Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

May 4, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE TERRORIST'S APPRENTICE....As long as we're on the subject of "the total conflation of all Islamist movements," the MoJo review I mentioned yesterday is now online. Here's a piece:

A military response to 9/11 would have made sense had it been directed narrowly at Al Qaeda and like-minded hardcore jihadists, who are motivated by a complex stew of religious fanaticism and rage that leaves no room for negotiation. But in the long run, jihadists can cause serious, long-lasting damage only if they have substantial popular support. Without it they wither and eventually die.

Unfortunately, our blinkered response to 9/11, including large-scale warfare and support for dictators throughout the Middle East, has instead increased the popularity of the violent radicals and put us implicitly at war with an entire region, rather than with a small and — until recently — unloved band of Sunni extremists. If there's a lesson from the sorry mess Bush has made, this is it: The only way to beat Al Qaeda is to wage what you might call a global counterinsurgency campaign, separating the terrorists from the surrounding population and getting the broader Muslim world on our side.

This is from a review of two books: The Infernal Machine: A History of Terrorism, by Matthew Carr, and The Matador's Cape: America's Reckless Response to Terror, by Stephen Holmes. Both were OK but not great. But the illustration by Hungry Dog Studio that accompanies the review is kind of cool.

Kevin Drum 12:55 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (42)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

The Bushies talk tough on law and order, but whenever it actually comes up, in regards to assault weapons or counter-terrorism, they instantly scoff--really scoff, as in laughing-at-loud, at the law-enforcement angle, like it's for sissies or something.

Shuoldn't anyone call them on this?

Posted by: Kenji on May 4, 2007 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Our support for dictators in the Mideast hardly started with 9/11! C'mon, that's silly. If we didn't support dictators, we wouldn't have any friends in the Mideast at all. (Except Israel.)

Posted by: y81 on May 4, 2007 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

nice work, Kevin.

Posted by: cleek on May 4, 2007 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

It's worth remembering that in his 2007 SOTU President Bush similarly conflated all potential Islamic entities into a single unified threat:

"The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat. Whatever slogans they chant, when they slaughter the innocent they have the same wicked purposes. They want to kill Americans, kill democracy in the Middle East, and gain the weapons to kill on an even more horrific scale."

This is just one of the dangers of the "Global War on Terror." We're not fighting an abstraction. We're fighting Al Qaeda.

Posted by: AngryOne on May 4, 2007 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

Bush is following a strategy that is more nuanced than simply pursuing "hard-core jihadists" as you call them.

He understands that you have to fight the enemy you have, not the one you wish you had.

Posted by: Al on May 4, 2007 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

it's always much better to win the hearts and minds of people with the point of a gun. history shows it works so well...

Posted by: mudwall jackson on May 4, 2007 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

The Salafists have always had an undercurrent of popularity in Islamic countries just as fundamentalists have always had some popularity in the US and other Christian-oriented nations. The real problem is keeping them away from general acceptance. The extremists were the ones that had a major impact in throwing the Soviets out of Afghanistan, so they gained street credibility in the Muslim world. And since then, they have gained more as the ones who could take the fight to Western Europe and America. The only way to lessen that credibility is to show how the average Muslim would be affected by the extremists gaining real political power. In western societies, liberals always can point to how bad things will be if the Christianists win - loss of freedoms, less medicine and techmology, etc. The same type of propaganda should be used in the Muslim countries, where there was a real-life examples of jihadist-Salafists in power - the Taliban or maybe Fallujah. What needs to be done is to rev up, using as indirect means as possible, a vision of a fundamentalist dystopia with jihadists gaining power.

The jihadists need to be looked at with the same disdain that liberals in this country look at Christianist Reconstructionists. It has to be an issue of politics more than an issue of firepower. As long as our country emphasizes policies that favor military solutions and corrupt authoritarians, the jihadists will gain strength.

Posted by: natural cynic on May 4, 2007 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Al: He understands that you have to fight the enemy you have, not the one you wish you had.

More like, you fight the enemy you made. And fighting them more makes more of them.

Posted by: natural cynic on May 4, 2007 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

Hold the phone Al - "We don't do nuance" sound familiar?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 4, 2007 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

*Bush is following a strategy that is more nuanced than simply pursuing "hard-core jihadists" as you call them.*

Bush has pretty much demonstrated his desire to simply pursue hard-core jihadists. You'll need to explain where the 'nuance' shows itself. Just saying it doesn't make it so.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on May 4, 2007 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

So why did the Bush administration decide to declare war on terrorism after 9/11? Partly because, as Carr documents, military overreaction is the historically most common response to terrorist threats: Doing something�anything�is usually the first order of business.

I don't have Carr's book in front of me, but I think this is a serious misstating of his argument, based on what I recall reading.

His main point is not that governments 'overreact,' but that they seize on episodes of violence directed against the state in order to further punish enemies of the state and amplify the state's power. In other words, the gov't uses terrorism as a pretext to pursue pre-existing policies that might have been unachievable prior to the outbreak of terrorism, policies that are invariably more violent, repressive, and destructive than any action by non-state "terrorists." I hardly see how "muscular myopia," as a descriptive term, would describe his argument.

Overall, your review was decent, but I think you do a pretty substantial disservice to Carr's book. Alas, I haven't read Holmes' collection.

Posted by: Chris on May 4, 2007 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

"The only way to beat Al Qaeda is to wage what you might call a global counterinsurgency campaign, separating the terrorists from the surrounding population and getting the broader Muslim world on our side."

It enrages me that this bit of (to me, at least) obvious to the point of being silly logic is somehow banned from all discussion of terrorism and the Iraq War on national TV. Even on "liberal" PBS, you NEVER hear this thought expressed (except maybe a passing mention by a talking head in the occasional Frontline).

Posted by: brewmn on May 4, 2007 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

Seems like we have a campaign talking point. "Mitt Romney says democrats want to go after Osama bin Laden. He doesn't. Which do you prefer?"

Posted by: M. Peachbush on May 4, 2007 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

It enrages me that this bit of (to me, at least) obvious to the point of being silly logic is somehow banned from all discussion of terrorism and the Iraq War on national TV.

Nah. We can't possibly out-compete AQ for the hearts and minds of the rest of the world....

Posted by: Disputo on May 4, 2007 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

If we're going to make friends in the Muslim world, we'll probably have to do something, not just tell them we're their friends. (I mean, even Arabs aren't that stupid.) For example, polls reveal that many Muslim women are very offended by the explicit sexual content of much U.S. popular entertainment, and the widespread availability of pornography in the U.S. Anyone here willing to support forcing the entertainment media to tone that down?

Also, polls reveal that many in the Muslim world think that we support Israel too strongly. I'm waiting for a presidential candidate to suggest changing that.

If we're not willing to actually manifest friendship in our behavior, we're probably not going to separate moderate Muslims from jihadists.

Posted by: y81 on May 4, 2007 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

It's the conservative mindset: see something you don't like? Wage war on it!

War on Drugs!
War on Terrorism!
War on Democracy!

repeat ad nauseum

Posted by: craigie on May 4, 2007 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

New Observation:

Trying to convince Cheney's dead-enders that the Iraq war is creating more terrorists not less, is like trying to convince them that Global Warming is both real and a huge problem.


Observation on the New Observation:

Cheney's dead-enders have a knack for being on the wrong side of history.
This is interesting.
Rather than try to find the people who are consistently right about the future, perhaps we ought to pay attention to the opinions of those who are consistently wrong.
After all, they point the way forward... all you need to do is add 180 degrees to all of their opinions.

Posted by: ROTFLMLiberalAO on May 4, 2007 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

All you have is broad, sweeping simplistic pejoritive stereotypes... and our knowledge of Islam is "extremely limited"?

You should take your act on the road. Maybe you can open for Gallagher or something.

Posted by: DHWalker on May 4, 2007 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Our support for dictators in the Middle East? It's not as if there are a great many democracies in that part of the world. Islamic leaders believe it their duty to allah to govern under the laws of sharia. In case you have not heard there is no separation et all between islam and state.

Hello? Lebanon? Syria? Egypt? Pakistan? Chad? Indonesia? UAE? Iraq under Saddam? None of these are governed by Sharia and there is a basic separation of church and state. In half a dozen more majority Islamic countries there is a mix of Islamic and other legal systems, including English common law, French, and Turkish, and many of these are republics with competing political parties.

Also, one of the contributory factors to having dictators in "that part of the world" is the history of the U.S. engineering coups and installing dictators to suppress the activity of groups whose goals seemingly didn't align with our own.

So WTF are you smoking to make statements like these? The next time Marler offers you a suspicious cigarette that looks like it was rolled by hand, just say no. Smoking the wacky tabacky will dramatically decrease your ability to absorb or retain facts, much less think logically.

Posted by: trex on May 4, 2007 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

Brian Jenkins (RAND Corporation) says largely the same thing in "Unconquerable Nation" (2006).

Posted by: AC on May 4, 2007 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

Americans, and perhaps American liberals especially, would do well not to conflate the reasons they dislike American foreign policy with the reasons Muslims do. While we're on the subject of de-conflation, we might want to think about not referring to "Muslims" when we really mean "Arabs."

American liberals dislike American support (meaning anything from ordinary, cordial relations to foreign aid programs) for dictatorships because they dislike dictatorships, do not believe dictatorships could exist without American support, and are skeptical that the alternative to dictatorship in some parts of the world is a war of some kind followed by an even worse dictatorship. Arabs dislike dictatorships when the dictator is uncongenial to them personally, or to their family, tribe or faith. Actual Arab democrats are a minority small enough that the one chance they might ever have to come to power would involve the American army.

This is not a new situation. Modern Americans take a lot of things in life for granted, and one of them is that representative democracy is the natural order everywhere in the world unless some malevolent force stands in its way. This isn't even remotely true. Representative democracy is an extremely demanding system of government that not all people or cultures are advanced enough to handle.

The differences between the countries where democracy has a fighting chance and the ones where it doesn't are highly unlikely to be due primarily to the American government's policy. Of course there are Arabs who don't want to accept this (because they prefer to blame their own culture's failings on someone else) and Americans who don't either (because they feel better being, as President Bush says, "on the side of freedom") but that doesn't mean Arabs and Americans believe the same thing.

Democracy can develop in predominantly Muslim countries, and America can help. But democracy cannot develop in all predominantly Muslim countries no matter how hard we wish for it to, and the Muslim countries where democracy is least likely are the ones to which the United States devotes most of its attention.

Posted by: Zathras on May 4, 2007 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

including large-scale warfare and support for dictators throughout the Middle East

The large-scale warfare has been in opposition to dictators and in support of moderates. That we couldn't take out all dictators at once may be unfortunate.

One mistake that leftists sometimes make is to think that the jihadists are motivated to attack the West for the West's flaws as seen by leftist critics. but the jihadists oppose even what the leftists prize as values, such as rights for women and gays, religious freedom, free and fair elections, and freedom of the press and of assembly. If we thought that the jihadists would improve Saudi society, we'd most likely back them.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on May 4, 2007 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

"The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat." GWB

This sentence does not conflate "Sunni and Shia", it aggregates "Sunni and Shia extremists". In all or almost all of his speeches Bush distinguishes the extremists from the rest of the Muslims, and he always clearly identifies the extremists as a minority. Sunni and Shia extremists alike in Iraq are working against the elected government; they are working toward the same immediate goal, each side with the expectation that it would win a subsequent civil war.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on May 4, 2007 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

Great, powerful title: "The Terrorist's Apprentice!"


Posted by: ferd on May 4, 2007 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

Of course you can win hearts and minds from the barrel of a gun, this is why you see no remnants of the Confederacy in the American south, they lost the war and immediately gave up all that crap.

Posted by: Northzax on May 4, 2007 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

That small and unloved band of sunni extremist killed as many americans in one day as have been killed in Iraq in over 4 years. We need to face the fact that for centuries the mid east has been implictly at war with us. What did Bill Clinton do in his 8 years as president to cause 9-11?
--NOTHING-- He tried to make friends but in spite of his efforts we were attacked.

Posted by: TruthPolitik on May 4, 2007 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

"Global War on Terror" has never been the right way to look at this. It immediately draws comparison with the "wars" on crime, poverty, and drugs. It makes no actual sense except for convenient, unthinking, political sound bites.

Equally, there is no war going on in Iraq. I'll say it again. We're an occupying power "at war" with the people we occupy; holding the ground for a "government" unsupported by the people.

I don't see much response to this thread. I don't expect the US to throw off its blinkers. The Dems move to withdraw the CinC's ability to wage war should have been argued from a long time back. I hope it passes.

Lack of clarity.

Posted by: notthere on May 5, 2007 at 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

...you have to fight the enemy you have, not the one you wish you had.

Posted by: Al on May 4, 2007 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

God! What an idiot.

We're fighting the enemies we created, not the ones that actually existed.

Well, they do now, I guess. And more of them by the day.

Nice work.

Posted by: notthere on May 5, 2007 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK

"Global War on Terror" has never been the right way to look at this. It immediately has to draw comparison with the "wars" on crime, poverty, and drugs. It makes no actual sense except for convenient, unthinking, political sound bites.

Equally, there is no war going on in Iraq. I'll say it again. We're an occupying power "at war" with the people we occupy; holding the ground for a "government" unsupported by the people.

I don't see much response to this thread. I don't expect the US to throw off its blinkers. The Dems move to withdraw the CinC's ability to wage war should have been argued from a long time back. I hope it passes.

Lack of clarity.

Posted by: notthere on May 5, 2007 at 12:32 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum: our blinkered response to 9/11, including large-scale warfare and support for dictators throughout the Middle East, has instead increased the popularity of the violent radicals

According to this comment, our overthrow of dictator Saddam in the Middle East increased the popularity of the violent radicals, But, our support for dictators in the Middle East also increased the popularity of violent radicals.

Kevin's conclusion seems to be: No matter what we do, the US is always wrong.

My view is that the rising popularity of violent radicals has little to do with actions by the US. It's due to the actions of the Islamists who are promoting radicalism.

Posted by: ex-liberal on May 5, 2007 at 3:12 AM | PERMALINK

Twenty One Hundred and Seventy Sevens warrants issued last year to search under beds and in nooks and crannies everywhere for those pesky "Terraists". Must be a whole slew out there trying to frighten little FAUX Lib, who is still trying to recover from Comparative Negligence Syndrome.

How apt it is that Cheney resides in the National Observatory - Has totally changed the meaning about what it observes.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on May 5, 2007 at 6:22 AM | PERMALINK

mhr: The one exception is Turkey where Mustafa Kemal (Attaturk) reformed his country and made it a secular state, Islamic fanatics have Turkey in their sights.


how many times did the US have to invade Turkey?

Posted by: mr. irony on May 5, 2007 at 7:16 AM | PERMALINK


truthpolitk: What did Bill Clinton do in his 8 years as president to cause 9-11?
--NOTHING-- He tried to make friends but in spite of his efforts we were attacked.

well....

less americans died by terror in clinton's 8-years...

bush changed all that...

Posted by: mr. irony on May 5, 2007 at 7:20 AM | PERMALINK

thethirdPaul: Twenty One Hundred and Seventy Sevens warrants issued last year to search under beds and in nooks and crannies everywhere for those pesky "Terraists".

Paul, you should be grateful that you live in the US rather than Great Britain. Bush/Chaney's use of 2177 search warrants is nothing compared to Britain's widespread use closed circuit TV cameras.

`Aye, spy' to street cameras

Brits OK with being most spied-upon people in the democratic world – most of the time

May 05, 2007

In Britain, there's no hiding from Big Brother.

Mechanical eyes scan virtually every public space, from street corners to the inside of buses, turning Britons into the most spied-upon people in the democratic world.

On a typical day, a Brit travelling to and from work (with a likely pit stop at the pub) will be captured by closed circuit TV cameras up to 300 times.

Dire warnings are regularly heard, most recently this week by Britain's information commissioner, Richard Thomas. But Britons – 70 per cent in one survey – can't seem to get enough of the eyes in the sky.

Britain's 4.2 million public CCTV cameras – one for every 14 people – outnumber those in any other country. And authorities are constantly dreaming up ways of adding to them.

http://www.thestar.com/printArticle/210720

Posted by: ex-liberal on May 5, 2007 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

I think the writer has it about right. A strong, wise American leader would have stepped back after 9-11 and asked themselves - "What does this act tell us that we, as a people, must do?" The three things that occurred to me, within hours of learning of the 9-11 attacks, were: (1) The U.S. needs a crash program for energy independence, (2) we need to rally the world to band together in a coordinated, concerted law enforcement effort to crush al-Qaeda, and (3) we need to reach out a hand of peace to moderate Muslims throughout the world.

George W. Bush, being neither a a strong or wise leader, chose to attack a Muslim country that had nothing to do with 9-11, throw away criminal anti-terrorism efforts, and loot the public treasury by passing unneeded tax giveaways to his rich patrons.

George W. Bush - the wrong decisions all the time.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on May 5, 2007 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

"My view is that the rising popularity of violent radicals has little to do with actions by the US. It's due to the actions of the Islamists who are promoting radicalism."
--ex-liberal

Dead wrong. Radical Islam was becoming increasingly marginalized and unpopular after 9-11. Attacking and occupying a Muslim country that had nothing to do with 9-11 made as much sense as attacking Mexico after Pearl Harbor.

Now, Bush is helping accomplish bin Laden's stated goal, which is "to bleed American dry of money" by occupying Iraq. Bush has also now created a haven for terrorists in the Middle East where none existed before.

Utter and complete failure is the only way to characterize the Bush Administration.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on May 5, 2007 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

The Conservative Deflator: Radical Islam was becoming increasingly marginalized and unpopular after 9-11.

Do you have evidence for this assertion? I recall a number of Muslims making statements sympathetic to SBL and the attack.

Posted by: ex-liberal on May 5, 2007 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Boy somebody must of hit a nerve.The trolls are out in record numbers here. I think if the sun shines on them they turn to stone. If you see one in a basement furiously typing away open a window and maybe the planet will be a better place.

Posted by: Gandalf on May 5, 2007 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK
The large-scale warfare has been in opposition to dictators and in support of moderates. … MatthewRmarler at 6:34 PM
It would be interesting to know what 'moderate' regimes the Bush regime supports. Pakistan? Uzbekistan? Both have been supported and neither are moderate. Furthermore, Bush's designation of Iran as an evil state prior to their elections was guaranteed and perhaps designed to encourage the selection of a more radical government.

Rightists seem to think that by attacking others they will fall into line whereas in fact, such attacks generally elicit a nationalistic response.
Your definition of leftist is a straw man and quite silly. No one except Republican Christian fundamentalists support the same ideology as Islamic fundamentalists. You have merely to read Dinesh D'Souza.

My view is that the rising popularity of violent radicals has little to do with actions by the US…ex-lax at 3:12 AM

That’s some view. I doubt that it carries any weight in the real world. Colonialism begets resentment and invasion and occupation don't win the love of any people.
…According to official U.S. government sources, the September 11 attacks were consistent with the mission statement of al-Qaeda. The overarching motivation for the present al-Qaeda campaign was set out in a 1998 fatwa issued by Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abu-Yasir Rifa'i Ahmad Taha, Shaykh Mir Hamzah, and the (Amir of the Jihad Movement in Bangladesh, Fazlur Rahman).[85]
The fatwa lists three "crimes and sins" committed by the Americans:
· U.S. military occupation of the Arabian Peninsula.
· U.S. aggression against the Iraqi people.
· U.S. support of Israel.
The fatwa states that the United States:
· Plunders the resources of the Arabian Peninsula.
· Dictates policy to the rulers of those countries.
· Supports abusive regimes and monarchies in the Middle East, thereby oppressing their people.
· Has military bases and installations upon the Arabian Peninsula, which violates the Muslim holy land, in order to threaten neighboring Muslim countries.
· Intends thereby to create disunion between Muslim states, thus weakening them as a political force.
· Supports Israel, and wishes to divert international attention from (and tacitly maintain) the occupation of Palestine. [source link below]
I recall a number of Muslims making statements sympathetic to SBL and the attack. ex-laxat 12:14 PM

Most Arab nations, except Iraq and the Palestinians, expressed sympathy
…The most publicized exception was that some Palestinians celebrated jubilantly upon hearing about 9/11.[94] There were also public demonstrations of enthusiasm for the attacks conducted by Chinese students in mainland China during the night after the attacks.[95] Leaders in most Middle Eastern countries, including Afghanistan, condemned the attacks. Iraq was a notable exception, with an immediate official statement that "the American cowboys are reaping the fruit of their crimes against humanity."…

Posted by: Mike on May 5, 2007 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Mike, do you really support the views Dinesh D'Souza as expressed in your cite? He blames the American left for 9/11. Even consertives mostly disagree with D'Souza.

the American left bears a measure of responsibility for the volcano of anger from the Muslim world that produced the 9/11 attacks. President Jimmy Carter's withdrawal of support for the shah of Iran, for example, helped Ayatollah Khomeini's regime come to power in Iran, thus giving radical Islamists control of a major state; and President Bill Clinton's failure to respond to Islamic attacks confirmed bin Laden's perceptions of U.S. weakness and emboldened him to strike on 9/11. I also argue that the policies that U.S. "progressives" promote around the world -- including abortion rights, contraception for teenagers and gay rights -- are viewed as an assault on traditional values by many cultures, and have contributed to the blowback of Islamic rage.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/26/AR2007012601624.html

Posted by: ex-liberal on May 5, 2007 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

In Iraq, polls show al Qaeda with a 94 percent unfavorable rating overall. Even Sunnis poll at 77 percent unfavorable, and given al Qaeda attacks on Sunnis since the poll was taken in September of 2006, it's likely that this rating has gotten worse.

The U.S. may not be winning hearts and minds, but neither are the terrorists.

Posted by: Ein on May 5, 2007 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

Good Day. Thanks, keep up the good work. Help me! Can not find sites on the: Radio wall clock. I found only this - harley davidson wall clock. Wall clock, this is the creation consumed in your height of kim. The food begins an inadequate part discovery, a other drug producing a month to up-sell a runner, wall clock. THX :confused:, Herschel from Luxembourg.

Posted by: Herschel on March 12, 2010 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly