Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 1, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

USE OF FORCE....You won't usually find me on the same page as the fine folks at INDCJournal (the "Confirm John Bolton" ad currently running on their sidebar should be your first clue), but occasionally cats and dogs can sleep together. Here is Bill Ardolino yesterday:

There's a common idea, almost exclusively promoted among right-wing pundits, that more force is necessarily more effective force.

....But the global war on terror is a wildly asymmetrical conflict that's only going to grow more frustrating and complex....As a result, much of the bluster about ditching Queensbury rules and going "Dubya Dubya Too" on our "enemies" as an evident solution to the conflict is simply that: bluster...."Nuking Mecca" won't do a whit of good, and in fact [will] accomplish the opposite of any cowing intent.

....I think that it's time for some right-wing pundits to either move beyond the lazy general concept of "more force" is necessarily "better force," or at least present a practical, detailed plan for an aggressive subjugation of "the enemy" that goes beyond "we need to get serious! If only those ******s in Washington would take the gloves off!"

Hear hear. I think there are several points we agree on (some of this was clarified via email, by the way):

  • It is, of course, absurd to suggest that greater force doesn't generally win wars. Not for nothing did Cato the Elder end every speech with a ringing cry of "Carthago delenda est," and Carthage has had a notably minor impact on world affairs ever since.

  • Even in local insurgencies, brutal application of force can be effective. Saddam and the marsh Arabs are a pointed case.

  • However, thanks to modern media and modern weaponry, the track record of major powers ending large-scale insurgencies with massive military power is approximately zero in the past half century including cases where the war was fought with ruthless brutality. And like it or not, a modern insurgency is what we're fighting. We'd be well advised to stop complaining about how unfair this is and get on with business.

  • Nuclear holocaust aside, then, conventional war simply won't succeed in stopping global jihadism, and we need to stop thinking that maybe it will if we just kick it up another notch. It won't kill off our enemies; it will just make their recruiting easier. And if they feel the same way about us in 30 years as they do now, we're in serious trouble.

Now, as Bill notes, we likely still have a "fundamental difference in opinion" about when to apply force and when not to. But I'm willing to take small steps first. If we can manage to agree on the idea that the fight against militant jihadism is, essentially, the biggest counterinsurgency effort ever, it's a good start. It means that when we think about using force, we think about it not in terms of whether it's "justified," or whether it will kill enough people (it won't), but in terms of whether it advances our long-term goal of ratcheting down the number of people who support large-scale terrorism.

We'll still probably disagree more than we agree. But even having an analytic framework in common would be progress.

Kevin Drum 2:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (84)

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Comments

Stop creating more problems by pissing off young people by killing women and children even if the latter are used as human shields by evil men.

Posted by: nut on August 1, 2006 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, the converse is also true. There's a common idea, almost exclusively promoted among left-wing pundits, that less force is necessarily more effective force.

That's not correct either.

I think that it's time for some left-wing pundits to either move beyond the lazy general concept of "less force" is necessarily "better force," or at least present a practical, detailed plan for an passive subjugation of "the enemy" that goes beyond "we need to get serious! If only those ******s in Washington would stop using so much force!"

Posted by: Al on August 1, 2006 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

As an example of what I'm talking about: see the first comment on this thread.

Posted by: Al on August 1, 2006 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Poor Al... is that really the best you can do? Sad.

Back on topic: it would be nice to see analysis like this enter the mainstream. Maybe then we could actually accomplish something. Instead, we get the usual jingoistic nonsense on a daily basis, just ratcheted up louder and more feverish as events deteriorate.

Posted by: PaulB on August 1, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

I think that it's time for some left-wing pundits to either move beyond the lazy general concept of "less force" is necessarily "better force,"

So... where does that leave Rumsfeld's concept of a lighter, more agile military?

Take your time answering, Al. Wouldn't want your brain to overheat or anything.

Posted by: Stranger on August 1, 2006 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Neo-conservative founding father Irving Kristol once famously said, a neoconservative is "a liberal who's been mugged by reality." Now it's the neocons themselves who have been mugged with the the death of the Bush Doctrine.

Posted by: AvengingAngel on August 1, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Poor Al... is that really the best you can do? Sad.

PaulB, like a typical liberal you don't have a argument why I'm wrong. You just have insults.

Posted by: Al on August 1, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

No one could have anticipated that this would be the biggest counterinsurgency effort ever...

...other than the rush to get Diebold machines in every voting preceinct, purge the rolls of African-Americans, and scare the shit out of everyone else.

Posted by: Charles on August 1, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know if less force is more effective or force that is overwhelming, but I am sure than indiscriminate use of force is totally ineffective.

Despite the claims to purity of intentions, killing a hundred civilians in hopes of getting one or two terrorists is by any standards indiscriminate use of force.

Posted by: nut on August 1, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

"But even having an analytic framework in common would be progress."

Huh? What framework? "Not too big, not too small...juuuuuuuuuuuust right!
Kevin, you're making exactly as much sense as Al is.

Brutal application of force only works when Saddam uses it? We should be more brutal? Or less brutal?
We should be "more effective?" Ye gods, you're right! Get me Captain Obvious!

Posted by: cazart on August 1, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

But in general, less force = less dead people, so unless there is strong reason to believe otherwise, I would prefer to err on the side of less force. Since when it comes to insurgencies, there is no evidence at all that more force is better, so more force is simply evil.

Right-wing nutjobs, this isn't a video game. These are real people who are dying so you can watch bombs blow up and pretend you have large genitals. Some of us, better known as the portion of the population that is not psychopathic, have real problems with killing other humans for no good reason.

Posted by: Doctor Gonzo on August 1, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Not quite on target on the rather silly speechifying of Cato the Elder. After the Second Punic War (218-202) Carthage was stripped of its ability to be a significant world influence by losing its fleet and its overseas commercial empire, not to mention that Rome was expanding so rapidly no one could keep up. Destroying the city amidst what passed for media display at that time (sowing salt on the site, calling the Carthaginian gods to come over to the Roman side) was the kind of brutal self display the 20th century was all too familiar with. More Mussolini than Churchill.

Posted by: Gene O'Grady on August 1, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

If one refuses to act because of the presence of 'human shields' (hostages, whatever you want to call them), then you concede the battle to the other side. That means you concede whatever it is you were fighting for.

And that means, it's smart to take hostages, lots of them, as quickly as possible in any confrontation. Somehow I don't think that's what the person who signs himself as 'nut' wants.

To Kevin's points: there is one successful counter-insurgency I know of post-WWII, and that is the British reduction of the Mau-Mau insurgency.

A friend of mine, a contractor, has a saying for his workers: don't work harder, work smarter. If Kevin's essential point is that more force isn't necessarily what we need for a given situation, but rather a smarter force, then both left and right should agree and move to the next item on the agenda.

Example: Vietnam. Gen. Westmoreland used more and more force to get more body counts, all to little avail. Gen. Abrams, when put in charge, move to classic counter-insurgency operations and defeated the Viet Cong in a couple of years even though he had fewer troops available (he didn't beat the NVA, and by then Nixon and Kissinger were working their black magic, but that's for another thread). Working smarter was better than working harder.

Conventional war isn't the only strategy to be used against global islamofascism / jihadism. Clearly other strategies need to be used. Again, if Kevin is advocating that we should have more arrows in our quiver, and some knowledge of what arrow to use in a given situation, then hurrah, we're in agreement.

Posted by: Steve White on August 1, 2006 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

It's gotta be a combination of both effective force AND better message delivery.

I heard a lot of noise from this Admin a couple years ago about how we're in a new war, one of hearts and minds. Haven't heard much of that since, and I never saw anything come from it.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on August 1, 2006 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, that 30 year horizon is a telling one. "Peak Oil" hit last December. Peak Oil is also close to "Peak Arab Influence". Arab influence will probably actually increase over the next few years, but as (hopefully) alternate, non-petroleum fuels replace imported oil then "Dune II" will become less and less a global concern and more exclusively a regional one.

So, cheer up. We only have to hold our deepest values in hock and abeyance for a few more years. Then, with our livelihoods and casual life styles fueled elsewhere, we'll be able to do the right thing with our usual self-righteousness and elan without worrying about it cramping our styles.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on August 1, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

There's a decades-old joke that speaks to the average joe's inability to let go of the past that will seem long, but apt (apologies)

The passengers on a civilian flight were told they
had to lose about 500 pounds of weight or the plane would have to be ditched in the Pacific. Three volunteers stepped up to sacrifice themselves for the good of the many. The first, an american shouted "God bless America" and jumped out the door.
A Frenchman followed with "Viva Le France". The third, a Texican, grabbed a Mexican and while pushing him out the door screamed 'Remember the Alamo.'

WingNut nation panders to those primitive instincts because they feel if the majority has
the same response, they can't be bad. trouble is they don't advance any agenda except clinging to the past. Comforting to some, lethal to others.

Posted by: Semanticleo on August 1, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

As much as you wish to find common ground with Ardolino, it is ultimately impossible. War pimps and chickenhawks always see force as the first, second, and third options. When those options fail, they'll whine that we didn't apply enough force.

Until we address the underlying reasons that give rise to terrorism, we'll be spitting into the wind. And it would help immensely that when we do bring force to bear--we apply against those who actually present a threat.

Posted by: jadegold on August 1, 2006 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK
It means that when we think about using force, we think about it not in terms of whether it's "justified," or whether it will kill enough people (it won't), but in terms of whether it advances our long-term goal of ratcheting down the number of people who support large-scale terrorism.

There is no reason to not consider the first consideration (justification) just because you are considering the last (effectiveness). In fact, to consider the first properly, that is, to consider whether the particular force we are considering is justified, we must of course consider what its rationally expected positive and negative results are, IOW, what its effectiveness is.

And it would be utterly repugnant to suggest that the analysis of the use of force should begin and end at effectiveness without considering justification; to borrow your example, one wants to avoid siding with Saddam's campaign against the marsh Arabs.

Posted by: cmdicely on August 1, 2006 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

You know your leaders are terrible when they haven't even made a start at the "long-term goal of ratcheting down the number of people who support large-scale terrorism." Not even a start.

I mean, it shouldn't be hard. Almost everybody, given a choice between blowing themselves up in a car full of explosives to kill a few people and anything else at all, will choose the anything else at all. So it shouldn't require much of an incentive to keep people from being recruited to that kind of activity. But what have we done to provide such incentives: Nothing.

Indeed, our aim seems to have been to inflame, rather than to extinguish, radical recruitment. Fallujah, Abu Ghraib, Qana, and more. Thank god somebody is realizing there must be a better alternative.

Posted by: David in NY on August 1, 2006 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

> Actually, that 30 year horizon is a
> telling one. "Peak Oil" hit last December.
> Peak Oil is also close to "Peak Arab
> Influence".

I am all in favor of reducing US dependence on oil, but as Hugo Chavez understands (and Snarlin' Dick Cheney apparently does not), as we pass peak oil what remains is going to get more and more valuable for a _long_ time. You don't have to pump too many barrels at $300/bbl (2006 dollars) to maintain your influence.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on August 1, 2006 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

As an example of what I'm talking about: see the first comment on this thread.

That comment is a comment about seeking to avoid particular consequences of force, not simply using less force. Using more effectively targetted, less indiscriminate, force would acheive its goals. It is, therefore, not an example of what you were complaining about.

Posted by: cmdicely on August 1, 2006 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

The practical problem with much of our foreign policy is that we don't have a local constiuency. In Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran there is no one that sees eye to eye with our goals. In fact the majority of the populations are strongly against our perceived objectives. Two solutions:

1) Go old school (like Ghengis Khan and Caesar) and build alliances with powerful players. In Iraq that means taking sides with the Shiites and Kurds and standing by if there is a genocide. In Lebanon it means rearming the christian militias.

This won't work because we have already alienated everyone. Only corrupt players representing no one are willing to join us and they won't be of much help in keeping down insurgencies. Furthermore, if our intentions and arms shipments are public, international media attention would result in our condemnation by every nation including Israel.

2) The rational approach. Scale back selfish goals and work more strongly on diplomatic fronts. Publicly dismiss the concept of permanent bases, close guantanomo, embrace the geneva conventions, hold Israel's feet to the fire a little bit, impeach bush, etc.. Build local constituencies across the globe by pushing strongly for human rights and self determination.

This won't work because we have already alienated everyone. No one will believe us (or believe it will last) and those that hate us will keep up their attacks.

-----

As Tony Snow might say, we have already punched the tar baby.

Posted by: B on August 1, 2006 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: It means that when we think about using force, we think about it not in terms of whether it's "justified," or whether it will kill enough people (it won't), but in terms of whether it advances our long-term goal of ratcheting down the number of people who support large-scale terrorism.

The sad truth is that right-wingers, such as commenter Steve White, prefer to use force, the more force the better, and to kill lots of Arabs and Muslims, the more the better, not because this will accomplish any "goal" but because it makes them feel good, strong and powerful, while they sit back and chug beers and watch the colorful fireworks show on Fox News.

Posted by: The Sad Truth on August 1, 2006 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

William Gibson writes that each side of this debate has an unrequited urge to make the other side just see clearly, but the two sides are seeing via incompatible frameworks.

http://www.williamgibsonbooks.com/blog/2006_07_01_archive.asp#115421005113754231

Not being an expert on warfare, myself, I'm inclined to side with the folks whose predictions have been more accurate the last few years. According to the neo-cons, that would be them, but I don't see that.

Posted by: Ben on August 1, 2006 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

Cranky wrote: ... as Hugo Chavez understands (and Snarlin' Dick Cheney apparently does not), as we pass peak oil what remains is going to get more and more valuable for a _long_ time.

The sad truth is, that Dick Cheney understands full well that in the era of Peak and Post-Peak Oil, whoever controls the world's major oil reserves during the period of dwindling supply and growing demand will be in a position to become wealthy and powerful almost beyond conception. That's why the US invaded Iraq. That's why Cheney plans to "take out" Hugo Chavez by any means necessary.

Posted by: The Sad Truth on August 1, 2006 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

""The use of unnecessary violence in apprehending the Blues Brothers has been approved."

So when is excessive brutality effective? And when does it backfire and just make civilians join the opposition?

It seems to work pretty damn well if the world isn't paying attention. The Chechens get slaughtered and no one cares. Most Americans don't give a damn if another 100,000 Darfuri villagers get killed, and Europe cares a bit less. It also worked well for Genghis Khan and ancient Rome. The Parthians didn't object to the pacification of Brittania.

It doesn't work well if the world is paying attention. That leads to outside actors providing support for the resistance. Even if Israel destroys every rocket and explosive vest in Lebanon, Iran will just make more. And we haven't shut off the flow of money and weapons into Iraq.

So what gets the attention of the world? One surefire flag is the fear they'll be attacked next. This means that nations that can project power attract more attention when they attack, especially when they do it at a distance.

Nobody cares about Russia or the Sudan because they're too weak to attack far beyond their borders. Israel gets noticed because they can defeat the regular armies of the most important oil states. And we attract the most attention because we're the only superpower: we can destroy the government and infrastructure of any other state on Earth.

If our behavior is ethical and predictable then other nations aren't afraid they'll be attacked. But if we act indiscriminately it generates a lot of fear. And that creates supporters for our opposition. If we "take the gloves off" it will just increase the international opposition to us. It might flatten Iraq so badly that no one is left to fight us (for a generation), but we'll never regain the trust of the rest of the world.

Posted by: Gene in Chicago on August 1, 2006 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

....I think that it's time for some right-wing pundits to either move beyond the lazy general concept of "more force" is necessarily "better force," or at least present a practical, detailed plan for an aggressive subjugation of "the enemy" that goes beyond "we need to get serious! If only those ******s in Washington would take the gloves off!"

It's right at "move beyond the lazy" that he lost them.

Posted by: Stefan on August 1, 2006 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

If one refuses to act because of the presence of 'human shields' (hostages, whatever you want to call them), then you concede the battle to the other side.


If by 'refuses to act' you mean 'becomes paralyzed into complete inaction' you are right.

However, if one refuses to act in ways that are sure to kill the innocent human shield but tries to find alternate courses of actions to handle the situation, in no sense does one concede defeat.

Posted by: nut on August 1, 2006 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Gee, Kevin, I love the theoretical framework discussions but I am having a little trouble focusing on such a nuanced policy issue because currently the government that runs our country is busily resupplying a client state with weapons that are killing women, children, and old people. But who knows, perhaps the women love jihadists , perhaps the old people were jihadists, and perhaps the children woud have become jihadists. So under the preemptive war theory that you so blithely endorse without saying so directly I guess it is all fine . Yes, we really need to agree on the framework for discussions of exactly what is the best way to kill these people. And just one more thought: if you and your new found friends can think of a policy where you can just bomb anybody that might one day become a terrorist you will solve the problem anyway because that bombing should help them become terrorists later.

And while we are sorting out terorists and insurgents I am sorry that I missed the discussion on your site of the 60th anniversary of the terror bombing by Begin and the Irgun of the King David Hotel in July 1946 since I believe it was a classic religious terror operation with Irgun members masquerading as arabs, large amounts of explosives, and conspirators meeting at a religious center before they destroyed the British heaadquarters and the portion of the hotel still functioning as a hotel.

Posted by: virginia cynic on August 1, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Cranky,

Sad but true. Arab influence already has ascendency, which will pretty much suck for the rest of us.

Actually all oil producers have ascendency and will for a long, long time.

Posted by: Tripp on August 1, 2006 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

but occasionally cats and dogs can sleep together.

Don't we need an amendment or something!!?? Republican Congress? Santorum?? Anyone?

Posted by: ckelly on August 1, 2006 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Al's specialty, as always is writing without having actually read what anyone else is saying. It must be weird to be so tone-deaf while sleeping under the orchestra stage.

Posted by: Kenji on August 1, 2006 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

occasionally cats and dogs can sleep together

With all due respect, Kevin, I think the word you're looking for is "live together."

Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.

Mayor: What do you mean, "biblical"?

Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath-of-God type stuff.

Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.

Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling.

Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes...

Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave.

Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria.

Posted by: Gregory on August 1, 2006 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

I am all in favor of reducing US dependence on oil, but as Hugo Chavez understands (and Snarlin' Dick Cheney apparently does not), as we pass peak oil what remains is going to get more and more valuable for a _long_ time. You don't have to pump too many barrels at $300/bbl (2006 dollars) to maintain your influence.

Common sense should tell you that there won't be many $300 barrels of oil pumped. Well before the $300/bbl mark, other fuels start to make economic sense. At the $300/bbl mark, it makes sense to burn boxes of donuts, fenders, statues, fish heads. $300/bbl is pricey even for liquid dinosaurs.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on August 1, 2006 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

1) Go old school (like Ghengis Khan and Caesar) and build alliances with powerful players.

IIRC, Ghengis Khan used to wipe out the existing elite (social, political and financial) and replace them with grateful non-elites from the local area.

Posted by: Edo on August 1, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely wrote:

As an example of what I'm talking about: see the first comment on this thread.

That comment is a comment about seeking to avoid particular consequences of force, not simply using less force. Using more effectively targetted, less indiscriminate, force would acheive its goals. It is, therefore, not an example of what you were complaining about.

False.

That comment is indeed a perfect of what my comment discussed. I wrote: There's a common idea, almost exclusively promoted among left-wing pundits, that less force is necessarily more effective force. That's not correct either.

The commenter wrote that we ought to stop using a particular type of force ("killing women and children even if the latter are used as human shields by evil men"). Terminating the use of certain force, without replacing that use of force with something else - and the comment did not mention replacing that use of force with something else - necessarily means using less force. Accordingly, the comment necessarily mentioned using less force.

The commenter apparently believed that such use of less force would mean that the remaining, lesser force would be more effective (by avoiding "creating more problems by pissing off young people"). That may or may not be a correct belief on the part of that commenter. But the comment exemplifies the point I made: it is a typical "lazy general concept" of a "left-wing pundit" that the use of lesser force would be a more effective use of force.

Posted by: Al on August 1, 2006 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

The cmdicely quote is the first TWO paragraphs of my post, not just the first. For some reason, blockquote didn't work correctly. My apologies.

Posted by: Al on August 1, 2006 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

How ironic that this iteration of "Al" apologizes, not for his advocacy of a so-called "strategy" that leads to the inevitable slaughter of women and children, but for an HTML formatting error. The lack of moral compass of the Bush Cultists is truly on display.

Posted by: Gregory on August 1, 2006 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK
The commenter wrote that we ought to stop using a particular type of force ("killing women and children even if the latter are used as human shields by evil men").

That's not a "type" of force, its an effect of force.

The commenter is saying, it seems to me, that whatever force is used, it should be effectively targetted to avoid killing innocents; this is completely neutral on the amount of force that should be used, and certainly not making the argument you refer to, that reduction in the level of force is, by itself, inherently more effective force.


Terminating the use of certain force, without replacing that use of force with something else - and the comment did not mention replacing that use of force with something else - necessarily means using less force.

So? Even if the commenter was arguing for less total force (which, as I note above, seems to badly misinterpret the aim of the argument), the argument for a specific lesser application of force is not an argument for the position you have criticized, that is, it is not an argument that "lesser force is necessarily more effective force", it is, instead, an argument that there exists a specific form of "lesser force" which would be more effective than the specific form of force currently being applied.

You are making an invalid generalization from an already strained interpretation to call this an example of the trend you complained about, because its a completely bogus trend.

Posted by: cmdicely on August 1, 2006 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

IIRC, Ghengis Khan used to wipe out the existing elite (social, political and financial) and replace them with grateful non-elites from the local area.

and I suggested they would knock of Saddam and side strongly with religious Shiites instead of exhile scam artists like Chalabi.

You can't have a stable empire without local allies.

Posted by: B on August 1, 2006 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Before the brilliant bullies loaded us all onto the Iraq Titanic, who was it that warned that if you can't kill or jail all your adversaries, you're gonna have to make a deal?

Are you man enough to accept that it was Bill C.linton? Or, are you going to get all twitchy about it?

Posted by: gar on August 1, 2006 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

Carthage is completely irrelevant. It was a state pursuing conventional (if you don't count elephants crossing mountain ranges) warfare against another state. What has that got to do with the question of whether more force is necessarily more effective against an insurgency?

Posted by: Ginger Yellow on August 1, 2006 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

You are making an invalid generalization from an already strained interpretation to call this an example of the trend you complained about, because its a completely bogus trend.

But I'm sure you're aware that invalid generalizations, strained interpretations and bogus contentions are the stock in trade of the various iterations of "Al" and the rest of the Bush apologists.

Posted by: Gregory on August 1, 2006 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

You can't have a stable empire without local allies.

Posted by: B

Please apply for a high level position at the State Department. The US needs your expertise badly.

Posted by: slanted tom on August 1, 2006 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

I have no desire to argue with Al, but must thank cmdicely for taking up the slack.

Posted by: nut on August 1, 2006 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

Please apply for a high level position at the State Department. The US needs your expertise badly.

On the contrary, such common sense and insight makes him uniquely unsuited to a job with the Bush regime.

Posted by: Stefan on August 1, 2006 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

The British also successfully quelled an insurgency in Malaya in the 1950s. One reason for their success in both is that they conceded that independence would follow the end of the insurgency. Note that this part of the successful strategy has been manifestly ignored by the US and Israel.

Posted by: Wombat on August 1, 2006 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

Using more effectively targetted, less indiscriminate, force would acheive its goals.

Before the Iraq war, when we were using predator drones to take out specific Al-Qaeda targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the so-called passifist left barely made a sound. Even when civilians were killed in the process. That's because they were operating in low-density areas where damage to civilians and infrastructure were minimal.

Republicans would have built an untouchable majority if they had just continued to do that. If they had just stuck with going after Al-Qaeda, where they operate, they would have been fine. But as Rumsfeld said, their weren't any good targets in Afghanistan. The Right needs to stop crying and face the fact that they blew it big time. It's time you guys moved over and let someone clean up your mess.

Posted by: enozinho on August 1, 2006 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

It is, of course, absurd to suggest that greater force doesn't generally win wars. Not for nothing did Cato the Elder end every speech with a ringing cry of "Carthago delenda est," and Carthage has had a notably minor impact on world affairs ever since.

That's why Sid Meier invented the Civilization series of games. :)

Posted by: Paul on August 1, 2006 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

"Nuclear holocaust aside, then, conventional war simply won't succeed in stopping global jihadism, and we need to stop thinking that maybe it will if we just kick it up another notch. It won't kill off our enemies; it will just make their recruiting easier. And if they feel the same way about us in 30 years as they do now, we're in serious trouble."

Of course, Kevin, the Syrians 1982 had a similar problem that we are experiencing today, and their solution would seem to counter this argument.

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

"Thomas Friedman points out that never again have Muslim extremists threatened the Syrian government."

I guess it proves the old addage, if you're going to go to war...do it right the first time, cause you may not get a second chance.

Posted by: sheerahkahn on August 1, 2006 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

"Carthage is completely irrelevant. It was a state pursuing conventional (if you don't count elephants crossing mountain ranges) warfare against another state. What has that got to do with the question of whether more force is necessarily more effective against an insurgency?"

This would be historically incorrect.
Carthaginian political masters treated the Barca family as rabid pitbulls that needed to be chained.
When Hannibal did go for his tour de force of the Italian pennisula, the Carthaginians were seeking to "distance" themselves with plausible deniability (they wanted the rewards, but none of the risks). However, that kinda fell through when the Romans weren't buying into it, and o'l Scipio came over to pay his respects..
The Reason Rome eventually sacked Carthage proper was in part due to to the extreme phobia of the Roman populace to anything that rhymed with Hannibal, and just the mention of his name was cause enough to march the legions.
In fact, there is the idea that the final blow to carthage was dealt because "rumor" had that Hannibal had return to Carthage to build a new army (mind you, Hannibal was running for his life because Rome had assassins out after him. They wanted him dead, dead, dead!).
Also, the Romans weren't thinking to clearly either because if they had they would realize that carthage was essentially broke. The Carthaginians were having a hard enough time paying the tribute levy to Rome, and raising an army would've broke them long before the Romans got wind of a training camp.
The bottom line is that Rome and the Romans never forgot Hannibal, and in part, because of Hannibal, Roman foriegn policy was basically ever expanding the borders of Rome. They felt if they controlled the otherside of the border, they would be safe.

Posted by: sheerahkahn on August 1, 2006 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

"Carthage has had a notably minor impact on world affairs ever since"

Well, actually, Carthage was rebuilt, and became a great power capital again during the Vandal era (439-533 AD).

Posted by: rea on August 1, 2006 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

The desire to hurt Israel arises from the fact that the Jews ethnically cleansed somewhere between 750,000 and a million Christian and Muslim Arabs from their homes in the 1948 Jew land grab.

If you had been thrown out of your home and not allowed to return, you would be still fighting as well. I certainly would be. I would never give up, and I would teach my children to hate the Jews who did this to me. You see how it goes on?

Posted by: slim on August 1, 2006 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

Taking five years of assbackwards policy to learn this basic point is neither noteworthy nor hopeful.

Posted by: Ten in Tenn on August 1, 2006 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

My name is slim...

I am real dim...

I got an itch...

To be Hezbollah's bitch...

As you well know...

I'm Nasrallah's ho...

Posted by: slim on August 1, 2006 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

Iraq a mistake? That is mildly amusing. Taking down Iraq was central to the war against those who murdered 3,000 of us on 9/11. Merely going after Al Qaeda was a fools errand as our enemies are broader than Al Qaeda.

Saddam promised us he would use single arabs if we tried to stop his little land grab in Kuwait.

On July 25, President Saddam Hussein of Iraq summoned the United States Ambassador to Baghdad, April Glaspie If you use pressure, we will deploy pressure and force. We know that you can harm us although we do not threaten you. But we too can harm you. Everyone can cause harm according to their ability and their size. We cannot come all the way to you in the United States, but individual Arabs may reach you.

He followed through on this threat by enlisting terrorists to attempt to assasinate a former President. While some on the left may find it amusing to claim that Junior is motivated to avenge his father, the simple fact remains that a head of state, Saddam, attempting to murder a US President even if he was a former President was pretty outrageous. In simpler times a world war started to avenge such a monstrosity.

That Abdul Rahman Yasin one of the main bomb makers of the 1993 WTC hit found refuge in Iraq was no coincidence. Had they been successful in their attempt to drop one tower into the other the death toll would have dwarfed 9/11. Given that the bomb crater was 6 stories deep they didn't miss by much. Iraq giving aid to such a monster should have been evidence enough.

Then we have Salman Pak where Marines found suicide belts and other terror training devices, including an Airliner that Saddam claimed he trained his anti terror squads on.

Then we have the attempted bombing of Radio Free Europe which saw Saddam sending 2 different "ambassadors" to Prague to enlist Islamic Nutjobs to carry out a car bomb attack. The second of these Ambassadors was eventually found to be taking video's of the building and was throw out of the country. He was also the same ambassador who met with Atta. This story has never been disavowed by the Czech Foreign Service.

Extending all the way back to Reagan our responses to these rabid dogs of the ME has been exceptional tolerance. Murder 241 Marines in their barracks and the supposed Warmonger Reagan instead of retaliating against the sponsor Iran withdraws our forces and abandons Lebanon. The philosophy of not responding to these rabid dogs with force has already been tried. It failed miserably...it brought on 9/11.

What the left and some on the right forget is withdrawal has already been tried and it failed.

It is worth remembering that our enemies have no qualms with killing us in huge numbers.

We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you.Hussein Massawi, a former Hezbollah leader

This is not to say that I have faith in President Bush to fight this war the way it needs to be fought. Everytime he declares that Islam has been hijacked I cringe.

Posted by: Pierre Legrand on August 1, 2006 at 9:56 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a question I'd like to see the White House answer each time it comes up with another "more force = better force" plan of action: "What will this do to the total number of people in the world who want to kill us?"

For example:

-A precise military operation that carefully targets and kills some terrorists with no civilian casualties = less people who want to kill us

-An airstrike that kill some terrorists along with a bunch of civilians and thereby turns the population against us = more people who want to kill us

-Capturing and imprisoning brutal insurgents who are terrorizing the local population = less people who want to kill us

-Torturing said brutal insurgents along with some random guys accidentally swept up in raids and held based on questionable intelligence = more people who want to kill us

See how enlightening that can be?

Posted by: Dave on August 1, 2006 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

"That is mildly amusing. Taking down Iraq was central to the war against those who murdered 3,000 of us on 9/11."

Then you should not be killing Iraqis, but should be killing American/Jews as they put the explosives in the WTC buildings and gave you 9/11.

Posted by: slim on August 1, 2006 at 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

Dave:

you forgot the most difficult case of all: killing Hezbollah fighters who are both "terrorists" in the sense that they deliberately target Israeli civilians, AND local heros who are seen as defending Lebanese Shiites against the Israelis.

Posted by: brooksfoe on August 1, 2006 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

Cmdicely, this is the first time in reading about 11000 comment posts that I have *ever* seen Al attempt to make an argument that could in some way be said to exist separately from insulting remarks about leftists and wildly surreal Bush talking points, recited literally verbatim.

What's up, Al? Did the heritage Foundation finally shit-can the first guy named "Al?" Or are you just filling in?

Posted by: glasnost on August 1, 2006 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

(I'm coming in late here. I've only skimmed. Forgive me.)

What the heck???

Global jihadism?? Are you serious? There are a few pocket cases of somewhat justified Muslim anger manifesting itself in sporadic acts of violence and you want to call it Global Jihadism?

You're playing right into their hands, Kevin.

I have Muslim friends, Kevin. And I've travelled in Muslim countries. Do you and have you?

Posted by: exasperanto on August 1, 2006 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

As the eternal optimist, as one who is certain that the path of humanity is from the darkness to the light, I must assume that every event, even though it may seem to be a step backward (such as the Bush episodes), is in the long term, facilitating our advancement.

So what positive effect can there be in Bushs mid-east mess? Lets see. We will look back on it as a turning point. Already we have strong examples of the right path for history to take in the nonviolence of Gandhi, King and Mandella. The Bushmess and its knee jerk violent responses to problems stand out as examples of the road not to take.

It is a very practical thing. Nonviolence works. It frees captive nations and oppressed people. Violence does not work. It merely creates new hatreds to add to the old and locks its users in a death spiral.

If human progress were a donkey, G-K-M would be the carrot and the Bushmess the stick.

Posted by: James of DC on August 1, 2006 at 11:13 PM | PERMALINK

Global jihadism?? Are you serious? There are a few pocket cases of somewhat justified Muslim anger manifesting itself in sporadic acts of violence and you want to call it Global Jihadism?

This is silly. Al-Qaeda and various other Muslim extremist groups recruit and operate from the Philippines to London. A few days ago on French TV I caught an extended documentary segment by a guy who'd filmed Abu Sayyaf fighters out in the jungle being addressed by a representative from Libya; a couple of them had just come back from being trained in Libya. The camps in Afghanistan trained fighters from Bosnia. Moroccans from Hamburg are blowing up trains in Madrid.

It's not that all of these groups are identical or have some kind of central headquarters. And they aren't the unique or legitimate representatives of all Muslim anger and resentment towards the West, let alone of Muslim political aspirations tout court. They're a confused collection of separate groups expressing a small segment of the most radical Muslim opinion. But they are global, they talk and cooperate, and they represent a more or less coherent current in Muslim political thought; and they are terrorists, and they are underground. It's ridiculous to say there's no such thing as global Jihadism, just as it's ridiculous to say Saddam Hussein was its exemplar, or that bombing Hezbollah-related apartment blocks in south Beirut equals "fighting global Jihadism".

Global Communism didn't order North Vietnam to invade South Vietnam or Castro to rebel against Batista. Those were national struggles which linked up with global Communism. But it's ridiculous to say there was no such thing as global Communism.

Posted by: brooksfoe on August 1, 2006 at 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

the evils of the use of exessive force are seen after the deaths of woman and children ,many innocent civilians who are caught up in violent attacks , just for the capture of one or two terrorist. the use of exessive force is not something that would lead to a positive outcome and it will just create more hatred between opposing sides. the children of countries living with violence will learn to hate one another and the cycle would go on , and many lives would be lost. i truly believe that there must be something that can be done before restorting to exessive force, violence, brutality.

Posted by: ceres on August 1, 2006 at 11:52 PM | PERMALINK

If excessive force, ie Shock and Awe TM, worked we wouldn't be having this conversation.

The Iraq War would be over, and Afghanistan would be quiet.

Posted by: floopmeister on August 2, 2006 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

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

floop: Nobody has tried Shock and Awe in Afghanistan - thank god. Unfortunately, what's failing there is the inkblot. But I still think the inkblot has a decent chance of success in Afghanistan.

But maybe that's just my interpretation of the inkblot. It looks different to everyone. Probably has something to do with my relationship with my father. :)

Posted by: brooksfoe on August 2, 2006 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, what's failing there is the inkblot. But I still think the inkblot has a decent chance of success in Afghanistan.

Yeah, you may be right - but the British Army must be suffering institutional deja vu. At least they're leaving there bases for more than just 'search and destroy' missions, which seems to have been the tactic until now.

Probably has something to do with my relationship with my father. :)

Not an Oedi-fying topic for conversation, actually.

Sorry...

Posted by: floopmeister on August 2, 2006 at 12:23 AM | PERMALINK

"...other than the rush to get Diebold machines in every voting preceinct, purge the rolls of African-Americans, and scare the shit out of everyone else."

Democrats have always had to deal with two huge hurdles. A perception that they're weak on defense. And the fact that a certain segment of their constituency are full tilt crazy .. as demonstrated by the above quote taken from an earlier post. The latter gets to be a problem for dems. Because after encountering one of these progressive lunatics. Youre left wondering whats REALLY going on with the dems that they attract such a solid contingent of crazies.. and do I REALLY want to vote for someone who attracts such a loyal following of deranged folks..

M

Posted by: Mike on August 2, 2006 at 3:55 AM | PERMALINK

Global Communism didn't order North Vietnam to invade South Vietnam or Castro to rebel against Batista. Those were national struggles which linked up with global Communism. But it's ridiculous to say there was no such thing as global Communism.


Shorter version: it doesn't mean what we try to make it mean, but there's a way to squint at it to make it seem vaguely correct.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on August 2, 2006 at 8:00 AM | PERMALINK

The concept of proportionality in war does not mean that the amount of force used should be roughly the same as that used by your enemy. Using such a measurement would only ensure that the issue is not resolved and that the number of casualties on both sides is higher than they might otherwise be.

The actual legal measure of proportionality in war is whether the likely military outcome will outweigh the amount of collateral damage caused by the methods used. Such a measurement cannot normally be made bomb by bomb, it is usually made over the course of a battle or campaign.

So far, the Israelis have done nothing in Lebanon that would reach an indictable level of disproportionality under the laws of warfare. A few stray Mk 82s are not very much as such things go, given the scope and duration of the conflict, despite the regrettable tragedy of civilian casualties.

Posted by: Trashhauler on August 2, 2006 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

Trashhauler:

I rather strongly disagree; proportionality (both in going to war and in its conduct) refers not to military gain, which is itself merely a means, but to the harms avoided by the war (in going to war) or the specific conduct (when examining particular acts within war). I've yet to see a cogent argument that Israel's efforts are likely to avoid any harm whatsoever that would otherwise have occurred, and certainly not any proportional to the harms inflicted.

Posted by: cmdicely on August 2, 2006 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

The latter gets to be a problem for dems. Because after encountering one of these progressive lunatics. Youre left http://www.ggsf.info/sitemap.htm wondering whats REALLY going on with the dems that they attract such a solid contingent of crazies..

Posted by: Savannah on August 2, 2006 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

I was referring to the legal definition of proportionality, since that is the one which most often drives a commander's decisions. It is, after all, the measure that might be used to decide if he has committed a war crime or not.

That is a different measure from that used to determine proportionality in a political sense. A war gone wrong will exact a political toll, regardless of the collateral damage wrought. To one's opponents, any collateral damage is disproportionate. Presumably, the Israeli leadership must balance the possible military gain against unacceptable political damage. They probably disregard a certain amount of public outrage, calculating that it comes from folks who aren't disposed to support Israel in any case.

Israel's efforts are almost certainly avoiding damage - they are using only a fraction of their combat power and (from a military perspective) being rather careful in wielding what they do use. Whether it turns out to be proportional in either sense of the word can only be determined after the fact.

Posted by: Trashhauler on August 2, 2006 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Steve White: If one refuses to act because of the presence of 'human shields' (hostages, whatever you want to call them), then you concede the battle to the other side.

I guess that means that the insurgents were right when they killed the children that American soldiers were using as human shields after enticing them into their vicinity with candy treats.

Steve gives the "terrorists" all the justification they need to target civilians - those pesky civilians are just in the way of their real targets.

Posted by: Advocate for God on August 2, 2006 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

And a small demurral regarding the idea that the entire war on terror is a counterinsurgency.

Neither the Taliban nor Hezbollah were insurgent forces in the classic sense. Both groups would be more accurately described as paramilitary, rather than guerilla-style insurgents. Both have tried to operate on a part of the warfighting spectrum considerably higher than that of simple guerillas. In particular, Hezbollah has (or had) almost all the aspects of a conventional force, i.e., a robust and fixed infrastructure, a discernable (and targetable) command structure, lines of communication, etc. Admittedly, they swim in the sea of the people, thus retaining the ability to fall back into guerilla-style activity if hard-pressed. But to do that means sacrificing much of what they had built up over the decades.

The GWOT, or whatever they are calling it today, has always required agility and flexibility on the part of military units. Some unit tasks have been classic counter-insurgency missions, while the same unit has encountered very conventional challenges the next day. Luckily, our military is better equipped than almost any in the world for such flexibility. Mistakes and miscalculations are inevitable, of course. It's been often said that victory is often determined by who makes the fewest mistakes. It's hard to tell if we can overcome the mistakes we've already made. We better hope so.

Posted by: Trashhauler on August 2, 2006 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe:

I don't doubt that my "number of people that want to kill us" metric has a few holes. It's mostly just a snarky way of saying that I wish our Cowboy in Chief and his Bring It On posse would give at least a token consideration to minimizing the number of America haters that we generate through our foreign policy. Robert Wright expresses this idea much more eloquently in his Take 2 explanation of Progressive Realism.

BTW, I liked your comment on global Jihadism.

Posted by: Dave on August 2, 2006 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

"The desire to hurt Israel arises from the fact that the Jews ethnically cleansed somewhere between 750,000 and a million Christian and Muslim Arabs from their homes in the 1948 Jew land grab.

If you had been thrown out of your home and not allowed to return, you would be still fighting as well."

Slim, you are a pathetic, hate-filled excuse for a human being, but I have to agree with this assertion above. Why don't you just stick to these facts, as you see them, and drop the conspiracy theories and bold-faced ethnic slurs? Take a while to answer this one: Do you mostly enjoy getting everyone angry, or would you actually like to resolve some of the problems you are so heated up about?

Posted by: Kenji on August 2, 2006 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

whats REALLY going on with the dems that they attract such a solid contingent of crazies..

-Mike at 3:55AM

whats REALLY going on with the dems that they attract such a solid contingent of crazies..

-Savannah at 11:08AM

You may find it necessary, twice, under different names, to call us crazy. But we're more than just a contingent.

We're actually the majority.

Am I overreaching?

Posted by: exasperanto on August 2, 2006 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, exasp, that seems to be the Repub meme of last resort:
the whole, they're-just-a-bunch-of-angry-wingnuts argument. It's pure projection, and it plays to the fencesitters in the middle, who can sense that something crazy is going on but haven't been paying attention to where all the weirdness is actually coming. (Yes, Ann Coulter, I AM looking at you. And not with relish.)

Posted by: Kenji on August 3, 2006 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK

The right wing throwbacks to another time (Rome? Napoleon? Atilla?) have a very simple, and simple-minded, world view. We are good and they are evil. They cant imagine that our enemies might have actual reasons to oppose us, other than hatred born of envy.

So when the poor rise in revolution, it is not because they are exploited and oppressed by the rich, it is because they are evil. Nothing more needs to be said.

But if we believe the poor and the brown are human beings like us and treat them accordinglythat is not snatch away their homes because we believe we are the chosen people and they are a subhuman species who dont matterthey will not try to kill us.

The Americans after WWII understood these things and acted wisely and magnanimously toward the defeated nations. Their benevolent actions made friends of former enemies. It can work again, if only there are enough wise people left in this country who can act on the wisdom shown us by Truman and MarshallLessons we all should know by now.

Posted by: James of DC on August 3, 2006 at 2:00 AM | PERMALINK

James, I think that wisdom came from security in their strength. Now, we are a hundred times stronger, but our leaders act entirely out of fear. They fuel paranoia down the ranks and revenge is the dominating emotion throughout the country. (See: Al et al.) Meanwhile, the ice caps are melting and the really scary things are buried in the back pages. Oh well, what's for dinner?

Posted by: Kenji on August 3, 2006 at 4:00 AM | PERMALINK

"Oh well, what's for dinner?"

Roasted Arab, from the Lebanese take-away owned by Jews.

The Jews claim they have the best oven-roast Arab in the business.

Posted by: slim on August 3, 2006 at 4:59 AM | PERMALINK

slim:

"Oh well, what's for dinner?"

The roasted brains of anti-semites.

Only problem is -- you'll be hungry again a half-hour later :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on August 3, 2006 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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