is insane to spend hundreds of billions on defense while ignoring alternative energy. This can only be explained by undue influence of the oil companies and other such interests.

Why aren't we waging unconventional warfare against them? They (emphasis added.)

A big problem with this so-called "War on Terror." Who is this "we." I sure ain't Halliburton, I can tell you that.

The United States is this country of outsourcing, of downsizing, of political correctness - both left and right. It lacks universal healthcare.

The children of blue collar workers - who otherwise would be unemployed - have been enlisted to fight in Iraq. No one else pays any attention to this so-called war.

it seems to me that so long as we give Syria and Iran (and for that matter, Saudi Arabia) a pass, we're never going to get much of a handle on this problem.

Kevin, show Glenn the current deficit figures. The United States is not financially in any position to tangle with oil giants such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. It is only a matter of time before the United States' IOU's get called in and it is IMF'd. The dismantling of the economically unproductive US military and the end of the "War on Terror" will be part of the debt restructuing then imposed upon the United States.

Posted by: Thinker on July 30, 2006 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Your strategy of democratising the Arab/Muslim world will inevitably lead to governments that have interests 180 degrees different from the West, particularly the US.

They will want to be able to defend themselves militarily, without being dependent on the US or outside help. This will inevitably lead to Israel being threatened militarily. 300 million Arabs with even a basic military will make Israel's security problematic to say the least.

A democratic Middle East will also want to maximise the total revenue from oil.

Are you prepared to accept these costs for your strategy? If you don't have an answer to this question then you really don't have a strategy, just wishful thinking.

Posted by: still working it out on July 30, 2006 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

"Never kill in the same family twice!"

Posted by: Darryl Pearce on July 30, 2006 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

If I--or we--didn't care at all about Israel, the answer would be obvious: Disengagement, not quite complete, but nearly complete, from the Middle East and all that happens there. As someone who lives not a mile from Manhattan, and works there, I've wondered whether I'm really willing to risk materially greater odds of a nuclear bomb going off there in order to support Israel in its efforts at survival. (This is not to justify everything and anything Israel does, particularly lately. But anyone who claims that Israel's security concerns aren't existential in character is, simply put, a liar--and one who knows that they are).

Since you've raised the issue, when and if a nuclear event appears here--my greatest worries are not about the event itself, but what it will set in train. It won't be WWIII. Rather, about one-fourth of the world would disappear. (Political pressures being what they are, there would be comprehensive and indiscriminate retailiation.) And civil liberaties here will be gone for generations.

Posted by: Matt on July 30, 2006 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

So...CNN is showing a documentary tonight about the 1983 bombing of the US Marines Barracks in Beirut tonight. I guess the 'powers that be' don't want Americans getting too sympathetic to the Lebanese. We all need to be reminded about Americans dieing in Beirut at the hands of terrusts .

Posted by: nepeta on July 30, 2006 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

nepeta
So...CNN is showing a documentary tonight about the 1983 bombing of the US Marines Barracks in Beirut tonight. I guess the 'powers that be' don't want Americans getting too sympathetic to the Lebanese. We all need to be reminded about Americans dieing in Beirut at the hands of terrusts.

Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

Posted by: Red State Mike on July 30, 2006 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

Drum's Approach To Fighting Terrorism: "trade agreements, security pacts, genuine support for grassroots democracy, a willingness to practice the same international rules we preach, etc. The idea is to slowly but steadily promote democratic rule, liberal institutions, education of women, and international commerce."

How would this approach have worked with Hitler? Had we been nicer to Hitler, would World War II have been avoided? Is there ever a time to conclude that the enemy is implacably evil and must be destroyed? Or does sweet reason always work?

What makes Drum think that the jihadists want to share his vision that involves Westernizing their values? What possible reason is there to believe that Islamists want trade agreements and women's suffrage? What if Hezbollah is telling the truth when it says the goal is to kill Jews? Not to own a late model sports car made possible by economic development throught trade agreements. Not to bang busty blondes in a Jacuzzi. What if they have different cultural values than Drum and are sincere when they clitorally castrate women and blow up pizzerias?

Liberals obviously live on a planet, but it definitely isn't this one.

Posted by: brock on July 30, 2006 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

" But anyone who claims that Israel's security concerns aren't existential in character is, simply put, a liar--and one who knows that they are)."

I find the argument that Israel faces an 'existential' threat to be fallacious. I really believe that if Israel would come to a 'fair' agreement for an independent Palestinian state then much of the anger and resentment that feeds the present threats would dissapate. Look at Lebanon's Civil War. 100,000 dead. Christians against Muslims. Shia against Sunni. Occupations by Israel and Syria. Israeli nassacres at PLO refugee camps. If the different groups in Lebanon can form a unified country, as they were doing quite successfully before the Israeli bombardment, then why can't one imagine that Israel could live peacefully with it's neighbors. Jordan and Saudi Arabia, both of whom signed peace treaties with Israel, condemned the initial Hezbollah rocket attacks. But Israel must give the Palestinians a viable state first.

Posted by: nepeta on July 30, 2006 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

"If that happens, then we really do have World War III on our hands"

Finally we find out where we have to be before liberals sign up for a war. A mushroom cloud over Manhattan. Can anyone on the left see why we should have a problem with this? Start with the meaning of the word 'defense'...

Posted by: ZF on July 30, 2006 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK

" But anyone who claims that Israel's security concerns aren't existential in character is, simply put, a liar--and one who knows that they are)."

And, in a world that is ignoring Darfur, so what?

Posted by: Thinker on July 30, 2006 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

I have like, a mile of WiFi access as we zip toward KC, but I thought I would share this frightening roadside sign with you all:

"COLD BEER!!! GASOLINE!!! AMMO!!!"

Posted by: Global Citizen on July 30, 2006 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting fact on Juan Cole's site today in reference to 'existential' threat.

The number of Israelis killed by Hesbollah rocket attacks between 2000 and July 12, 2006 was: 6

Posted by: nepeta on July 30, 2006 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

"A mushroom cloud over Manhattan. Can anyone on the left see why we should have a problem with this? Start with the meaning of the word 'defense'..."

As someone on the left--sure, I have a problem with this. So what the hell are we doing in Iraq? We should be spending those billions of dollars tightening up US port security (which the Bush Administration was going to leave to the Arabs), instead of pissing them away in a futile occupation of a country in the midst of a civil war.

Can anyone on the right see why we should have a problem with this. Starting with the meaning of the word 'defense' ...

Posted by: Joel on July 30, 2006 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

Step 1. Have a polite exchange with Glenn Reynolds.
Mistake 1. Believe a polite exchange with Glenn Reynolds is a rational activity. The verdict was in long ago. It is not. No more excuses.
Mistake 2. Pretend polite society rituals that sacrifice truth and justice are the pursuit of truth and justice rather than mere moral cowardice and unwillingness to call things by their true names.
Mistake 3. To pretend the statement that
"..In the 1990s, we followed the "ignore it and maybe it'll go away" strategy"
is a rational and a coherent statement worthy of discussion.
But maybe Glenn has a frog in his pocket so "we" is not dishonest.

Posted by: razor on July 30, 2006 at 9:15 PM | PERMALINK

nepeta,

"But Israel must give the Palestinians a viable state first."

I don't know all that much about the history of the region, but when the whole area which was then called Palestine was split up, wasn't the bulk of it set aside for a non-Jewish state, and didn't that part eventually become Jordan? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jordan) Isn't Jordan a viable state?

Posted by: cactus on July 30, 2006 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

Liberals like Drum are short on details and devoid of logic

"trade agreements"? - TangoMan sufficiently points out the lunacy of this suggestion. I suppose the U.S. could have been more aggressive in working out a arms for heroin deal with the Taliban.

"security pacts" - I would love the see the details Drum's suggests here. Security deals with Iran? Hamas? Hezbollah? Syria? Saddam's Iraq? The Taliban? Please Mr. Drum, I really want to hear more!

"Genuine support for grassroots democracy." Apparently Mr. Drum doesn't think the US support for democracy has been genuine. Please Mr. Drum, enlighten us how you would provide "genuine" support?

"a willingness to practice the same international rules we preach, etc." Again, Drum takes a snipe at the Bush administration but, but ignores the reality of how the Islamofascist operate. Do you really think if the US played nice with these barbarians that we would gain respect from the Arab street? No, they would see it as a sign of weakness.

"The idea is to slowly but steadily promote democratic rule, liberal institutions, education of women, and international commerce." Can Mr. Drum put a time frame on this? Could we expect to see results in 1000 or 2000 years?

"When military responses are necessary, they should be short, highly targeted, and designed to piss off the surrounding citizenry as little as possible." Why don't we add "ineffective" to the list.

Please Col. Drum, tell me how do you attack an enemy who hides amongst civilians, launches attacks from civilian areas without pissing off the surrounding citizenry???

Posted by: Panther on July 30, 2006 at 9:17 PM | PERMALINK

If you've got them by the balls their hearts and minds will follow.

This John Waybe quote more-or-less summarizes the approach taken by our enemies. They use cruelty and terror to convert people to their side.

Our side is nicer than the enemy. Being a bit nicer yet isn't the answer. Descending to their barbaric level seems out of the question. We're facing a tough, new challenge.

What is clear is that we can't simply follow old paradigms. E.g., the Geneva Conventions are not particularly applicable. The exact meaning of old international law may not be applicable. Our military strategy must not be made by lawyers parsing old, irrelvent agreements.

We need to find a new basis of warfare that leads to victory while preserving our moral values.

Posted by: ex-liberal on July 30, 2006 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

"What is clear is that we can't simply follow old paradigms. E.g., the Geneva Conventions are not particularly applicable. The exact meaning of old international law may not be applicable. Our military strategy must not be made by lawyers parsing old, irrelvent agreements."

When that happens, they've won.

Posted by: Joel on July 30, 2006 at 9:20 PM | PERMALINK

nepeta,

"The number of Israelis killed by Hesbollah rocket attacks between 2000 and July 12, 2006 was: 6"

Don't confuse incompetence with goodwill. Hezbollah is trying to kill civilians. It seems that when the Israelis mistakenly kill a lot of civilians, they try to do something about it to reduce the casualties. If Hezbollah succeeded in killing the same number of civilians, they'd celebrate.

Posted by: cactus on July 30, 2006 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK

The point, cactus, is that six deaths in as many years falls short of the definition of an "existential threat."

Posted by: Joel on July 30, 2006 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

Someone on another thread said this and it bears repeating 'Things are getting really f*cking weird!!!' The voices of sanity are getting fewer and farther between....

Let's keep in mind that the jihadists represent a very, very small minority of Muslims and an even smaller minority of Middle Eastern residents. Military force is a very blunt instrument and merely makes the asymmetrical nature of this fight even more asymmetrical. The U.S. needs to re-think it's entire approach to this region - pull out all of the troops and have a "cooling off" period. One year or more.

Otherwise, I sense something very ugly and irreversible is imminent - like the annihilation of an American city or maybe several. Piss Iran off enough and they have the oil revenue to buy a nuke or two from Kim Jong Il and the technical savvy to set it off successfully in Manhattan or downtown San Francisco.

I think it is time for everyone to take two steps back and one deep, deep breath....

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on July 30, 2006 at 9:25 PM | PERMALINK

Joel,

"The point, cactus, is that six deaths in as many years falls short of the definition of an "existential threat.""

By that standard, the various treaties between the US and the old Soviet Union to reduce the number of nuclear missiles were a waste of time and effort. The missiles posed no threat, given that from the day the first nuclear missile was developed to now, not a single person has died from one being fired.

As I noted above, one should not confuse incompetence with good will. Especially if the incompetent only have to be lucky once.

Posted by: cactus on July 30, 2006 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

"but when the whole area which was then called Palestine was split up, wasn't the bulk of it set aside for a non-Jewish state, and didn't that part eventually become Jordan?"

Cactus,

In a word..."no."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1947_UN_Partition_Plan

Posted by: nepeta on July 30, 2006 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

Not the '47 agreement, the '23 agreement...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Mandate_of_Palestine

'47 was an agreement to split up what was left after Jordan (then Transjordan) was already taken out of what had been Palestine.

Posted by: cactus on July 30, 2006 at 9:37 PM | PERMALINK

"By that standard, the various treaties between the US and the old Soviet Union to reduce the number of nuclear missiles were a waste of time and effort. The missiles posed no threat, given that from the day the first nuclear missile was developed to now, not a single person has died from one being fired."

So the analogy you're drawing between Hizbollah and the USSR is . . . what? That Hizbollah has thousands of multiple, independently targeted nuclear warheads pointed at Israel? That Hizbollah is a global superpower capable of triggering nuclear winter?

Really, cactus, are you such a simpleton?

Posted by: Joel on July 30, 2006 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

Joel,

Perhaps I am simpleton. I am merely pointing out that if X (whatever X happens to be) does not kill more than 6 civilians in as many years, that is not by any stretch evidence that X is not an existential threat. I pointed out this out because you stated that Hizbullah could not be an existential threat to Israel and put forward as evidence the fact that Hizbullah had not killed more than 6 civilians in the past 6 years.

Posted by: cactus on July 30, 2006 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

Zathras makes the most interesting argument in the whole thread, that we should rely upon distance and the passage of time.

The problems are whether that approach underestimates the threat and, secondarily, whether our committments to Iraq short term and Israel long term makes the success of that approach impossible.

I think liberation of Iraq was a reasonable approach at the time and, if successful, it would potentially produce great benefits. It has turned out harder than anticipated, and now, we need to within reason do what is necessary to still achieve success and not abandon Iraqi allies to whom we gave our word. I think success may be much closer than folks imagine.

However, if Iraqi fails, the Zathras approach may be where we wind up. Kevin's "engagement" approach, as demonstrated by most of the comments here, does not make any sense.

Btw, I wonder why the posters who call other posters names, i.e. moron, don't realize they diminish themselves in doing so.

Posted by: brian on July 30, 2006 at 9:50 PM | PERMALINK

Joel, I think you meant "external" threat, not "existential". Existential is a philosophical term.

Incidentally how many rocket attacks qualify for an external threat?

How many rockets would we allow Mexico to lob into the US before we considered it a threat?

Posted by: Jay on July 30, 2006 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

"I think liberation of Iraq was a reasonable approach at the time and, if successful, it would potentially produce great benefits. It has turned out harder than anticipated, and now, we need to within reason do what is necessary to still achieve success and not abandon Iraqi allies to whom we gave our word. I think success may be much closer than folks imagine."

Define "successful" and "success."

"Btw, I wonder why the posters who call other posters names, i.e. moron, don't realize they diminish themselves in doing so."

Not in your case, brian. I just calls 'em like I sees 'em. You're a moron. It's really just that simple.

Posted by: Joel on July 30, 2006 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

No, Joel, but they are capable of tricking us into triggering nuclear winter because they have taken full measure of how hsyterically disproportionate our responses can be, and that wein Israel or the USare not capable of reigning in our own leaders when they start frothing.

Hizbolah is going to force us to wreck everything! And damn it, we just can't seem to stop them from bringing out our own worst tendencies. You see how clever those bastards are?

Posted by: Kenji on July 30, 2006 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

No, Jay, I meant "existential." I was quoting directly from the post by nepeta on July 30, 2006 at 9:11 PM. Of course, "existential threat" is not a philosophical term. Educated people understand "existential threat" to mean "a threat to existence."

You are an illiterate idiot Jay. You have no idea what the fuck you are talking about. Please go away now.

Posted by: Joel on July 30, 2006 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

Kenji,

Then the enemy isn't Hezbollah. It is us.

Posted by: Joel on July 30, 2006 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

Jay,

Joel meant 'existential,' e.g., something which threatens the very 'existance' of Israel. The word existential has a much wider use that in existential philosophy. Sheesh.......... No wonder we're in such bad shape.

Posted by: nepeta on July 30, 2006 at 10:03 PM | PERMALINK
I believe that our fight against Islamic jihadism is analogous on a global scale to a counterinsurgency. To use the hoary phrase, we'll succeed by "winning hearts and minds," and conventional warfare just can't do that. In fact, it's mostly counterproductive: it won't succeed in killing the guerrillas and it will lose us the support of the local citizenry, which in turn will make the insurgency even more formidable.

First of all, I think there is a problem defining the conflict. While attempts to rationalize the "war on terror" that the Bush Administration has described into something more concrete abound, and calling it our fight against "Islamic jihadism" is probably no worse than any other such attempt, I'm not sure any construction that doesn't focus on specific, well-defined targets is all that useful.

And I wonder if counterinsurgency is really the best analogy; like "asymmetric warfare" it highlights the dissimilarity between the two sides which, I think, more than anything obscures the fact that the fight is, ultimately, a battle of hearts and minds in which there is really no fundamental asymmetry; what we need to do to win is exactly, ultimately, what any of our opponents (Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, etc.) needs to do to win, in whatever region we are fighting them: we need to convince people that acting in ways we approve is ultimately the best way to realize their own values.

I'd suggest that the best conceptual framework may not be a "counterinsurgency", but a political campaign directed at the various target populations with no fixed timelines, and essentially no rules: particularly, no funding restrictions, bans on patronage, etc.

The winner is going to be the side that can deliver services to its supporters most effectively, and thereby bring in more supporters and convince the target population that they are the best side to support.

Posted by: cmdicely on July 30, 2006 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

A rather ridiculous description of this conflict. You afford the islamo-facists far too much credit.

Just answer the questions.

Posted by: Jay on July 30, 2006 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

"I think liberation of Iraq was a reasonable approach at the time"

Tsk, tsk....how soon we forget. Our reason for invading Iraq was not 'liberation' but the destruction of those nuclear, chemical and biological weapons Saddam had up his sleeve. Remember? And remember Colin Powell's UN speech with the aerial photos and vials of white powder?
Yeah, I thought you'd remember.

Posted by: nepeta on July 30, 2006 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

What is clear is that we can't simply follow old paradigms. E.g., the Geneva Conventions are not particularly applicable. The exact meaning of old international law may not be applicable. Our military strategy must not be made by lawyers parsing old, irrelvent agreements.

If only we had tortured a little more, maybe we would've won!

If "we" are in fact "nicer" than the "other side", it is only because we follow the precepts of law.

Posted by: brooksfoe on July 30, 2006 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

Joel, that's kinda what I was saying. I mean, the Nazis had all kinds of rationalizations worked up about saving the world from Bolshevism and all that, and in their minds, and the minds of people like Jay, that justifies everything. Including total failure, on moral or practical levels.

Basically, the world's most powerful forces (like the US and Israel) are now operating on pure emotion, with measured reason consigned to the realm of the weak. That doesn't explain Blair, though, does it?

Posted by: Kenji on July 30, 2006 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK
What as Sadaam attempting to do when he took over Kuwait and was poised on the border of Saudi Arabia?

Secure a valuable Persian Gulf port and erase a large chunk of debt; the first part being the failed objective of the 1980s war he initiated with Iran, the second being a matter of dealing with the expensive consequences of that war.

Posted by: cmdicely on July 30, 2006 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know why more people don't see the parallel between the "current global war on terror" and the old struggle against global communism. There's this cherished fatasy on the right that Reagan "won the cold war" by confronting the Soviet Union, but apart from rhetorical flourishes, he opposed the USSR no more directly than any other US president. He never fought the Soviets anywhere- or the Chinese, or any of the Eastern European countries.

Which was to his benefit, considering what excellent results we had in blindly walking into a civil war in the name of opposing "global communism" in Vietnam. The way the cold war was won was containment until the crummy results from 70 years of communism became clear to average Russians.

Would things have turned out better if we had started hot wars with all of the communist nations in the world, the way the neocons would have us do with every government they dislike?

Posted by: pdq on July 30, 2006 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

"we need to convince people that acting in ways we approve is ultimately the best way to realize their own values."

Hm, cm, I'm having trouble with this. And I don't like having trouble with your posts, which are so rational and eloquent. The part of your post I quote above sounds a bit parental to me. And I'm not sure the current US administration has the 'well-being of' or 'cultural respect for' the people whom we should be trying to influence. Still, I basically agree with your thesis that empathy and help for populations under duress and susceptable to jihadist influence should be a major focus of the US effort.

Posted by: nepeta on July 30, 2006 at 10:22 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

"The winner is going to be the side that can deliver services to its supporters most effectively, and thereby bring in more supporters and convince the target population that they are the best side to support." I wish I agreed with you. (Or at least I think I do... often the leaders of Western countries, such as our esteemed Mr. Bush, through their actions and ineptitude often end up generating more enemies than friends, even in those situations when they mean well.)

Sadly, peace in some cultures is often accomplished by wiping out or thoroughly subjugating the enemy. I don't know enough about the Middle East, but here are my impressions of that area from what I have read.

At the time of Muhammad, the Arabian peninsula population was diverse (Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, assorted pagans, etc.). The country has peace now because all non-Muslims have been wiped out (and there are laws to ensure they don't return), and the Shiite minority is given few rights other than the right to keep their collective mouth shut about everything. Other Mulsim-Arab countries treat their minorities similarly - the Christian Copts in Egypt are a prime example.

The other form of peace that is seen in the Middle East tends to be as a result of one or another belligerent party being unable to wipe out the enemy. Examples include Egypt and Jordan signing treaties with Israel, or the Christian-Muslim peace in recent years in Lebanon. But... had Egypt or Jordan been strong enough to wipe out, and I mean that literally, Israel, they would have done so. Similarly, the treaty with the Christians in Lebanon occurred only because the rest of the country was unable to wipe them out.

One can't always believe other people, but you can always believe someone if he says his goal is to kill you.

Posted by: cactus on July 30, 2006 at 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: I don't think that external actors like the US and EU can compete directly on a political playing field with indigenous actors, anywhere in the world.

If the struggle is for the hearts and minds of Muslims, between indigenous Muslim theocrats and foreign democrats, the Muslim theocrats will win.

A political contest between indigenous Muslim theocrats and indigenous Muslim democrats...would in some theoretical world be nice. But because of the political dynamics which have been underway in the Arab world for the last 6 years, indigenous democrats have been forced towards Islamism to retain credibility. It would be impossible, at this late stage, to "buy" them back to secularism or neutrality. (Al-Maliki's anti-Israeli speeches are a foreshadowing of this. He's as in-our-pocket as any Arab politician we could hope for, and yet.)

It is not September 12, 2001. Many things which were possible then are no longer possible now. We have pursued a stupid and counterproductive strategy for 5 years, and our options are being reduced to one: retreat. Having sacrificed our credibiity in the Muslim world, we cannot any longer be agents or even supporters of democratic change there.

Posted by: brooksfoe on July 30, 2006 at 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe wrote: If "we" are in fact "nicer" than the "other side", it is only because we follow the precepts of law.

But, the other side also follows the precepts of law. However, their law isn't as nice as ours. Their law calls for firing thousands of missiles armed with shrapnel at civilian targets. It calls for slicing off the heads of infidels and distributing a videotape of the execution. It calls for putting their rocket launchers among civilians so counterattacks will kill innocent men, women and children.

Given their level of barbaric cruelty, the most moral thing we can do is defeat them.

Posted by: ex-liberal on July 30, 2006 at 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

... and yet we have demonstrable evidence that all this administration is capable of doing is becoming a recruitment poster for their cause. where's the morality in that?

Posted by: Nads on July 30, 2006 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK
The part of your post I quote above sounds a bit parental to me.

I agree that it can be taken as paternalistic, but fundamentally its no different than any kind of political entreprenuership: we're selling ideas and trying to get people to adopt the ideas we'd like them to adopt.

And I'm not sure the current US administration has the 'well-being of' or 'cultural respect for' the people whom we should be trying to influence.

Well, sure, I'll agree that that's been a long-term problem with US policy in the region and certainly is a particular problem under the present administration; I think that's something we need to "win", but something the current leadership sorely lacks.

Posted by: cmdicely on July 30, 2006 at 10:31 PM | PERMALINK

LOL, that joel guy is quite the loudmouth with no content. Just insulting people to try and shout them down. Good example of a losing team member.

Most of his posts here have been flat out wrong with what little factual content he was trying to state. He really needs to go back and get that GED.

Posted by: shorse on July 30, 2006 at 10:33 PM | PERMALINK

"... and yet we have demonstrable evidence that all this administration is capable of doing is becoming a recruitment poster for their cause. where's the morality in that?"

And when was Atta recruited? The 9/11 hijackers were recruited and trained in the 90's. They recruit, train and kill whether we're in the middle of diplomacy or in the middle of war.

Posted by: Jay on July 30, 2006 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

jay ...

don't take this the wrong way or anything, but I try not to hold serious policy discussions with ignorant racist asswipes who don't understand the meaning of simple terms like "existential."

... you illiterate piece of white trash.

Posted by: Nads on July 30, 2006 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

Hugh Hewitt told me everything I needed to know about your little post, Kevin.

So, what do you hate more, America as a whole or the troops specifically?

Posted by: keptsimple on July 30, 2006 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK
I don't think that external actors like the US and EU can compete directly on a political playing field with indigenous actors, anywhere in the world.

Of course not; no more than foreign communists could compete directly with entrenched right-wing dictatorships anywhere in the world, or foreign (say, Iranian) Muslim theocrats could compete with local forces in, say, Lebanon. The movement for liberal democracy in the Muslim world needs to be a local movement with local leaders sensitive to the local needs, with financial, logistical, and other support from the West. But the local character needs to be front and center.

If the struggle is for the hearts and minds of Muslims, between indigenous Muslim theocrats and foreign democrats, the Muslim theocrats will win.

Of course, if "we" (as an ideological side) want to win, we need to make this battle a lot less about "us" (as a group of allied nations: the US, Israel, etc.) winning against other nations and peoples.

Posted by: cmdicely on July 30, 2006 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

Also, does anyone honestly think that the Islamo-facists care who is President?

Posted by: Jay on July 30, 2006 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

oh, now now nads, I thought being liberal meant standing against hate speech?

Are you a republican?

Posted by: Jay on July 30, 2006 at 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

I would hardly describe this conflict, or any other battlefield conflict, as an "existential threat".

The broader concept of mans industrialization as it relates to global warming and the ultimate destruction of the the earths environment is more aptly described as an existential threat.

Posted by: Jay on July 30, 2006 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe,

Is there an absolute contradiction between a Muslim theocracy and democracy in a moral sense? You nor I would want to live under a theocracy but we aren't Muslim and we're accustomed to separation of church and state. If the theocracy allowed and didn't repress or attack other religious constituences in the particular country, would that be so bad?

I've recently been reading Edward Said. Thank goodness he passed away in 2004. I wouldn't have wanted him to see this war, His major work was entitled 'Orientalism.' He talks about the 'density' we miss when we think about Muslims. That we have caricatures in our minds.
One dimensional theists. But, of course, this isn't the case. They're complex people with their own values and their own world-views. I think our discussions in the West miss this.

Posted by: nepeta on July 30, 2006 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

I would buy you a dictionary, jay ... if I didn't think you'd use it for toilet paper.

Posted by: Nads on July 30, 2006 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK
A political contest between indigenous Muslim theocrats and indigenous Muslim democrats...would in some theoretical world be nice. But because of the political dynamics which have been underway in the Arab world for the last 6 years, indigenous democrats have been forced towards Islamism to retain credibility. It would be impossible, at this late stage, to "buy" them back to secularism or neutrality.

The problem is that we've taken actions which has made it possible for our ideological enemies to paint us as being enemies of the populations in questions as people, not merely enemies of the ideologies which we should be working to defeat. We probably can't buy back Muslim democrats away from mouthing Islamism (at least not directly), but what we can do is try to win back the freedom for them to return to democratism rather than Islamism by changing the context. Of course, to do that, we'd have to provide substantive policy changes.

The West backing a separation force between Israel and Hezbollah would, IMO, be a start (but only a start) to that. The conflict of peoples, and the well-entrenched role of Islamist ideology in that, prevents our ideological side from having a fighting chance in the conflict of ideas. So we need to take effective action to constrain the first conflict so we can win the second.

Posted by: cmdicely on July 30, 2006 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK

shorse: LOL, that joel guy is quite the loudmouth with no content. Just insulting people to try and shout them down. Good example of a losing team member.

Most of his posts here have been flat out wrong with what little factual content he was trying to state. He really needs to go back and get that GED.

And the content in your post is?

Posted by: snicker-snack on July 30, 2006 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

"The West backing a separation force between Israel and Hezbollah would, IMO, be a start (but only a start) to that."

There is a separation force: Unifil. Here's there deployment back current in June of 2006: http://www.un.org/Depts/Cartographic/map/dpko/unifil.pdf

This separation force hasn't exactly proven to be particularly useful.

Posted by: cactus on July 30, 2006 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

Make that "
Here's their deployment in June of 2006"

Posted by: cactus on July 30, 2006 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is that we've taken actions which has made it possible for our ideological enemies to paint us as being enemies of the populations in questions as people, not merely enemies of the ideologies which we should be working to defeat. We probably can't buy back Muslim democrats away from mouthing Islamism (at least not directly), but what we can do is try to win back the freedom for them to return to democratism rather than Islamism by changing the context. Of course, to do that, we'd have to provide substantive policy changes.

I think these distinctions between enemies of them as people and enemies of specific ideologies are all too finely drawn to be effective at this point. What we need to do at this point is lower our profile and return to some semblance of a neutral honest-broker role. We need to impose some sacrifices and retreats on the Israelis, and we need to figure out how to pull out of Iraq, except for Kurdistan.

And we need to recognize that denying legitimacy to Islamic regimes when they win elections is self-defeating. We should have been meeting with Hamas from the moment they won the election. It was a strategic miscalculation - one which I shared at the time - to think that we could force them to change their platform to recognize Israel's right to exist as a precondition for diplomatic recognition. We need to bring those people into the fold. They, like Hezbollah, have too much of a genuine popular constituency to be ignored.

Islamism is both less and more threatening than Communism was. On the one hand, it's not a universalist ideology - it has no chance of appealing to anyone who isn't already Muslim (with a couple of weirdo exceptions). And it has serious problems running modern countries; it's better suited to sub-state insurgent pseudo-governments. But its strength is that it makes no rational claims. Communism was ultimately defeated on the evidence: it unwisely claimed it would be more prosperous than capitalism, and when East Europeans and Chinese saw this was false, they bolted. Islamism, on the other hand, is based in a 1400-year-old identity claim that has a deeper than rational purchase; it's not going to disappear in a velvet revolution, as Communism did. Running against it, democratically, in a violent and polarized environment like this one, is very difficult.

But I generally agree with you - we have to stop the physical wars so we can pursue the intellectual and cultural struggle. And, not incidentally, so that children stop getting bombed to death.

Posted by: brooksfoe on July 30, 2006 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK
There is a separation force: Unifil.

UNIFIL is a monitoring force with no mandate to enforce a separation. That is not at all what is needed.

Posted by: cmdicely on July 30, 2006 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK
I think these distinctions between enemies of them as people and enemies of specific ideologies are all too finely drawn to be effective at this point.

I don't think they are "too finely drawn to be effective at this point"; they are ineffective not because they are "too finely drawn" but because the facts on the ground support a framing of them that is unfavorable to our interests.

What we need to do at this point is lower our profile and return to some semblance of a neutral honest-broker role. We need to impose some sacrifices and retreats on the Israelis, and we need to figure out how to pull out of Iraq, except for Kurdistan.

In broad outline, I agree that that is a big part of what is needed. But becoming a disengaged "honest broker" isn't enough, we need to be engaged but substantially change the orientation of our engagement. That's why I think we need, for instance, to back a separation force with a mandate to enforce a separation and halt to fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, for example.

And we need to recognize that denying legitimacy to Islamic regimes when they win elections is self-defeating. We should have been meeting with Hamas from the moment they won the election. It was a strategic miscalculation - one which I shared at the time - to think that we could force them to change their platform to recognize Israel's right to exist as a precondition for diplomatic recognition. We need to bring those people into the fold. They, like Hezbollah, have too much of a genuine popular constituency to be ignored.

I largely agree with this, as well.

But its strength is that it makes no rational claims. Communism was ultimately defeated on the evidence: it unwisely claimed it would be more prosperous than capitalism, and when East Europeans and Chinese saw this was false, they bolted.

I think this contrast is overdrawn; I think people prefer prosperity if they see it accessible to them whether or not there current system claims it will bring them more prosperity; I don't think Communism was rejected because it was rationally demonstrated to be false, I think it was rejected because people saw that they could do better.

The reason Islamism doesn't seem to have this problem now is that there is a rich array of alternative explanations Islamists, even those with the power of a state, can sell their populations as to why they are suffering materially besides deficiencies in Islamism, including the manifest enmity of the West.

Posted by: cmdicely on July 30, 2006 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

From the Unifil homepage (http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/):

"UNIFIL was created in 1978 to confirm Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, restore the international peace and security, and help the Lebanese Government restore its effective authority in the area. "

"[R]estore the international peace and security, and help the Lebanese Government restore its effective authority in the area." Sounds like something more active than monitoring.

From their "facts and figures" page:(http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/facts.html): "1,990 troops, assisted by some 50 military observers of UNTSO; and supported by 95 international civilian personnel and 304 local civilian staff" It seems the troops outnumber the military observers that assist them by about 40 to 1. Maybe about 2000 military personnel don't constitute much of a force, but their own description doesn't make them sound like their purpose is just monitoring.

I've got to call it a night. Have a good one, all.

Posted by: cactus on July 30, 2006 at 11:29 PM | PERMALINK
Maybe about 2000 military personnel don't constitute much of a force, but their own description doesn't make them sound like their purpose is just monitoring.

Their goals may not; their authorized means, however, include nothing but monitoring (and they are an order of magnitude, at least, too small, and not at all equipped, to do any kind of enforcement, even if they had any authority to do so. )

Posted by: cmdicely on July 30, 2006 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

so, the solution is clear then. All it takes is "...applying the proper amount of violence to the proper people."

This as about as lame as the "bomb 'em into the stone age" solution, and it's a perfect illustration of just how glibe and ignorant an armchair hack can be.

I look forward to reynolds' further explanation of how this oh-so-simple task can be achieved.

Posted by: Billy on July 30, 2006 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

so, the solution is clear then. All it takes is "...applying the proper amount of violence to the proper people."

This as about as lame as the "bomb 'em into the stone age" solution, and it's a perfect illustration of just how glibe and ignorant an armchair hack can be.

I look forward to reynolds' further explanation of how this oh-so-simple task can be achieved.


Don't tell Kevin, but perhaps we can develop precision guided bombs with embedded data-mining engines that will use a neural network based pattern recognition algorithm to decide whether to explode or not dependent upon the identity of the human being targetted.

Posted by: nut on July 30, 2006 at 11:58 PM | PERMALINK

Nut,

Sounds like something DARPA is probably working on right now!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: nepeta on July 31, 2006 at 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

Seventy years of political and military support of Israel and the Saudi monarchy and what have we got to show for it?
Peace? No, more wars than in any other region on the planet.
Stable oil supply? No, two major interruptions in the 70's.
Stable oil prices? No, gluts in the 60's and 90's both followed by major spikes.
Reduction in anti-semitism? No, the problem was shifted from Europe to the Middle-east.
How many thousands of lives and tens of billions of dollars do we have to waste before we realize this is a fiasco?

Posted by: joe on July 31, 2006 at 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

Since the number of Jews who have answered the questions raised by this article is few, and the number of Jews who have ignored it is almost all, and it is so relevant to what is going on in Gaza and Lebanon, I feel it needs to be posted again:

WHY DOESN'T THE MEDIA PUBLISH THIS? I wonder indeed.

Israel Fakes a Provocation (the "kidnapping" of Cpl Gilad Shalit)

The following passages in italics are from:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/06/26/wmid26.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/06/26/ixnews.html

Last night two Israeli soldiers were killed and another kidnapped in a dawn attack by Palestinian militants who tunnelled under Gazas heavily protected border.

The attackers, believed to number seven or eight, surprised Israeli forces when they appeared at first light through a tunnel on open ground 300 yards inside Israel near a kibbutz.

Gaza is built on old semi-consolidated sand dunes. It is extremely unlikely that anyone could tunnel 500, or more, yards in the sandy ground of Gaza (300 yards into Israel plus 200 yards of no-mans land plus more to the tunnel entrance), without the tunnel collapsing at some point.

They split into three groups before launching simultaneous attacks on three Israeli defensive positions - a look-out tower, plus a tank and an armoured personnel carrier, both dug in, facing Gaza.

If you were only seven or eight, would you split into three groups? If you were only two, or three, would you attack a tank over flat ground, manned by four soldiers waiting inside to kill you?

They blew open the tanks rear doors with a missile fired from point-blank range before tossing grenades inside. Two of the tank crew died and another was severely wounded but the final crew member, the gunner, was forced out of the wreckage at gunpoint.

The rear doors are blown off and a few grenades popped inside. Tanks are not made to fall apart. Blowing off the rear doors would have taken a blast sufficient to seriously hurt those inside. The grenades would have then made mincemeat of them. One wonders if it is standard practice to wear a bulletproof vest inside a hot tank. One would think that the tank would be bulletproof enough not to require such a vest. Can Israeli tanks stop bullets, or not?

Later reports, from the New York Times and Guardian, tell use that Shalit suffered only minor injuries to his abdomen and one arm, even though everyone else in the tank was severely wounded or killed. Shalit would have been less than three feet away from those killed (there is no spare room in a tank).

Israeli trackers said they found his blood-stained bulletproof vest close to the Gaza perimeter fence.

The militants force Shalit to take off his bulletproof vest and leave it close to the Gaza concentration camp fence, in order to help the Israelis with their investigation.

By the way, whose blood is it on his bulletproof vest? Did his minor wounds bleed profusely, or was it the other soldiers blood and guts all over him. Pity their bulletproof vests didn't save them.

Meanwhile, two other militants attacked a nearby concrete watchtower.... The troop carrier was also damaged in another attack but it was unoccupied. The attackers then escaped back into Gaza by cutting their way through the perimeter fence.

Interestingly, the attackers escaped easily by cutting through the (electrified) perimeter fence, yet cutting through the perimeter fence in order to get in, was so hard to do, that they burrowed through half a mile of sandy ground instead. Something wrong with this story, perhaps?

After all this commotion, the soldiers in all the nearby Gaza concentration camp guard-towers, manage to miss a few Arabs running the 300 yards, over flat ground, back to the perimeter fence, miss them when they cut through it, and miss them running across no-mans land to safety. Anyway why, you may ask, did they not return through the tunnel they had painstakingly dug? Perhaps, they wanted to prove the total incompetence of the Israeli soldier.

If you believe this sad tale, I have a bridge to sell you.

The Hamas political leadership sought to distance itself from the incident last night when a spokesman said it had no knowledge of the fate of Cpl Shilat. Ghazi Hamad, a spokesman, said: "We are calling on the resistance groups, if they do have the missing soldier to protect his life and treat him well."

Yes, the Hamas political leadership had no idea of the fate of Cpl Shilat, as the story is a total fabrication.

The Jew press then claims that the Popular Resistance Committees, the armed wing of Hamas and the (previously unknown) Army of Islam were jointly responsible for the kidnapping of Shilat.

Why three groups you may ask?

The reason for three groups, is so that each of them might believe that the other has the "kidnapped" soldier, when, in fact, none of them have him. He is sipping coffee in Tel Aviv.

And why did a "previously unknown" group put up its hand?

Well, just in case one of the groups had doubts that the other group had the "kidnapped" soldier, they certainly couldn't be sure the "previously unknown" group didn't have him,... because after all, they don't have any idea who is leading, or anyone in, this unknown group.

So the reason for the weird "I did it arrangement," is so that the Jew press can claim that the Arabs claimed responsibility, when all they have done, is to NOT deny they did it.

Oh yeah, the "previously unknown" group is a Jew invention. It doesn't exist, except in the Jew newspapers.

Of course, shortly, the Army of Islam will need to be created (by the Jews) in order to negotiate the "release" of Shilat.

If you are not already convinced that the whole story is a fabrication, ask yourself; What were the four Israeli soldiers doing in the tiny confines of that dug-in tank? Ask your self; How long were they going to continue sitting in that tank? All day perhaps, or till they roasted in the desert sun? Or, till another group of four took over on the next shift? And of course, having four soldiers in just one tank, wont provide a defense, so there will have to be hundreds of tanks and hundreds of soldiers all sitting in these tanks,...

all waiting,... all waiting,... all waiting,.... for exactly what?

Waiting for Palestinian children to throw stones at them, perhaps? Perhaps, waiting attentively for militants to dig a half mile tunnel through sandy soil, pop up, and rush them over flat ground, but not attentively enough to see them approach? Perhaps, they were waiting for the Egyptian army to materialize, Star Trek like, from their bases hundreds of miles away on the other side of the Suez canal? I dont know,... you tell me why?

Yes, the story is a total fabrication. A fake provocation to start a war. Yes, the Jews are evil people.

Posted by: Ripper on July 31, 2006 at 12:21 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, the story is a total fabrication. A fake provocation to start a war.

Why is it the Jews can just ignore the truth of the matter?

It is important to understand that

THE JEWS STARTED BOTH THE MASSACRES IN GAZA AND LEBANON.

Both of these were wars of choice, disguised to look like retaliation (the usual lying Jew way).

IN GAZA they fabricated a (clearly false) story in their newspapers about a "kidnapped" soldier.

IN LEBANON the Israeli Death Force (IDF) sent troops into a disputed piece of SYRIA (called Shebaa Farms, that has historically been claimed by Lebanon) KNOWING FULL WELL how Hizbollah would respond to an intrusion by Jew troops into this section of Arab land. Hizbollah responded exactly as they have in the past. No surprise here. The Jews used this as an excuse for their pre-planned Nazi attack on Lebanon.

The Shebaa Farms were owned by Lebanese citizens from the town of Shebaa (in Lebanon) until they were stolen by the thieving Jews in their 1967 surprise attack on the Arabs.

Since the Shebaa Farms were administered by Syria when the Jews stole the Golan Heights from Syria, the legalistic Jews decided they did not have to return the Shebaa Farms to Lebanon when they withdrew from Lebanon in 2000.

In short:

THE JEWS STARTED BOTH THE MASSACRES IN GAZA AND LEBANON.

Why is it the Jews can just ignore the truth of the matter?

Posted by: Ripper on July 31, 2006 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK

Tango Man:

"Trade agreements? This presumes that the economies of the Middle East produce items that they can export. That's certainly not the case today:
Iraq's economy is dominated by the oil sector, which has traditionally provided about 95% of foreign exchange earnings.
Iraq's Exports: crude oil (83.9%), crude materials excluding fuels (8.0%), food and live animals (5.0%)
When you go shopping when's the last time you bought some consumer electronics manufactured in the Middle East, or some pharmaceuticals, or some clothing at Wal-Mart with the country stamp of Lebanon, or a computer game that was produced by a software company located in Syria.
"

I would certainly agree with this at the present time. The Middle East does have little else to export. I will remind you though, that Pakistan has a very active program in educating people to become programmers, tech support, and other aspects of the computer industry.

Our dependence on oil has contributed to the Middle East not developing other types of exports to any degree. I dont mean that the West is totally responsible for this, but we have contributed.

Ive posted on other boards that the various countries in the Middle East have governments which are for the most part autocratic and not particularly responsive to their citizenry. The Saudis have a huge and ever growing royal family, each male member of whom gets a substantial annual income from the government upon turning 18, which they need to nothing to earn. Job opportunities are not good for their young people or for those in other Middle Eastern countries. These are problems that they need to take care of themselves. We cant do it for them and our continued interference is making things worse.

If we get off our oil dependence, and other countries get off their lesser oil dependencies, the Middle East countries will be forced to consider alternatives. They are human beings. They need to eat. They will eventually do so.

"Many people in the region feel it is demeaning for them to work at the bottom of the economic ladder, which is exactly where South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, etc started."

How do you know this? I would agree that its true of some of the ruling families, but is this true in the entire Arab/Iranian world? Do you have any cites to back this up? Given that they are fellow human beings, I believe that their proportion of people willing to work is roughly equivalent to that of any other place.

"Also, the birth rate is growing faster than the economy in many countries of the region. Simply, the region is a basketcase and all they have to offer the world in trade is oil."

Their birthrate is probably high in comparison to that of Europe, Japan, the U.S., or China. They need to work on this, and our current fundamentalist Christians cannot be allowed to interfere with it. If other industrialized countries could pull off an exhange to where some of the oil they buy is paid for with contraceptives

"security pacts? How well received by the local populace are the security pacts we have in place with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq?"

Well, how well are they received? I mean Saudi and Kuwait. Iraq is fucked and we fucked it.

"genuine support for grassroots democracy? On what basis are you supposing that a social structure founded on marrying one's cousin, owing fealty to one's extended family and tribe can be conducive to planting roots for democracy, which directly challenges existing social compacts?"

This is oversimplifying things although I agree that tribalism is very important in many of the cultures. In any case, given communications in the world, they will move toward representative governments or more representative ones in the case of those countries with some form of elections. They have to do it at their own pace, though, and we need to accept that Islam will play an important part in however they work it out. Also, the Middle Eastern countries are certainly not monolithic and each country will probably have a slightly different flavor of representative democracy when they get there. And yes, that could be a long time off, but it is not our place to impose that on them.

BTW, Iran has an abundance of Internet cafes in the cities, and the young people are not particularly fond of the theocratic government. If we let them be, in another generation they will have a democracy, and while Islam will play a part, it won't be nearly as much so as today. If we keep interfering and threatening, we drive Iran further into theocracy.

I presume you know that Iran's democratically-elected leader Mossadegh was deposed by us in 1953, by Alan Dulles and others. He was going to nationalize the oil biz and we wouldn't allow that. So we installed the Shah, who was secular and western, but who also ran a reign of terror.

The rebellion and the ascension of Khomeini was blowback. We supported Saddam during his most murderous time against Iran in the 80s. Blowback. The current situation in Iraq is a direct consequence of all those bad decisions and the Bush cabals current bungling. More blowback. And it's creating major blowback for years to come.

"a willingness to practice the same international rules we preach? So, how well did the soft power approach work with Iran?"

How well has what soft approach worked with them? The Bush cabal has offered bluster and threats and for the most part, refusal to negotiate. Iran is acknowledged to be pursuing peaceful nuclear power and I say we have no business interfering with that.

Sure, Ahmedinejad has thrown around some threats, but so what? Lots of world leaders say stupid things, including threats.

I will remind you that Krushchev took off his shoe in, I believe 1982, and said that the Soviet Union would bury us. He meant it, too. And he had a stable of nuclear warheads. But it didnt happen. Do you really seriously think that Iran will ever be able to mount even 1/10 of that threat?

Oh, and how is the soft approach working in Iraq, hmmm?

Posted by: Wolfdaughter on July 31, 2006 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

The Jews seem to be totally unable to handle the truth.

The above two articles were deleted, not discussed (in fact the two articles were never discussed, only ignored).

Shows Jews can't handle, in fact, hate the truth.

Posted by: Ripper on July 31, 2006 at 12:34 AM | PERMALINK

Are we moving towards utopia, or oblivion? What does the national mood ring say? I think we need a whole lot of help!

America on the Oblivion Express:
http://scoop.epluribusmedia.org/story/2006/7/30/17938/6261

Posted by: avahome on July 31, 2006 at 12:36 AM | PERMALINK

Jay:

"I would hardly describe this conflict, or any other battlefield conflict, as an 'existential threat'.

The broader concept of mans industrialization as it relates to global warming and the ultimate destruction of the the earths environment is more aptly described as an existential threat."

I almost never agree with you , but I heartily second this post! Thank you!

Posted by: Wolfdaughter on July 31, 2006 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

Joel and NADS:

I like your posts and almost always agree with them. But you diminish them with gratuitous insults. No matter how silly or stupid you find others' posts, please don't diminish the very real good we liberals are trying to work towards with our beliefs and attempting to put them into practice.

We have enough of an uphill battle against the MSM and the current thrall which the Republicans have our country in. The blogosphere is where we can make our voices heard, and it's very important that we liberals present our arguments reasonably with without insult. Leave the insults for the conservatives.

Thank you.

Posted by: Wolfdaughter on July 31, 2006 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK

One final post and then I'll shut up. For a while. :-)

IMHO, based upon what conservatives post to the boards in Political Animal and other blogs, and upon the editorials and opinions which I read elsewhere, I believe they have several premises which can lead them to sometimes grossly misinterpret what they see and hear.

One premise is that the world is black and white. That people in the world can be divided into good and evil groups. If this, not that. This works in math and computer searching, but not necessarily in real life.

An example is that we are accused of being "Saddam lovers" when we say that we don't think that invading Iraq was the best way to deal with Saddam.

Or there are those who blindly favor one side of the other in the current Israeli-Hezbollah-Lebanese debacle. When we liberals point out that no one has the high moral ground there, conservatives on either side of the dispute accuse us of either being Jew lovers or being "weak" on "terrorism".

They believe in American exceptionalism and in general, in Israeli exceptionalism. In fact, so entrenched is this in their belief systems that when it is pointed out with examples, they argue with the examples without ever addressing the issue of of their belief in American exceptionalism. They don't seem capable of stepping outside this.

They have two rather contradictory beliefs about THE OTHER. One is that THE OTHER is not quite human, perhaps a little subhuman, and not truly competent. So when competency is demonstrated, as in the case of the insurgents in Iraq and Hezbollah, getting more sophisticated, they are taken by surprise. They consistently underestimate the competency of those whom they see as enemies.

This probably contributes to their second belief that THE OTHER is evil and must be defanged or killed, right now or ASAP. If I'm correct, and they are taken by surprise when competency is demonstrated, this immediately pushes their fear buttons. Then any statement by anyone of THE OTHER is immediately taken to constitute an immediate threat, and the assumption is also made that all of the other members of the threatening group also present the same threat. In other words, they overestimate the threat posed. So then they overreact.

This leads to THE OTHER overreacting and a constant pingpong of overreaction until both sides tire of it and call a halt for a while.

Whereas I believe that most liberals see all peoples of the world as fellow humans with foibles, but also capable of doing good and sometimes great deeds. We assume that our fellow human beings in other countries will in general and overall, act with competence, according to the situations they are faced with. If those situations are quite different than ours, as is the case in general with the Middle East, the actions of many of the people there may be puzzling to us. But they make sense to them, given their history and the present situations they find themselves in.

We liberals tend to believe that we must learn their history and what their present circumstances actually are, not what we assume them to be. Only then can we begin to form a reasoned response.

We also believe, as has been stated on this thread and many others, that immediately striking out in war is counterproductive and lays the groundwork for retaliation, then retaliation, etc. etc. It's not that we "coddle" others. Understanding doesn't equal "coddling". But absent understanding, no progress is possible. With understanding, the possibility is opened up for figuring out ways for all sides to get something they want.

And we in the U.S. don't understand the Middle East very well, and our current leadership has an appalling lack of understanding and no interest in changing that. When you combine that with leadership in the Middle East with equal lack of understanding, you have a recipe for disaster.

Posted by: Wolfdaughter on July 31, 2006 at 1:21 AM | PERMALINK

nepeta, Edward Said is not a good source, because he was a fabricator. Here's part of an essay by three U. of Washington faculty members:

Should Said's past membership in an international terrorist organization or his bountiful production of Disneyland versions of history or his thinly-veiled antisemitism and blatant anti-Americanism have disqualified him for selection by the John Danz/Walker-Ames committee? ...

But Said's career has in recent years lurched from scandal to scandal. In the September 1999 issue of Commentary, Justus Reid Weiner revealed that Said had "adjusted" the facts of his life to create a personal mythto fit the myth of Arab dispossession. For decades he had presented himself as an exile, an Arab who grew up in Jerusalem but who, at age twelve, when Israel was established, was (along with his family) driven out of the Talbiyeh neighborhood of Jerusalem. In fact, as Weiner massively documented and irrefutably demonstrated, Said's tragic tale was largely a fabrication. He grew up in a wealthy section of Cairo, son of a Palestinian Arab who emigrated to the U.S. in 1911, became an American citizen, then moved to Egypt. Said was educated in Egypt, not Jerusalem. His family occasionally visited cousins in Jerusalem, and Said was born during one such visit in 1935.

In July of 2000 Said was in the news again. During a visit to Lebanon in July, he was spotted hurling rocks over the border at Israelis. Expressing dismay at the Agence France Presse photograph of his pitching exploits (a peculiar way of realizing his intellectual vocation) Said exclaimed: "I had no idea that media people were there..." Not the action, but its detection, caused him to regret what he had done.

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID=7929

Posted by: ex-liberal on July 31, 2006 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

Wolfdaughter, that must have been about 1962, because Krushchev was long dead twenty years later. But anyway, you are right about the recipe for disaster; that casserole is throughly overcooked by now.

Hey, everybody, apparently we're forgetting to identify ourselves by religion, for the convenience of those goin' around taking names.

Okay, all the Lutherans in the house: put your hands in the air and wave 'em like you just don't care. And yes, the Episcopaleans are evil people.

Posted by: Kenji on July 31, 2006 at 1:50 AM | PERMALINK

ed said has more right to claim himself a displaced arab than does ANY jewish immigrant currently squatting on that same land.

Posted by: Nads on July 31, 2006 at 2:39 AM | PERMALINK

and anyone who thinks frontpagemag, wingnut propaganda that it is, has anything credible to say about edward said, is laughable. the idea that the conservative trash writing for it have credibility regarding who he is or where he comes from is offensive.

even chris hitchens, before he went batshit crazy, defended said's existance as a palestinian, with rights to that name:

"Commentary's scurrilous attack on Edward Said
Enemies are calling him "the Palestinian Tawana Brawley," but Said's stories of displacement and diaspora are true." -- Salon, 1999.

This sort of minimalization of Said is not unexpected ... since the people who committed the initial cleansing of palestinian arabs from the land must find a way to justify their actions, one initial step is to cast doubt on the veracity of their claim to that land.

this is nothing more.

Posted by: Nads on July 31, 2006 at 3:04 AM | PERMALINK

"Conversely, I believe that the evidence of the past half century clearly suggests that conventional war, no matter how brutally prosecuted, is ineffective against guerrillas."

Well that strictly speaking isn't true. Both Syria and Jordan were very able to stop rising guerrillas in their midst.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw on July 31, 2006 at 3:13 AM | PERMALINK

hehe ... sebastian said "guerrillas in their midst"!!!

... sorry.

Posted by: Nads on July 31, 2006 at 3:32 AM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal,

I agree with Nads. I've read criticism of Said and Said's response to that criticism. I believe Said.

Posted by: nepeta on July 31, 2006 at 3:43 AM | PERMALINK

"guerrillas in their midst"!!!

haha....I get it!

Posted by: nepeta on July 31, 2006 at 3:44 AM | PERMALINK

HELL NO...we don't want this left wing liberal approach to "winning hearts and minds"...just BOMB THOSE F---ERS who don't look like us, think like us, belive like us right into the "KINGDOM"...it's what Jesus would do!

Posted by: Dancer on July 31, 2006 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

Hey! How long has Mel Gibson been posting here?

Posted by: BongCrosby on July 31, 2006 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

If, by what you're saying, you mean that we should find all the guest-houses of the bin Laden and Saud families, and nail them with a salvo of cruise missiles, I'd say that would be a good plan.

Israel changed their tactics a few years back, and instead of attacking the Palestinean people directly, instead, isolated Arafat, blew up his helicopters, etc. IIRC, he died about 2 years later, got sick and died. (poisoned?)

This freed the Palestinians from Arafat's tyranny. And they were finally able to get the democracy they deserved. And they voted for Hamas. And now, they're learning the lesson by suffering the consequences.

Real democracy is nice - because it's honest. Nobody needs a tyrant to make the "make peace or die" choices for them.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on July 31, 2006 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

The problem, Kevin, is that conservatives don't believe in delayed gratification - except when they are trying to use it to divert attention from their failures in Iraq and elsewhere.

That's why war.

That's why tax cuts for the wealthy.

That's why they are trying to eviscerate the estate tax.

"I want it now and I want it for me and me alone" is what drives conservatism.

Word.

Posted by: Advocate for God on July 31, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: "what's the alternative? I believe it's fundamentally nonmilitary and revolves around engagement: trade agreements, security pacts, genuine support for grassroots democracy, a willingness to practice the same international rules we preach, etc. The idea is to slowly but steadily promote democratic rule, liberal institutions, education of women, and international commerce. When military responses are necessary, they should be short, highly targeted, and designed to piss off the surrounding citizenry as little as possible"

I don't see how this is any different than the bi-partisan strategy that we followed pre 9/11. The result of that strategy was 30 years of ever-increasing Islamic militancy culminating in 9/11.

Oh, well, back to the drawing board, Kevin.

Posted by: DBL on July 31, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

O_B_F and I are once again in agreement - Democracy is a wonderful thing, as long as the rest of the world votes the way "we" think they should.

Of course, virtually every other country in the world that allows their citizens to cast ballots has a turnout on election day that puts the U.S. to shame.

Posted by: Global Citizen on July 31, 2006 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

DBL: I don't see how this is any different than the bi-partisan strategy that we followed pre 9/11. The result of that strategy was 30 years of ever-increasing Islamic militancy culminating in 9/11.

9/11 was the result of Bush's rejection of bipartisanship and his focus on tax cuts to the exclusion of all else.

The pre-2000 bipartisan strategy kept any 9/11 from happening - it only occurred after Bush took office and destroyed bipartisanship along with committing election fraud, corruption, and criminal acts.

Back to the drawing board, DBL.

Posted by: Advocate for God on July 31, 2006 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

In addition to seconding Martin's comments at the very beginning of this thread, I'd note another aspect of Reynolds' thought:

"In the 1990s, we followed the "ignore it and maybe it'll go away" strategy. As I've noted before, I can't blame people for that it was the strategy that I favored, too, based on what I knew at the time, as I thought that if we waited Islamic Jihadism would collapse under the weight of its own idiocy. But it clearly didn't work."

Islamic jihadism didn't collapse after a decade? Well, I can't say I'm surprised. Soviet Communism didn't collapse overnight either. It lasted for seventy years. So if Reynolds idea is that Islamic jihadism will collapse in a decade, he's just crazy. Under ideal conditions it would have taken a long, long time to eliminate it -- and after eight years of the Bush administration it's probably going to take even longer.

Posted by: Andrew on July 31, 2006 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: ee on August 1, 2006 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote:
___________

So what's the alternative? I believe it's fundamentally nonmilitary and revolves around engagement: trade agreements, security pacts, genuine support for grassroots democracy, a willingness to practice the same international rules we preach, etc. The idea is to slowly but steadily promote democratic rule, liberal institutions, education of women, and international commerce. When military responses are necessary, they should be short, highly targeted, and designed to piss off the surrounding citizenry as little as possible. This will, needless to say, take a very long time and a lot of self restraint, but it won't succeed at all if every few years we set things back a decade with a conventional war.
_____________

It's hard to remember your job is to drain the swamp when you're up to your ass in alligators. It's pretty hard for the Israelis to buy into more self restraint when most of the world will ignore the murder of their citizens for years and only become upset when they strike back.

The trouble with the "slowly promote democratic rule" approach is that it will get you credit from neither your critics nor friends. Meaning you might not be around to see if it works. And there is no guarantee it will work, in any case. One suspects that we could have urged the Baathists to accept democracy for the next forty years without result. Trade agreements just get you accused of dealing with dictators by both left and right.

Of course, even necessary military responses are always going to piss off somebody. Military force is a blunt instrument, even when used in counter-insurgency mode. It looks like the Israelis screwed the pooch in this one, overestimating how much damage they could cause Hezbollah with airpower and only a minimal ground operation. It's beginning to look as if they might be rethinking those methods now, though.

Posted by: Trashhauler on August 2, 2006 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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