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Tilting at Windmills

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January 15, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

TALKING ABOUT THE SURGE....Glenn Reynolds links approvingly to this exchange today on Reliable Sources:

HOWARD KURTZ: Pam Hess, has the sending of 20,000 additional troops gotten a fair hearing in the media or has it gotten caught up in this wrenching, emotional debate about whether the war itself was a mistake?

PAM HESS: I think it's gotten caught up....What we need to be asking is, what happens if we lose? And no one will answer that question. If we lose, how are we going to mitigate the consequences of this?

It's so much easier for us to cover this as a political horse race. It's on the cover of "The New York Times" today, what this means for the '08 election. But we're not asking the central national security question, because it seems that if as a reporter you do ask the national security question, all of a sudden you're carrying Bush's water. There are national security questions at stake, and we're ignoring them and the country is getting screwed.

I'm genuinely stumped here. I don't know for sure what Chris Matthews and the rest of the bobbleheads have been saying, but the vast, vast majority of the coverage I've seen has been precisely the opposite of what Pam Hess says. Sure, there's been some political analysis of the surge, but it's been dwarfed by acres and acres of newsprint given over to substantive analysis of whether the surge can work, what the military justification is, whether the Maliki government will cooperate, and what the consequences are likely to be for the surrounding region. It's true that there hasn't been a lot of conversation about what we should do when the surge fails, but it's laughable to suggest that this is because doing so would be seen as taking George Bush's side. It's mostly because people don't want to be tarred as defeatists by people like Pam Hess and Glenn Reynolds.

That said, I agree completely with Hess about one thing: there are national security questions involved here, and I wish the national media would spend more time seriously talking about them. The big one is: once we leave Iraq -- as we will -- and decide that invading other countries is not generally the right way to fight jihadist terrorism, what strategy will take its place? Conservatives really, really don't want to talk about what a non-war-based foreign policy would look like, and it seems to scare off all but the hardiest mainstream pundits too. It just seems so dovish, doesn't it? But it's time to start anyway.

Kevin Drum 1:12 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (62)

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Comments

One problem is, no matter what the so-called MSM says, the right will accuse it of having a liberal bias, even though the "liberal" media gets the facts right 99% of the time.

Posted by: Andy on January 15, 2007 at 1:33 AM | PERMALINK

There is no plan because these guys have zero interest in the security or well-being of the United States—only narrow political self-interest, and even that is eluding them now, just as they discover that the country sort of expects them to give a shit.

Posted by: Kenji on January 15, 2007 at 1:36 AM | PERMALINK

I had a dream that after 9/11, the president gave a speech in which he condemned the actions of the terrorists, and then went on to say that we need to create a world in which this will never happen again. He would send humanitarian relief to Afghanistan to demonstrate to the Afghans that there was a better alternative than supporting the Taliban and Al Qaida, and we would set up schools, protect the rights of women, etc.

We would begin a policy of developing alternatives to petroleum and stop supporting repressive regimes, no matter how much this might serve our short-term interests. It was time to make it clear to the Palestinians that Israel had a right to exist and to the Israelis that the Palestinians deserved to live in dignity in a country of their own. Israel would be restricted to its 1949 borders and any military action outside them would be interdicted by US troops if necessary. Likewise, we would actively support the Israelis in preventing terrorist atttacks in their own territories. No negotiating this point, no waffling, no compromises. This is how it should be.

It would have been a lot easier on September 12th, but it's not too late, maybe.

http://whatswrongwithmallardfillmore.blogspot.com

Posted by: don hosek on January 15, 2007 at 1:36 AM | PERMALINK

"What we need to be asking is, what happens if we lose? And no one will answer that question."

It's true that there hasn't been a lot of conversation about what we should do when the surge fails

Kevin, you're missing the point. First, you're PRESUMING the surge will fail. How do you know that? You can't and only liberal bias would make you think it will fail.

Second, when Pam Hess asks "what happens if we lose?" she's not asking if the surge (improbably) fails. The surge failing would NOT mean we lost because we can always come back with another surge or even a larger surge. Losing means withdrawal. Losing means retreating. Losing means cutting and running. Since liberals and democrats are the only ones proposing retreating, they are the only ones who are proposing to lose. Republicans and conservatives are opposed to retreating, so they cannot the lose the war.

Conservatives really, really don't want to talk about what a non-war-based foreign policy would look like

Actually conservatives have already pointed out a non-war-based foreign policy would look like defeat because the terrorists would have won.

Posted by: Al on January 15, 2007 at 1:37 AM | PERMALINK

The two most significant issue to discuss are the inadvisability of the pre-emptive war doctrine, and the folly of trying to be an imperialist power in the twenty first century.

Posted by: gregor on January 15, 2007 at 1:40 AM | PERMALINK

"...only liberal bias would make you think it will fail."

Yeah, that plus the past thousand years of human history. But, hey, your hunches haven't been wrong yet, have they?

Posted by: Kenji on January 15, 2007 at 1:47 AM | PERMALINK

Al, you fuckstick, Bush surrendered to the terrorists when he pisses away the opportunity in Afghanistan to actually win one. You really are a miserable waste of skin and organs, and one who makes me have the most unkind sort of thoughts possible.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 15, 2007 at 1:57 AM | PERMALINK

once we leave Iraq -- as we will -- and decide that invading other countries is not generally the right way to fight jihadist terrorism, what strategy will take its place?

Blaming liberals, of course.

Posted by: craigie on January 15, 2007 at 2:02 AM | PERMALINK

God damnit! While everyone is arguing over Iraq, Afghanistan is being lost!
It is time to frame the debate as that - The Republicans want to forfeit the war on terror to sieze oil. Period. Prove otherwise. Republicans?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 15, 2007 at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK

Remember that speech Rumsfeld gave a long time ago about going to war with the army you have and not with the army you might want. In a way he was right. After 9/11 we went to war with an administration filled with worn out old cold warriors, and oil executives who view the world through that narrow prism. It was also fought by a military designed to destroy the soviets. Afganistan was just too "small" to have valuable targets. It didn't have any oil. Iraq was a place we could post our soldiers to protect the oil in both Iraq and Saudia Arabia, and in the process protect the House of Saud.

The real war on terror, and there is a real war on terror that needs to be fought, will be fought in the shawdows, via proxies. It won't really start until the current administration is replaced by a post cold war President who doesn't view the world as an oil man views the world.

By the way I recognize the "war on terror" is a bad name for the war, but as long as we are the world's leading economy we are going to have to deal with people who want to get our attention by killing some of us.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 15, 2007 at 2:10 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, when the real war on terror gets started our current army will have only a small role. Diplomats, translators, businessmen, intelligence gatherers, teachers, and special ops people will be far more important. We will win by the strength of our economy, technology and culture, and not by virtue of the number and power of our guns.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 15, 2007 at 2:15 AM | PERMALINK

The surge failing would NOT mean we lost because we can always come back with another surge or even a larger surge.

Of course!

We're going in with 20,000 troops that we don't have. When that doesn't work, we can go in with 50,000 troops we don't have.

Gah. Do you buy stupid by the barrel, Al?

Posted by: Stranger on January 15, 2007 at 2:20 AM | PERMALINK

He grows his own stupid. It's craven he buys in bulk.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 15, 2007 at 2:24 AM | PERMALINK

I keep asking - how do we win Iraq's civil war?

A conservative is someone who makes no changes and consults his grandmother when in doubt.
--Woodrow Wilson

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 15, 2007 at 2:31 AM | PERMALINK

I'm off to bed, but todays Krugman is very, very good.

Hundreds of news articles and opinion pieces have described President Bush’s decision to escalate the Iraq war as a “Hail Mary pass.”

But that’s the wrong metaphor.
Mr. Bush isn’t Roger Staubach, trying to pull out a win for the Dallas Cowboys. He’s Charles Keating, using other people’s money to keep Lincoln Savings going long after it should have been shut down — and squandering the life savings of thousands of investors, not to mention billions in taxpayer dollars, along the way.
The parallel is actually quite exact. During the savings and loan scandal of the 1980s, people like Mr. Keating kept failed banks going by faking financial success. Mr. Bush has kept a failed war going by faking military success.
The “surge” is just another stalling tactic, designed to buy more time.


Keep reading. (no pay wall)

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 15, 2007 at 3:37 AM | PERMALINK

A non-war straegy is essential whether we win or lose in Iraq. The growing menace of radical Islam cannot be defeated by military means alone, even if the military aspects go well for us.

An effective non-war strategy will be distasteful to American values. Since the threat comes from Wahabi Islam, the non-war response will include an infringement on normal Freedom of Religion and of Speech. But, to prevent the spread of Wahabi Islam, we must restrict what various religious leaders are saying. And, we must see that similar restrictions apply abroad.

Another suggestion (courtesy of Mark Steyn) is to support women's rights in Islamic nations.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 15, 2007 at 7:02 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

Dead on accurate. We will never kill our way to peace - EVER. I wish some articulate voice on the left would take on two of Bush's unchallenged assertions - (1) That Bush's preemptive attack on Iraq is somehow linked to a "war on terror", and it's cousin (2) that if we don't find 'them' over there, we will be fighting them on the streets of Manhattan. Both are pure rubbish. Ask Bush how 'they' (whoever, they are) plan to attack us - in canoes? rowboats? barge? And demythify al-Qaeda and point out what a tiny and shrinking threat they are to a country the size of the United States. As was discussed in a thread here yesterday, far more people die from air pollution than will ever die at the hands of Islamic terrorists.

TCD

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on January 15, 2007 at 7:12 AM | PERMALINK

Roosevelt and Churchill had some ideas about a world in which, to quote Roosevelt from his Four Freedoms address, "no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor- anywhere in the world".

You will note that Roosevelt did not except the US from this statement.

It will be hard to work for peace as long as military spending is the major Keynesian support for our national socialism. However, it seems safe to predict that we'll have no peace until we're ready to work for peace.

Posted by: serial catowner on January 15, 2007 at 7:59 AM | PERMALINK

I think our next President should make a very visible study of Islam. A genuine commitment to learn about Islam would be spectacular, and valuable in demonstrating that we are not at war with the faith of 1.5 billion people, give or take. Think of Khalid Abou el-Fadl in the White House, W. Deen Muhammed, Tariq Ramadan. Think of the President visiting Al Azhar Mosque -- and wondering why Islam tolerates its takeover by the Wahabis.

For an American President to visibly study Islam would also have the potential to illuminate how CIVICS is morally superior, even to the sharia WITHIN ISLAM ITSELF, an insight which is not to be underestimated.

The seemingly minor semantic point that "Islam" and "Muslim" are not proper nouns in Arabic, that the former is read in Arabic as "obedience to God", and the latter as "those who obey God", could also be valuable.

JFK did the free world a lot of good (and helped liberate those behind the Iron Curtain, as even Reagan acknowledged) when he went to Berlin and announced: "I am a Berlin man!" (Well, actually what he SAID was "I am a jelly donut!"; translation can be tricky.)

Want a real strategy for dealing with the Middle East after Iraq? Think of a piece of it being an American President spending a year visibly studing Islam (without, mind, converting), and then saying "I am a muslim -- and so is every righteous person on earth."

Fercrysakes, folks, WE are the good guys. And we have the most powerful communications in history. Let's use that as an advantage for once.

Posted by: theAmericanist on January 15, 2007 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

Since the threat comes from Wahabi Islam, the non-war response will include an infringement on normal Freedom of Religion and of Speech. But, to prevent the spread of Wahabi Islam, we must restrict what various religious leaders are saying.

Ah, it seems like just the other day "ex-liberal" was claiming that he's a neocon because he supports freedom of speech.

Oh, wait -- it was just the other day. Thanks for demonstrating once again that you're nothing but a shill for the neocon's failed agenda, "ex-liberal." And thanks, as always, for demonstrating how that agenda is founded in and sustained by intellectual dishonesty. Shame on you.

Posted by: Gregory on January 15, 2007 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

"Another suggestion (courtesy of Mark Steyn) is to support women's rights in Islamic nations."

While opposing them here . . .

Posted by: rea on January 15, 2007 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

Hess' argument is that few are paying attention to the strategic consequences of failure in Iraq. I'm not sure I buy that, either, but it's a different argument than the one you rebut.

Posted by: James Joyner on January 15, 2007 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

Gregory when I started reading ex-liberals post I thought maybe this time he was getting it. Then I read the part about suppressing free speech and freedom of religion and realized, he just doesn't understand. Alas some people just want to kill, murder, kill. They don't even begin to understand the tools available to America. Neither do any of the Neo-Cons. All of them are cold warriors fighting the last war.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 15, 2007 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

Gregory: Ah, it seems like just the other day "ex-liberal" was claiming that he's a neocon because he supports freedom of speech.

Touche.

I would be interested to know what you and what Ron Byers would suggest to reverse the spread of Wahabi Islam.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 15, 2007 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

I would be interested to know what you and what Ron Byers would suggest to reverse the spread of Wahabi Islam.

I'm sure you'd be interested in changing the subject, now that your intellectual dishonesty has been exposed again. ("Touche," indeed!)

For starters, I'd suggest never, ever giving neocon twits like you, the AEI and PNAC even a moment's credibility (a good policy, as you've just so kindly proven for us), and that includes taking your word that "the spread of Wahabi Islam" is the threat you claim it is and your evident faith that Bush's so-called "surge" might possibly work, all previous experience to the contrary, in Baghdad, much less Iraq, much less the Middle East in general.

Posted by: Gregory on January 15, 2007 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

You totally miss what Pam is trying to say here.

She's saying that liberals are in such a tizzy about the surge (they were for it before they were against it, btw) that their political calulations are blinding them to the greater security needs of the nation.

We will not lose in Iraq. It is not an option. We will only lose if some accomodating, appeasing Democrat ascends to power in '08, probably illegally, and works out a secret deal with the Bathists and Al Qeada to withdraw early according to timetables.

I tremble for my country.

Posted by: egbert on January 15, 2007 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

I would be interested to know what you and what Ron Byers would suggest to reverse the spread of Wahabi Islam. ex-liberal

Michael Moore, Mavis Leno, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Picasso, Freedom of Speach, Freedom of Religion. Freedom of assembly. The Rule of Law. A philosophy that encourages free thought. The enlightenment thinker John Lock. How about Ben Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson. Hollywood. Televsion. The Internet. Consumer electronics.

My God man, don't you even begin to understand your own culture and why you find the Wahbists so repugnant. The Wahbists are essentially regligious totalitarians. You fight that kind of totalitarianism by valuing the individual and by removing the priests or mullahs or Imans standing between the individual and God. It's called the reformation.

God man, don't you conservatives understand what you are fighting for--what is worth fighting for. If not, one totalitarian is pretty much like another.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 15, 2007 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

"egbert" (I know, I know, "egbert" is a parody...) wrote: We will not lose in Iraq. It is not an option.

We need more troops. Are you signing up? Any of you?

Posted by: Gregory on January 15, 2007 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

That's not quite right, that "Wahabists are essentially religious totalitarians", and it's probably the WORST approach, theologically (fwiw), to argue that removing priests and mullahs and imams is the way to fight the Wahabis.

Islam is not really a church, the way Methodism and Presbyterianism, etc., are churches. It's a way of life, which is why Wahabism works, and it based on precisely the anti-clericalism (paradoxically, run by clerics) that RB is calling for.

The original inspiration for Wahabism was this guy Ibn Hanbal, who was a founding pillar of sharia. It's worth noticing that the sharia was a step forward for lots of folks who became Muslims in the first few centuries, since the alternative to a rule of law that applied to everybody was simply force by various tribes and warlords. Largely because of the success of sharia (not to mention dhimmitude), intellectual and technological advances started popping up all over Islam, and the center of such progress moved to Baghdad, away from the Sacred Cities -- then as now, a backwater.

Ibn Taimiyaa came along in the 1300s, and denounced all this newfangled stuff (including the caliph in Baghdad) as heresy, insisting that the LOCAL guys were holier, and more learned where it counted, than all those educated, sophisticated folks.

Then the Turks showed up and ran Arabia (and Islam) for 600 years. That was when Wahab founded Wahabism (in the early 18th century) as a kind of pre-nationalist movement within Islam, a sorta backward Arabia for backward Arabs idea. To avoid being crushed as a rebellion, Wahabism focused on constantly recapitulating the One True Originalism of Islam -- which meant condemning clerics who actually learned about the world. (My favorite is the guy who refused to eat with a fork, because there is no evidence that the Prophet ever did. None he did not, either: but why take a chance?)

It wasn't until Hassan al-Bana founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1920 (AFTER the Ottoman Empire fell and Mustafa Kemal abolished the Caliphate)that Islam was re-connected directly with Arab nationalism.

The Saudi idea, which is a contradiction in terms, is that they are living the RELIGIOUS life of the time of the Prophet, as unchanged as possible, while living large as the richest family business on earth.

But the fact is, that is itself a contradiction of the Koran (specifically the ban against ribbah); they can only get away with it because they have bought off most Islamic scholarship, e.g., the Al Azhar mosque.

Their method is pure Wahabism; insisting (like Taimiyaa) that a half-assed education at a Saudi-funded madrassah is worth more than all those fancy schools.

So arguing as if what we need is to get rid of genuine scholarship, all those 'priests and imams and mullahs", plays right into their hands, theologically speaking.

Posted by: theAmericanist on January 15, 2007 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

You fight that kind of totalitarianism by valuing the individual and by removing the priests or mullahs or Imans standing between the individual and God. It's called the reformation.

Which reactionary religious extremists, both Muslim and the fundamentalist fringe that enjoyed so much sway with the Republican Party, have been railing against in vain for centuries.

It's this same tradition of individual liberty from the Reformation, by the way, that makes "ex-liberal"'s neocon "extrerminate all the brutes!" policies so distasteful to modern society, even if it is presented as vital for the security of Israel *ahem* -- er, the United States.

Posted by: Gregory on January 15, 2007 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

God man, don't you conservatives understand what you are fighting for--what is worth fighting for. If not, one totalitarian is pretty much like another.

That's the point. Wingnuts and radical Muslims agree more than they disagree, and what they agree on is that secular society is evil.

Posted by: Disputo on January 15, 2007 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

x-lib: The growing menace of radical Islam cannot be defeated by military means alone, even if the military aspects go well for us.

while x-lib offers only empty assertions..

here's what intelligence experts say...


Last April, intelligence analysts completed a report entitled, "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States," a classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that "represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government."

The NIE "found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism," and the "Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse."

"It's stating the obvious," one intelligence official said of the NIE.

Back in Jan. 2005, the National Intelligence Council released a report that found Iraq had "replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of 'professionalized' terrorists."


"Our policies in the Middle East fuel Islamic resentment," the former Defense Intelligence Agency director added.

Other CIA and State Department studies from 2005 confirmed that "Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the prime training ground for foreign terrorists."

In 2004, former terrorism czar Richard Clarke wrote in his book, Against All Enemies, "Nothing America could have done would have provided al Qaeda and its new generation of cloned groups a better recruitment device than our unprovoked invasion of an oil-rich Arab country."

Posted by: mr. irony on January 15, 2007 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

The London Times has an interesting article about how Australia is fighting radical Islam:

The evidence indicates that all radical Islamists in Australia were either born there or entered the country on valid visas...

...Put briefly, the Australian system takes Islamist ideology seriously. It does not deal with radical Islamists. It confronts extremists? views, rather than seeking to co-opt ?pragmatic? radicals who happen not to be in favour of the use of violence in the here and now for purely tactical reasons. After the bombings of 7/7 in London, Tony Blair declared correctly that ?the rules of the game had changed?. In Australia the rules changed dramatically some time earlier. A few recent examples illustrate the point.

After the shock of 7/7 Mr Howard established a Muslim Community Reference Group and said that no radicals would be invited to join. When Sheikh Taj Aldin al-Hilali (the Mufti of Australia) ventured into Holocaust denial, Andrew Robb (the Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism) let it be known that he would not be reappointed to the group. Last February Peter Costello (Mr Howard?s deputy) publicly declared that, if the radical Muslim cleric Abdul Nasser Ben Brika really wanted to live under Sharia law, he might choose voluntary deportation to Iran. The next month the Prime Minister told Reuters TV that Australia could not ignore ?that there is a small section of the Islamic population which identifies with some of the more extremist views associated with support of terrorism?. In New South Wales the former Labor Premier, Bob Carr, and his successor, Morris Iemma, have made similar candid statements where necessary.

There remains a significant terror threat in Australia ? with some convictions for terrorist-related offences and a number of Muslim men in Sydney and Melbourne awaiting trial on serious charges. However, the tough line on security seems to have worked well and there have been no terrorist attacks.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,6-2547533,00.html

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 15, 2007 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Who are running and paying for all those religious brain washing schools? Saudi Princes, Imans and Mullahs. Why? To indoctrinate the students to accept the rulings of the princes, imans and mullahs without thought or question. They are designed to support Saudi authoritarianism. The people running and paying for those schools are religious totalitarians seeking to subjugate their members just like Jim Jones or John Calvin.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 15, 2007 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

ex-lib...speaking of convictions for terror cases..


Report: Feds Refusing FBI Terror Cases

By LARA JAKES JORDAN

WASHINGTON Nov 5, 2006 (AP)— The Justice Department increasingly has refused to prosecute FBI cases targeting suspected terrorists over the past five years, according to private researchers who reviewed department records.

The government says the findings are inaccurate and "intellectually dishonest."

The report being released Monday by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University raises questions about the quality of the FBI's investigations.

Prosecutors declined to bring charges in 131 of 150, or 87 percent, of international terrorist case referrals from the FBI between October 2005 and June 2006, according to the report.

..

Additionally, some cases are referred to prosecutors to obtain subpoenas or other legal orders in investigations that ultimately never result in criminal charges, spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said. He said prosecutors rejected 67 percent of FBI international terrorist cases in the nine-month period not 87 percent.

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory?id=2630742

only one thing to say...

heck of a job....

Posted by: mr. irony on January 15, 2007 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Ron Byers: Who are running and paying for all those religious brain washing schools? Saudi Princes, Imans and Mullahs. Why? To indoctrinate the students to accept the rulings of the princes, imans and mullahs without thought or question. They are designed to support Saudi authoritarianism. The people running and paying for those schools are religious totalitarians seeking to subjugate their members just like Jim Jones or John Calvin.

I agree. What should we do about it?

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 15, 2007 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Shorter egbert - We will NOT lose, unless we do.

What impecable logic. I cannot argue with it.

Posted by: Tripp on January 15, 2007 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK


ex-lib: What should we do about it?


don't you mean...who should we invade?

Posted by: mr. irony on January 15, 2007 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

theAmericanist:

A couple brief points:

First, "I am a jelly donut" is an urban legend. There's no pastry known widely across Germany (and certainly not in Berlin) as a "berliner." The German word for jelly donut is something different. Kennedy wasn't grammatically precise, but his use of "Icht ein" is idiomatically accepted, and Germans knew what he meant. Note that Kennedy practiced the speech intensively before delivering it, reading from phonetic spellings so he'd get the pronounciation right.

Secondly, while my readings on the rise of fundamentalist Islam jibe with yours, surely you know that "Wahabism" doesn't really parse as a religious term. It's considered a derogatory (and quite insulting) term for Saudis, both by non-Saudi Muslims and Saudis themselves. The technical term for that purist Sunni school which harkens back to the earliest days of Muhammad's community and rejects all "innovation" is Salafism -- which is a stand-alone, exportable doctrine. Wahabism, such that the term can be used at all, refers specifically to the religious culture of Saudi Arabia.

The contradiction in Saudi society between the decadent, Westernized lifestyles of royal family and the strict, austere Islamic lifetyle enforced on the rest of the population was the result of a political compromise. The royals essentially allowed their clergy to administer civil society in exchange for an exemption for the royals from some of the basic strictures in the Sunnah (for instance, instead of the kaffiyeh, the princes can wear elaborate headdresses; instead of the full, untrimmed beard worn by Muhammed, the princes can wear fanciful goatees). Naturally, this causes a huge amount of anger among other Muslim fundamentalists over what is irreducibly blatant hypocrisy among the rulers of a society which exports the strictest version of Sunni Islam around the world.

As for your reading of why Salafists believe a madrassah education is superior to all others -- that is exactly right. There's a very loose parallel there with Luther's "priesthood of all believers" -- and it's no surpise that the most radical Christians come from the tradition of direct, unmediated communion with Scripture. All those itinerant frontier preachers share something with freelancing Sunni imams emphasizing the bloodthirstiest passages in the Koran and the hadiths.

As for your suggestion that an American president should make a study of Islam and say to the Islamic world that "we are all Muslims" (in the sense of those who submit before God) -- it's very well-intentioned, but I think it's a terrible idea. First of all, pious Muslims would consider it apostasy -- and in the Koran, an apostate is infinitely worse than an unbeliever. Secondly, our traditions are radically different than Islamic traditions. In the Western tradition, we simply do not believe that subbmission before God is the end-all of religion. (That criticism was, of course, embedded in Pope Benedict's controversial speech the other month.)

Trying to draw solidarity with Muslims because America is also a society concerned with moral values and family life is tremendously superficial and inevitably misses the point. I think this is why Karen Hughes' speaking tour pranged so hard when she tried to take this message (hey, we hate abortion and gays, too!) to the Islamic world. Her audience wanted to hear about foreign policy, instead.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 15, 2007 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

The first thing we do ex-lib is realize that this administration has been carrying water for our worst enemies, the House of Saud. I know the Bush family are Saudi retainers, but real life isn't an L.Ron Hubbard Dune novel. The next thing we do is reduce our dependence on Saudi crude. Alternative energy anyone. Once we are no longer dependent on the middle east for crude, the problem will be greatly diminished.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 15, 2007 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

rmck: There's no pastry known widely across Germany (and certainly not in Berlin) as a "berliner."

did you know the croissant isn't french but austrian...

made in honor of the defeat of the muslims by the king of poland in 1683...

the french sort of made it their own when they began to make the pastry for the austrian wife of their king...

her name?

marie antoinette..

now back to your regularly scheduled program..

Posted by: mr. irony on January 15, 2007 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Ron Byers:

Hey! Frank Herbert wrote Dune. L. Ron Hubbard's sci-fi books are something cheesier entirely ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 15, 2007 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

What should we do about it?

Check into rehab for out oil addiction, for starters.

Then announce a Manhattan Project for alternative energy development. And mean it. This would serve as a huge impetus for the middle eastern nations to stop dealing with their radicals by exporting them.

A perfection of means, and confusion of aims, seems to be our main problem. --Albert Einstein


Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 15, 2007 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Chewtoy, I don't care if they're insulted by an accurate characterization. You do -- and that's one of the differences between us. (Another is that I don't generally bother to point out when people are right, or make false corrections, particularly over tertiary matters.)

What Hughes does IS superficial. (For one thing, Americans don't agree with Wahabis about women and guys, which is why I keep noting you're a chewtoy in argument. Your response to damn near anything is to SQUEAK.)

Learning about Islam (as opposed to what you think you're doing) is not superficial at all, any more than it was superficial when Kennan recognized Soviet Communism for what it was, or for that matter when George Washington realized slavery made no sense as economics.

Posted by: theAmericanist on January 15, 2007 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Ex-Liberal

The point of all the last dozen or so posts is that we should not simply go around shooting first and asking questions later. I understand that Bush didn't know the basic difference between the Shia and Sunnis when we invaded Iraq. Nobody bothered to tell him that Iraq was cobbled together by the British to allow their Sunni Arab retainers to control three divergent areas. Saddam was a homicidal monster. Just the kind of man for the job of holding Iraq together under the domination of a shrinking minority. Apparently nobody bothered telling that to Bush either. Probably nobody in the highest reaches of the American administration knew.

Maybe next time we can plan the entire war before we fire the first shot. Apparently nobody in the Bush administration has read or understands The Art of War.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 15, 2007 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

Bob

I stand corrected. The point still stands. The time for royal houses is long past, despite the efforts of oil men, steeped in middle eastern politics, and royalist followers of the Bush and Kennedy families to build such houses in America.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 15, 2007 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

theAmericanist:

You know, Paul, you have this marvelously *gracious*, *intellectually honest* and *gentlemanly* way about you when you've been called out on your factual inaccuracies. Probably why you're one of our all-time favorite posters here :)

Unless you're speaking specifically about Saudi Arabian society, drop "Wahabi." The term is insulting and too often misconstrued. What I am saying to you is that "we are all Muslims" would be blatantly dishonest -- and contradictory to American values, besides. Our traditions (leaving aside Dominionism, Christian Reconstruction and other radical splinter ideologies) manifestly do not take religion as an integrated way of life, with no firewall between church and state. We do not hold submission -- intellectually or in any other way -- to be the highest spiritual value. To attempt to imply otherwise would be recognized around the world as a sham.

Learning about Islam is extremely important. It is also extremely important to draw Muslims into solidarity with us on any number of issues. In order to do that, though, we have to recognize what precisely those issues are. In America we offer pluralism and respect for other traditions as the highest cultural value.

If we don't share much in common with even conservative Muslims regarding women's rights, reproductive autonomy and gays -- what's the sense in attempting to *pretend* about it? What would be the point of declaring that "we are all Muslims" when our deepest cultural values are religiously pluralist?

Where, exactly, is this commonality you wish to draw?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 15, 2007 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Pam Hess also made the excellent point in response to the hardening CW that "Democrats don't have a plan". She said something to the effect that this is setting up a false argument - Because in reality the only "choice" Dems have is to vote for or against funding for escalation or the greater war in Iraq. It is incumbent upon the commander in chief to "have a plan", all else is noise.

Posted by: bcinaz on January 15, 2007 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

This is why you say to every mindlessly anti-mindless-trust of the media type: Sure, I don't always trust the media, but why do you trust critics of the media? So many of them are even less reliable.

Posted by: Neil B. on January 15, 2007 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

It is not usually my brief to defend Chris Matthews, but I will because Chris Matthews is a weatherman, he tells you which way the wind blows.

He has been very aggressive in his questioning of pro war and escalation advocates for a number of months now. He tells you that the war was a bad idea, a sham, and this escation will not work. This is one way to measure both public opinion and pundit opinion. If he starts changing his tune, then we will know the wind is blowing against us.

Posted by: debra on January 15, 2007 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Kennedy wasn't grammatically precise, but his use of "Icht ein" is idiomatically accepted, and Germans knew what he meant.

(I presume you meant "ich bin ein".)

Actually, he was grammatically precise. If he had used "Ich bin Berliner", he would have confused his audience, who would have been wondering why the USAmerican President was making the literal claim that he is a citizen of Berlin. Adding "ein" makes the claim figurative.

Posted by: Disputo on January 15, 2007 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

debra makes an excellent point

Posted by: Disputo on January 15, 2007 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo:

Thanks for the correction. I was going by memory -- and memory plays tricks, as we all know.

Ich bin ein Berliner, precisely.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 15, 2007 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Chewtoy, you're useless. Plain English is lost on you.

(patiently) The first principle is the Objective: what do we want? Among a lot of other things, we want not to be at war with the faith of 1.5 billion people. For that to be true, we have to be able to say what that faith IS, with which we are not at war.

Throughout the Cold War, the United States (and our allies) maintained a consistent and sound IDEOLOGICAL struggle: we were free, they were not. We did not want to be under Communist rule -- and, guess what? Neither did they.

So we won.

There needs to be a similarly THEOLOGICAL aspect to our struggle with Muslim terrorism. The chewtoy's squeaking aside, it does NOT help to parse "Wahabi" from "Salafi". (The chewtoy seems to think this is the distinction between the checkbook and the bank account.) It DOES help to recognize just how divergent our interests are from the Saudis, AND how aberrant they are from Islam's history.

The national security questions that Hess refers to ought to be spelled out: what happens when we leave, and it all hits the fan? What's the worst case scenario for US?

It's not complex: Iraq falls apart and can't produce oil, the Kurds fight everybody, the Sunnis are slaughtered, the Saudis step up (how, isn't exactly clear), and Iran gets nukes.

Take it a step further, and assume (for the sake of illustration) that the Saudis actually DO something in Iraq: the last time they invaded, they burned Karbala.

At a moment like that, when the United States has said as clearly as any threat of war that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable, it will be DAMNED important to be able to explain why Wahabism does not define Islam for us.

'Course, the chewtoy regards that as 'superficial', while parsing Wahabi from Salafi denotes... what, exactly?

Posted by: theAmericanist on January 15, 2007 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

"We will not lose in Iraq. It is not an option."

An "option" is a choice. We do not really HAVE a choice in Iraq unless we're willing to occupy it completely and indefinitely. And to get the number of troops necessary to occupy Iraq we would clearly need a draft. There just ARE NOT enough people volunteering to go to Iraq indefinitely.

So anyone who says "failure is not an option" but who opposes (or does not affirmatively call for) a draft is merely engaging in wishful thinking.

Tho it is true to say "failure in Iraq is not an option" if you follow that with "it is an inevitability."

It really galls me to see Lieberman and McCain and Hunter saying we cannot do anything but escalate because they "guarantee" a bloodbath if we leave. They guaranteed a bloodbath when they decided go in. They have no plan to avoid one, unless they impose order through overwhelming troops strength, and 20,000 more troops is not going to overwhelm both Sunni and Shite death squads.

Posted by: Cal Gal on January 15, 2007 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

Who is Pam Hess, and why should anybody, even Howie the Whore Kurtz, give a flying fuck what she thinks?

Posted by: Peter Principle on January 15, 2007 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Ohfercrysakes: stop playing semantic games. If she'd said "failure is not a GOOD option in Iraq", would that cause you to be more thoughtful -- or less?

I think less, which is saying something. Advocates for victory (or something like it) in Iraq may be in denial, but that's not a bad goal in itself. (What's OUR goal?)

But if Hess had said "failure is not a good option in Iraq", I can just hear you guys laughing: 'oh, like we thought failure was a GOOD thing?'. Imagine how you'd complain if anybody replied, sincerely, well, er, don't you? Hell, it proves opponents of the war right, doesn't it? And if there anything more important than 'I told you so', it's damned hard to find 'round here.

Murtha's idea is straight out of Reagan's retreat from Lebanon (after another of Rumsfeld's disasters) in 1983: Weinberger didn't say we were 'leaving', we were 'redeploying offshore'.

Biden's idea is to get out while brokering a partition of the country, and ethnic cleansing like the Balkans... or the creation of Pakistan and East Pakistan, long ago.

The two aren't incompatible. And the consequences suck.

But to act like failure in Iraq will be a GOOD thing is to give away precisely what makes the good guys in this fight INTO the good guys.

Posted by: theAmericanist on January 15, 2007 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

Gosh, what a strange day--Kevin made an end-of-post-point that hits the nail on the head instead of launching him into some sort of uber-hand-wringing alternative reality. (Sorry Kevin, I really did mean this as a compliment.)

Let's face it--in a way it doesn't matter whether the surge "works" or doesn't work. (Except for the lost lives and 80 gajillion $$$$ we spent on it, which I'm kind of bitter about.) Yes, it will be better for national security if it works, not so great if it doesn't. But at the end of the day, everyone--liberal, conservative (and whatever the NeoCons are) is going to have to admit that Iraq had very little influence on the central question of how to get the US, the Middle East, and the Far East on the same team, globally speaking (which is what the NeoCons were hoping to do, in their own creepy way). That's what Kevin is thinking when he talks about a non-war-based policy. Yes, Bush may be doubling down on a bad bet, but that bet is not the game.

It's this non-war-based policy that liberals should be talking about, now, moving forward into the 2008 elections, and beyond. That's why whoever wins the Democratic nomination MUST be a person who voted AGAINST war-based policy, way back as far as '03 for certain, and maybe even going back to the dark days of 2001.

Thoughts?

Posted by: erica on January 15, 2007 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

Why keep asking the wrong question using the wrong language? The correct question is: Will an escalation of our involvement through committing less than 15 percent more troops be significant enough to accomplish our currently uncertain goals? Quit calling it a surge. It's an escalation. Quit treating it like it's a substantial new approach. It's a limited escalation. It's keeping the media busy, so they don't ask more substantive questions. That's all.

Posted by: Kazooguy on January 15, 2007 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

astheAmericanist:

> Chewtoy, you're useless. Plain English is lost on you.

Paul, plain English isn't lost on most of us. Your rhetorica]
strategy, time and again, is to carry on as if you're pushing
this blisteringly obvious point -- which you then merely allude
to, or use vague analogies -- all the while steeping yourself
in righeous exasperation that we never manage to get it.

Paul, we never manage to "get it" because you rarely deign
to make clear WTF you're talking about in plain English.

I think it's probably the result of being a DC insider
many moons ago. Sort of a cultivated elitist contempt ...

> (patiently)

Paul ... you're *never* honestly patient. If you tried it
once or twice, you might actually generate an interesting
discussion. As it stands, I'm one of the few individuals
here with enough genuine patience to try -- that is,
without merely flaming you for your rank elitist tone.

> The first principle is the Objective: what do we want?

That's a great question. Bush seems to go beyond having merely
muddy goals (or unstated, deeply unrealistic ideological ones
like remaking Iraq into a free-market, pro-Israel, Christian-
friendly oil spigot), to rejecting any hard-eyed realist goals
submitted to him -- like those in the Baker/Hamilton report.

> Among a lot of other things, we want not to be at war with the
> faith of 1.5 billion people. For that to be true, we have to
> be able to say what that faith IS, with which we are not at war.

Agreed. But we can only analyze. We are severely limited as to
the ways in which we proscriptively define Islam, because we are
not Muslims. Catholics don't let Hans Kung define the faith for
them -- let along Paul Tillich. Islam's struggle for a vision
of the faith more in harmony with Muhammad's egalitarian early
community is an internal one; we can't demand it. We're pretty much
stuck with lending material support to Islamic scholars who push a
progressive view of the faith -- which is why I've always agreed with
you that we should've allowed Tariq Ramadan to teach at Notre Dame.

> Throughout the Cold War, the United States (and our allies)
> maintained a consistent and sound IDEOLOGICAL struggle: we
> were free, they were not. We did not want to be under
> Communist rule -- and, guess what? Neither did they.

> So we won.

Well, as I've argued many times here, this not analogous to Islam,
because Communism is a materialist ideology. It was founded on
the very Enlightenment pillars of natural rights that found Western
democracy. So at the end of the day, it collapsed in its own terms.
It replaced one decadent, tyrannizing elite with another just as
decadent and tyrannizing. It promoted social inequality and stripped
dignity away from work. But Islam is, rather, a spiritual ideology.
It is not sated by material prosperity nor maintained by tyranny
and squalor. Emigres from Communist countries tended to be extremely
loyal and grateful to their new homes. Have you ever wondered, Paul,
about the bombings in Western Europe -- by some of the most materially
sated Muslims in some of the most tolerant societies in the world?

Islam's transcendent goal is cosmic justice, not material prosperity.

Our American pluralist tradition (neither bend-over Dutch
multiculturalism nor unrealistic French assimilationism) has thus far
avoided producing an alienated cohort of Muslim immigrants, who either
have no respect for their overly tolerant hosts (The Netherlands,
Scandanavia), or else feel conventionally excluded (France, Britain).

America may well have something to teach our European friends
regarding social toleration coupled with loyalty to our Constitution.

> There needs to be a similarly THEOLOGICAL aspect to our
> struggle with Muslim terrorism. The chewtoy's squeaking
> aside, it does NOT help to parse "Wahabi" from "Salafi".

So we're supposed to cultivate a "theological" understanding of
Islam -- while disregarding how Muslims understand themselves?
You've surely visited English-speaking Islamic websites, Paul?
Ever inquire of *them* what they think of the term "Wahabi?"

It's like trying to intelligently explain Pentecostalism
while referring to Pentecostals as "holy rollers."

> (The chewtoy seems to think this is the distinction
> between the checkbook and the bank account.)

No, Paul. "Wahabi" refers to Saudi religious culture. Thus it is
a byword around the region for religious hypocrisy. Ironically,
the very Sunni fundamentalists around the world educated in Saudi-
funded madrassahs thoroughly despise the "Wahabi" Saudis -- precisely
because their version of a pure faith only works theologically
if it's applied to everybody equally -- no royalty exceptions.
That's why they reject "Wahabi" and refer to themselves as Salafis.

Christ on a crutch, Paul -- have you managed to
miss how much al Qaeda despises Saudi Arabia?

> It DOES help to recognize just how divergent our interests are
> from the Saudis, AND how aberrant they are from Islam's history.

Except there are several major problems with this. First, the general
one of non-Muslims attempting to define Islam. Secondly, forget about
the oil -- Saudi Arabia controls access to Mecca, so every Muslim of
every possible flavor must set foot on Saudi soil once in their lives
to fulfill one of the Five Pillars of Islam (the only universal in the
faith). Third, I realize there is an underground scholary movement
started in Saudi Arabia (heavily persecuted) which argues that the
9th (?) century Ummayad Caliphate twisted the teachings of Muhammad
to prop up its secular authority, and so it's there and not the Koran
and Sunnah where some of the more anti-egalitarian hadiths come from.
We should encourage and fund that scholarship -- but it is up to those
scholars -- not us -- to press the case for an Islamic Reformation.

> The national security questions that Hess refers to ought
> to be spelled out: what happens when we leave, and it all
> hits the fan? What's the worst case scenario for US?

> It's not complex: Iraq falls apart and can't produce oil,
> the Kurds fight everybody, the Sunnis are slaughtered, the
> Saudis step up (how, isn't exactly clear), and Iran gets nukes.

Iran may or may not get nukes; it may be that Khamenei is sincere
that nukes are un-Islamic, and that their insistence on developing
reprocessing technology is a matter of technological/economic autarky
(like developing their likewise unnecessary automotive industry). In
any case, that process is underway regardless of what happens in Iraq.

> Take it a step further, and assume (for the sake of
> illustration) that the Saudis actually DO something in
> Iraq: the last time they invaded, they burned Karbala.

I've argued for a long time that the first thing Bush should've
done on 9/12/01 was to call on President Khatamei after Tehran's
candlelight vigil for our victims and offer Iran a strategic
alliance against Sunni extremism -- which menaces Shi'ite Islam
just as assuredly as it menaces the West. Plus, Shi'ite extremists
are a little easier to predict and control, because they submit
to the ecclesiastical authority of their established religious
schools. Thus, an atrocity like the fatwa hit on Salman Rushdie has
to be signed off on by a bunch of ayatollahs -- but the flipside
of that is that not many of those sort of things go down.

I would have viewed it as balance-of-power politics and played the
Shia off the Sunni. Instead, Bush invades Iraq and invokes the Ummah
principle, which unites all Muslims against the infidel invader. Nice.

Absolutely, though -- Saudi Arabia stands as serious threat
to Iran, and Sunni extremists (who *don't* represent TPTB
in Saudi Arabia, which is a conservative, not radical, regime)
don't even believe the Shia are Muslims but rather "polytheists"
because they glorify Muhammad's family as quasi-deified saints.

> At a moment like that, when the United States has said
> as clearly as any threat of war that a nuclear Iran is
> unacceptable, it will be DAMNED important to be able to
> explain why Wahabism does not define Islam for us.

Paul -- Salafists don't believe that "Wahabism" defines Islam for
them -- and most of them were educated in Saudi-funded madrassahs.
Al Qaeda, which embraces the revived and throughly evil doctrine of
takfir -- the righteous killing of apostate Muslims and deposing of
apostate Muslim regimes -- certainly doesn't believe that Wahabism
defines Islam for them. Plus, what is "Islam? for us -- Khomenist
"rule of the jurist" Shi'ism? The gnostic Sufi tradition of twirling
and hash smoking? We can't make that decision for Muslims ...

Plus, what exact mileage to we get out of alienating the Saudi
state (and rejecting Saudi Islam is tantamount to precisely that)?
It would surely rattle the Sunni Gulf states, not to mention our
extremely important allies (and Israel peace treaty signatories)
Egypt and Jordan. And it would be yet *another* unearned gift
to al Qaeda for the US to become openly hostile to "Wahabism."

Thing is, Paul, most Salafist (Sunni fundamentalist) communities
are perfectly peaceful (if entirely backward). It's when Salafism
gets polluted by takfir that you get the coupling of Arab nationalism
with dreams of Islamist hegemony. The problem with Saudi "Wahabi"
religious culture is more sociopolitical than religious / theological.
You have a whole bunch of obscenly wealthy princes freelancin'
by funding radical groups as a way to gain Islamic "street cred"
because of the fierce resentment their decadent lifestyles cause.

Our goals should be to try to pry these fundamentally conservative
states away from supporting radical anti-statist doctrine: Convince
Iran of the menace that radical Sunnis pose to all flavors of Shi'ism,
and convince Saudi Arabia that the madrassah education they fund
around the world can turn around and bite them in the ass -- unless
it comes equipped with a sound repudiation of *takfir* as un-Islamic.

> 'Course, the chewtoy regards that as 'superficial', while
> parsing Wahabi from Salafi denotes... what, exactly?

Wahabism is identified with the Saudi state, and as such connotes
the religious hypocrisy of a religiously bifurcated society where
wealth is deeply maldistributed. Salafism is purist fundamentalism,
exportable as stand-alone doctrine around the world. The Saudi
flavor teaches submission to the ruler, even if the ruler is
corrupt (a deeply conservative principle that we might not wish
to fuck with). Salafism is open to the revolutionary (and highly
dangerous) idea of violently overthrowing corrupt/apostate regimes.

As a matter of religious ethics, Salafism (minus takfir) is not,
per se, a menace to our values -- and is, in fact, closer to
American ideals of social equity and the priesthood of all
believers than either Saudi or Iranian religious institutions.

Saudi "Wahabism," as a matter of *geopolitics*, is probably
best left alone from the standpoint of regional stability.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 16, 2007 at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK

erica wrote:

"It's this non-war-based policy that liberals should be talking about, now, moving forward into the 2008 elections, and beyond. That's why whoever wins the Democratic nomination MUST be a person who voted AGAINST war-based policy, way back as far as '03 for certain, and maybe even going back to the dark days of 2001."
_____________________

I think erica has captured the essence of Kevin's point, which is that we'll still be dealing with the problems of the Middle East in the post-Iraq period and that we need to consider how we will proceed once we withdraw.

However, I think a distiction needs to be made in the matter of the use of force. Sometimes there is a need for the use of force, just as sometimes there is the need for the trauma of surgery (as the sharpish throbbing at the back of my neck reminds me just now.) Given a distinct target, the US military is rather good at such things, arguably better than anyone else on the planet. Given a less distinct target, our capabilities have less impact and less applicability. We cannot go willy-nilly overthrowing any and every government that richly deserves it - such is counter to our values and is likely futile in any case. Likewise, the use of military strength cannot be a permanent substitute for political solutions (as any third year West Point cadet can state by rote.)

This latest surge will have only a temporary effect. At best, it can buy some more time for the politicos to get their act together. The same thing applies to our military efforts in Afghanistan.

That is not to say that the use of force will not be necessary in the post-Iraq timeframe. There are, doubtless, people who are already calculating how best to apply force in Darfur, for example. There will be other occassions where the use of force or the potentional use of force will be necessary.

The key to devising a new approach to the problems of the Middle East and jihadism is not to eschew the use of force, but to be clear in when it will be used. Likewise, approaches that start off with "first solve world hunger"-type statements are almost useless. We aren't going to wean the entire world from petroleum products anytime soon, nor are all Arabs going to be reconciled with the existence of Israel anytime soon. We need working principles and concepts for three years from now, not three decades hence.

Posted by: Trashhauler on January 16, 2007 at 4:01 AM | PERMALINK

Quick recap, cuz more is pointless:

Kevin asks us to start thinking a "non-war" strategy, which is immediately an error -- defining something affirmative in negative terms.

The purpose of our military is to kill people and destroy things to some national purpose (or rather, to have the capacity to do so effectively, which can be even better). KD would have been better off asking what our national purposes are in the Middle East in general, and Iraq in particular.

Without anything concrete, and an abstraction founded on a negative, we get noplace fast -- but then, so many progressives have had lots of practice in that direction: its a familiar route.

So we have a series of posts responding to a negatively phrased question with variations on 'gee, wouldn't it be nice'.... if what?

Then chewtoy speaks up how, gee, we're not all Muslims, so ...

Oy. (forehead smacking table)

Actually, there are a fair number of American Muslims -- and they ARE both Americans and Muslims. Remember that "We, the People" stuff? Some of us mean it.

That somebody can be a Muslim AND an American is not a small thing. (It also cuts through the chewtoy's bullshit on Catholicism, which suffered from the same myopia a century and half ago.) Take advantage of it.

Cuz it's the key not to a "non-war" strategy, but to the kind of strategy where military force could be effective -- and thus, more often than not, unnecessary. We'd get what we want without it.

Time and again, the US has demonstrated an impressive ability to take out governments we don't like in days, if not hours.

The hard part is "then, what?"

Perhaps that would be a better question than endless preening of "I told you so's" about starting the war in Iraq (when our problem now is FINISHING it, remember?)or 'world without war' visionquesting.

Posted by: theAmericanist on January 16, 2007 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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