Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 19, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

WAR....The Washington Post recommends declaring war on Pakistan:

If Pakistani forces cannot — or will not — eliminate the [al-Qaeda] sanctuary, President Bush must order targeted strikes or covert actions by American forces, as he has done several times in recent years. Such actions run the risk of further destabilizing Pakistan. Yet those risks must be weighed against the consequences of another large-scale attack on U.S. soil. "Direct intervention against the sanctuary in Afghanistan apparently must have seemed . . . disproportionate to the threat," the Sept. 11 commission noted. The United States must not repeat that tragic misjudgment.

This is a shameless dodge. "Targeted strikes" and "covert actions" are nice buzzwords, but they won't eliminate or even seriously dent al-Qaeda's sanctuaries in Pakistan and the Post knows it. Only continuous, large-scale strikes and troops on the ground have the slightest chance of doing that. If this is really what the Post supports, they should have the backbone to say so.

Kevin Drum 1:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (89)

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Comments

Bombing a friendly nuclear country would be a war crime and a blunder, but so what?

Posted by: bad Jim on July 19, 2007 at 1:50 AM | PERMALINK

Would this be before or after we declare war on Iran? Would we attack Pakistan from Iran? I've lost track of what the list is.

I guess the idea is that since (according to the neocons) destroying and destablizing Iraq was such a good idea that we should do it to Pakistan also.

Posted by: JohnN on July 19, 2007 at 2:14 AM | PERMALINK

Plus there's that whole "attacks on our soil" dodge. Does anyone except college Republicans believe that hogwash anymore.

Posted by: Kenji on July 19, 2007 at 2:35 AM | PERMALINK

Well, Kevin, do YOU have the backbone to say so? What's your solution? Simply wait around talking about universal healthcare until they figure out some way to target our criminally unprotected chemical plants?

Posted by: plunge on July 19, 2007 at 3:05 AM | PERMALINK

"Direct intervention against the sanctuary in Afghanistan apparently must have seemed . . . disproportionate to the threat," the Sept. 11 commission noted. The United States must not repeat that tragic misjudgment.

Cool, apparently there are no tragic mistakes to be learned from our direct intervention in Iraq or our actual direct intervention in Afghanistan, so full steam ahead!

Just curious though - we and what army?

Our army is struggling to keep order in Iraq, a country of under 30 million people. What happens if we destabilize Pakistan, a country of 170 million people? And even if everything goes to plan in Pakistan (never mind our track record in Iraq and Afghanistan), are we sure members of al Qaida won't slip over a new border, like Iran or China?

Even if there's a potential good outcome from striking al Qaida bases within Pakistan, why would anyone put any faith in this administration pulling it off?

Another major problem with this administration is credibility. They have lied and dissembled so many times that even were they to present a reasonable justification for attacking Pakistan along with a plan that had a good chance of succeeding, who now is going to believe and trust them?

It's hard to overstate what a tremendous liability this administration is in the GWOT (or whatever they're calling it this week). We've alienated our allies, our standing in the world is at an all time low, and in any event the administration is downright contemptuous of diplomatic solutions. Our military is stretched to the breaking point, so military options will be limited primarily to air and missile strikes (and risk provoking wider regional wars if not outright invasions that we would be hard pressed to repel without resorting to atomic weapons). And finally, the American public no longer trust the administration that cried wolf (al Qaida). So Bush has little chance of rallying the American people behind any renewed efforts to fight, even against true threats to our nation.

Bush is our nation's Commodus.

Posted by: Augustus on July 19, 2007 at 3:07 AM | PERMALINK

Of course Kristol told us so just a few days in WaPo, and he predicted more than just airstrikes:

These Waziristan havens may well have to be dealt with in the near future. I assume Bush will deal with them, using some combination of air strikes and special operations.

Kristol still seems to be very much in the inner loop at the White House.

Posted by: JS on July 19, 2007 at 3:59 AM | PERMALINK

Nixon and Kissinger would not hesitate.

Posted by: bob h on July 19, 2007 at 5:44 AM | PERMALINK

Had we finished the job at Tora Bora five years ago, instead of foolishly plunging into Iraq to pursue George W. Bush's petty little act of revenge, we wouldn't have to be discussing this.

Pakistan remains the most dangerous country in the world and the next Democratic president better be thinking damn hard about what to do about that.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on July 19, 2007 at 5:44 AM | PERMALINK

> Targeted strikes" and "covert actions" are nice
> buzzwords, but they won't eliminate or even
> seriously dent al-Qaeda's sanctuaries in
> Pakistan and the Post knows it.

Duh, if they could, they would have by now!

Ohhhh Riggghhtt. There was no hellfire missile from a predator drone as seen by eyewitnesses and non-denial denied by the infamously connected Pakistani intelligence which for some reason felt the need to explain the unexplained explosion as.... an unexplained explosion! Lets all just trust Musharraf. If he says all that US aid comes with no strings attached, then there are no strings attached!

Some countries have borders that separate them, Pakistan and Afghanistan are separated by a province. Freak of nature? nope, just ask the British. Now in an "tax free" area, if you will, like this with nether a Pakistani nor an Afghan government to pick people up and discuss disagreements with, one could use a human assassin. Say an assassin who might draw less attention than a big missile from a noisy drone destroying a whole building. And if the CIA has problems finding one in these less than tranquil tribal belts, then it shouldn`t be trusted with any covert action. Or its just doing these assassinations for show. I am sure its just a coincidence that they chose the method that allows live video to be beamed to the white house situation room of a notoriously tactical detail obsessed president or bloodthirsty vice president. Who, coincidentally, both have trouble seeing the point of having a CIA if you cant order it to whack a single guy, preferable before november. To them all the CIA does is come up with these strategic long term analyses that try and make the Iraq war look like a bad idea, oil like hard to get in the future, Chinese missiles like not that big a deal and hizbullah like a pal in the fight against Sunni crazies.

Oh and there was no torpedo either....

Posted by: rt on July 19, 2007 at 5:50 AM | PERMALINK

Musharraf is targeting these areas right now and the US has just committed $170 million as increased aid to help them do so. Did the WaPo forget this already? It was just a few days ago.
Not only that, just how frightening is it when the paper channels Kristol?

Posted by: TJM on July 19, 2007 at 5:53 AM | PERMALINK

"Would this be before or after we declare war on Iran? Would we attack Pakistan from Iran? I've lost track of what the list is."

Yeah, what happened to Syria and South America?

h

Posted by: hancock on July 19, 2007 at 7:36 AM | PERMALINK

I assume WaPo intends our action to be done with the approval of Musharraf. Helping the government of Pakistan defeat a lawless group of insurgents would in no way be "declaring war on Pakistan."

Posted by: ex-liberal on July 19, 2007 at 7:39 AM | PERMALINK

Eliminate, no. Seriously dent? I'm not sure on what basis you're so convinced that these kinds of actions would be so ineffective. The fact that we've been unable to prevent terrorism in Iraq? Our goal here wouldn't be to control foreign territory, but to disrupt the abilities of jihadists in that territory from carrying out attacks here. That, we might be able to accomplish.

Posted by: larry birnbaum on July 19, 2007 at 7:54 AM | PERMALINK

Since nobody posting here (including Kevin) knows jack about the military intelligence for targetting these camps, nor the ordnance that might be used to take 'em out, how about somebody raises an issue that just possibly some of us MIGHT not be quite as ignorant about?

What's our OBJECTIVE? (Not only as Americans, but as progressives.)

The first principle of any military action is to identify what you want to achieve. If you want to push the bad guys off a hill, be sure they're all gone: that's how you know when you're done. If you want to TAKE the hill, you have to stay on it.

You don't do a military operation "to send a signal", and "disrupting" training operations is pretty weak.

The PURPOSE of our military, after all, is to kill people and destroy things. So -- who do we want to kill here? What do we want to destroy?

If as progressives we're gonna be against this, because we have real enemies our opposition has to be because 1) the attack has no objective, or 2) the objective is bad, or 3) it has a good objective but will fail to meet it.

Which is it? Why?

Personally, I'd quote... Rumsfeld. Would attacking these camps, killing these guys and destroying whatever we can blow up, actually produce FEWER bad guys? I don't think so. Would it be worth whacking 'em now, to gain some time? I dunno: is time on our side?

Looking at the 9/11 report about 'disproportionate' responses, in my wickeder moments, I think sometimes we ought to have a hairtrigger capacity to strike back at governments that help or tolerate terrorists, within hours if not minutes of any strike against us: prompt and lethal action that is disproportionate and which would rapidly be understood as the OPPOSITE of thoughtful. In other words, folks wouldn't be able to talk us out of it -- somebody trained in Pakistan hits us, and we take out something very valuable to Pakistan before the sun sets.

But in the end, if there isn't a THEOLOGICAl quality to our alternative, we're disarmed no matter how many we kill or how much we destroy.

Posted by: theAmericanist on July 19, 2007 at 7:57 AM | PERMALINK

Excellent observation, Kevin.

Bravo!

Posted by: chuck on July 19, 2007 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

Plunge writes:

Well, Kevin, do YOU have the backbone to say so? What's your solution? Simply wait around talking about universal healthcare until they figure out some way to target our criminally unprotected chemical plants?

Yeah, so since Kevin doesn't produce a plan of his own, a criminally stupid one is better than nothing, right?

Posted by: chuck on July 19, 2007 at 8:18 AM | PERMALINK

I assume WaPo intends our action to be done with the approval of Musharraf. Helping the government of Pakistan defeat a lawless group of insurgents would in no way be "declaring war on Pakistan."

Ex-liberal is such an a**hole, it's hard to put into words.

The old American double-standard at work here: we would never, ever countenance another country conducting air strikes / raids on our soil. That much is pretty clear. Musharraf would be deposed the same day he allowed the US - probably the most hated country among the Pakistani population - to do the same.

In other words, ex-liberal, the assumption upon which you make your statement is politically naive at best, idiotic at worst.

Posted by: chuck on July 19, 2007 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

I disagree with you Kevin. I think tactical strikes are what we should have used in Afghanistan. We should have been more patient in trying to surgically go after bin Laden and his terror cells and feed the revolution against the Taliban externally.

I also think the fact that we made a deal with the devil in Pakistan is the reason we are having many of these problems. Whenever we cozy up to military dictatorships these kind of things are bound to happen. Those F-16s we agreed to sell Pakistan on Good Friday 2005 might make any military action more challenging...

Posted by: Brian on July 19, 2007 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

If this doesn't put to bed once and for all the "liberal WaPo' bullshit, nothing will. They still do some excellent reporting, but their editorial staff has moved so far to the right that the WSJ blushes.

Posted by: MeLoseBrain? on July 19, 2007 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

Same old same old.

1) Clinton's desperate attempt to divert attention from his penis.

2) Bush's noble obligation to destabilize all countries between the Mediterranean and the Ganges.

Bravo, WaPo! Like hornets and skunks all muslims understand is force. You have to slap them around a bit, throw pebbles into their nests and dens, scream at them and randomly clap your hands.

Posted by: B on July 19, 2007 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

While we are at it it, why not also go a door east and bomb the pesky little Indians as well?

Posted by: gregor on July 19, 2007 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Gee, the metaphor of a "flyswatter" comes to mind. Now where've I heard that before?

Posted by: digitusmedius on July 19, 2007 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

I guess the idea is that since (according to the neocons) destroying and destablizing Iraq was such a good idea that we should do it to Pakistan also.
Posted by: JohnN on July 19, 2007 at 2:14 AM
------
Cool, apparently there are no tragic mistakes to be learned from our direct intervention in Iraq or our actual direct intervention in Afghanistan, so full steam ahead!
Posted by: Augustus on July 19, 2007 at 3:07 AM
------

Hmm. How about let's also try Lebanon while we are at it? We're in a professional wrestling smackdown tackling one tar baby after another:

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/IG20Ak01.html

"In May, investigative US reporter Seymour Hersh gave a groundbreaking interview to CNN International's Your World Today, discussing the combat in Naher al-Bared. Hersh's comments caused an uproar in the US, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon because he blamed the US administration, the Saudis and the cabinet of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad al-Siniora of creating and arming Sunni fundamentalist groups such as Fatah al-Islam.

The purpose was to use them against the Iran-backed all-Shi'ite group Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Shi'ites have an armed wing, the reasoning went, so why shouldn't the Sunnis as well? In March, Hersh penned an exceptionally detailed essay in The New Yorker called "The redirection", saying that the US was supporting Sunni fanatic groups to counterbalance the spread of Shi'ite Islam - and the power of Iran - in the Arab world.

Part of the strategy was increased US-Saudi planning to undermine Hezbollah in Lebanon. Another way was to encourage Sunni extremists in the region, who, although anti-American, are equally anti-Shi'ite. Hersh pointed out that this was identical to the Saudi-US strategy of the 1980s, when they armed and supported bin Laden to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.

The architects of this policy are US Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, and former ambassador and current Saudi National Security Adviser Prince Bandar bin Sultan. They are responsible for the "redirection" toward fostering Sunni fanatics, and more recently for the creation of Fatah al-Islam to combat Hezbollah."

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on July 19, 2007 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

How would India react to a suddenly destbilized Pakistan? And how would Pakistan react to the knowledge that India knew they were destabilized?

Lots of potential for things to go very badly.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on July 19, 2007 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, so since Kevin doesn't produce a plan of his own, a criminally stupid one is better than nothing, right?

No. Just that if Kevin doesn't produce a plan of his own to take care of the Pakistan problem, then he should stop complaining that we're not doing anything about the Pakistan problem.

Also bears mention is Kevin's idiocy about "our failure to prevent [al Qaeda's] retreat five years ago". How were we supposed to stop their retreat without any army there? Kevin apparently thinks we could have teleported several divisions into Afghanistan in a matter of minutes. Reality-Based Community... NOT!

Posted by: Al on July 19, 2007 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

This is simply more of the same macho idiocy that we’ve been getting from Bush and his media lapdogs since 2002 - they destroyed Iraq, now they realize that violence between Turkey and the Kurds is coming, that it will take a trillion dollars to rebuild Iraq and that the Iraqi puppet government can’t do anything. Yet the same idiots talk about attacking Iran and/or Pakistan- yes, Virginia we can quadruple our problems and quadruple the number of jihadists but we won't talk about that.

Pakistan is a problem; it would be nice if the Iranians did not build nuclear weapons. However, we must face reality. We can bomb and destroy but that only creates more enemies, angrier and more determined than before. We can’t even stop the killing in Darfur. Let’s get real and save some of our money and some of our troops.

Posted by: ergastoplasm on July 19, 2007 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

targeted strikes or covert actions by American forces,

Other than turning another huge population against us, what is this supposed to accomplish? While we might temporarily knock out some camps a kill a few bad guys, it would turn all of Pakistan into an Al Qaeda base. That would be a really big help, wouldn't it?

Posted by: tomeck on July 19, 2007 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

There are many good comments here about the lameness of the assumption in the Washington Post's editorial that such actions would produce a consequence that was worth the cost. The Post editorial board seems to think that the benefits of the actions they propose are more worthwhile than the very real risk that it would cause Pakistan to be governed by those who pose a much greater strategic threat to the US than does al-Qaeda. I think what underlies this assessment on their part is the notion that we must take extreme chances to make sure that there is absolutely no terrorist actions against the US. That is irrational. When it comes to al-Qaeda we seem to have a zero tolerance for risk. The reason I say that this is irrational is because we accept risk of injury or death that is at least as great or greater all of the time. At least 10,000 Americans a year are killed by drunk drivers and who knows how many are permanently injured (not to mention the financial havoc). We could have a "War on drunk drivers" and reduce the number of horrible injuries and deaths to a tiny of fraction of what we tolerate year in and year out. Yet we don't, we accept the risk. The risk from al-Qaeda is probably no greater than the risk from drunk drivers - and quite likely even much less - yet we cannot seem to get ourselves to accept the same level of risk from them as we do from drunk drivers. That is when terror is effective - it makes people irrational about risk. And when we become irrational about the risk, the terrorists win. The Bush administration used that irrationality to stampede us into a stupid war (and multitudes of other stupidities) and the terrorists were strengthened. Unfortunately, the Post editorial shows that that irrationality may still have too strong a grip on our national psyche. If so, the terrorists are winning.

Posted by: TK on July 19, 2007 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

You don't do a military operation "to send a signal"

Except when you want to send a signal. I think the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, WWII, fits this description.

Posted by: Wapiti on July 19, 2007 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

I assume WaPo intends our action to be done with the approval of Musharraf.

Thanks to "ex-liberal" for clarifying the neocon point of view, but what the neocon toad "ex-liberal" assumes isn't worth a bucket of piss.

Posted by: Gregory on July 19, 2007 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Is the Washington Post planning on paying the bill for this next military expansion? Are their young sons and daughters planning on enlisting?

I didn't think so.

Posted by: slanted tom on July 19, 2007 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

I think we could easily achieve a military success. Not as much success as the Japanese achieved at Pearl Harbor, but enough to get Shrub over 30% in the polls.

Not sure how well we'll be able to follow up with the South Western Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, but one thing at a time.

Posted by: Downpuppy on July 19, 2007 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

The Doolittle raid is a poor analogy. Do you really think its purpose was to "send a signal" to the Japanese? I suspect they already knew we were sort of annoyed with them.
I suspect the purpose of the Doolittle raid was to build morale for the folks back at home, to say "see, we can strike back." Other than to the lives of the aircrew involved in the raid, the risks were minimal. We were already in an all-out war against Japan.
The purpose of a raid on the border provinces of Pakistan would be pretty much the same -- domestic propaganda -- but the potential consequences are much worse. Besides the risks to the personnel involved, the dangers inherent in destabilizing Pakistan are immense. Like TK says, it would be a huge gamble, and yet another instance of the Bush regime making bin Laden's fondest wishes come true.

Posted by: thersites on July 19, 2007 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

I propose a more elegant solution: redraw the border to make Pakistan's tribal areas part of Afghanistan. Islamabad already has little de facto control on the frontier, so it's hardly a loss. I'm sure Pakistan will be happy to cede a violent, mountainous territory.

Posted by: Grumpy on July 19, 2007 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

TK, you are mostly right.

But people are fundamentally superstitious. We don't think in terms of risk, but in terms of motive. Car crashes are harmless, even though people die, because there is no ill motive involved. But terrorism is nothing but ill motive. So, we're afraid of an evil intent (despite the rarity) and not afraid of a commonplace event that holds no intention.

Choose which anti-smoking message would most persuade you to stop smoking:
1) Cigarettes will give you cancer.
2) The fuckers at Phillip Morris knew they were giving you cancer, and they lied to cover it up.

Posted by: absent observer on July 19, 2007 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

I can see it now, a pissed off Pakistan providing its nuclear technology to its new friends Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the basis of Arab solidarity and stopping the US. And of the course this plan really gives the Iranians an incentive to stop their nuclear program. Its more perpetual war with no end insight.

Posted by: aline on July 19, 2007 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

After 9/11 we had the sympathy and support of the world, and probably/maybe could have gotten away with going into Pakistan after bin Laden with grudging cooperation from Pakistan.

After Bush turned a molehill into a mountain with his Judeo/Evangelical Crusade against Islam, bringing our approval ratings down to zilch in Moslem countries, we live in interesting times full of unpredictability.

Posted by: Luther on July 19, 2007 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Lots of potential for things to go very badly.
But if there's even a 2% chance it could work, we have to try. That's the Cheney/Bush/AmericanPatriot mandate.

Posted by: Qwerty on July 19, 2007 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

I could see very narrowly targeted special forces operations (like deploying small numbers of elite troops via helicopters) undertaken with the consent of the Pakistani government. They would need to:

- Actually work. They should capture or kill people that are clearly terrorist leaders. This implies extremely good intelligence work.
- Have almost no civilian casualities. This probably precludes most air/missile strikes.

If you want to really get radical, you could think about placing such strike teams under U.N. control.

Posted by: demisod on July 19, 2007 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Is it just me....or has the Washington Post become just another conservative mouthpiece over the last few years?

Once upon a time it was a great newspaper with terrific investiagtive reporting. Now it seems like just a juvenile version of the Wall Street Journal.

Can anyone really imagine the Washignton Post of even ten years ago calling for an attack on an ally?

Posted by: mfw13 on July 19, 2007 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

I'm sure Pakistan will be happy to cede a violent, mountainous territory.

Yeah, they pretty much don't care about Kashmir.

Posted by: thersites on July 19, 2007 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Thersites,

I agree that the Doolittle Raid's primary audience was the American public. But it also demonstrated to the Japanese: we *can* hit your homeland, and we will.

At the end of that mission, we held no ground, we lost a bunch of planes and crews, but we sent signals.

The Americanist stated that (we) don't do military operations to send a signal. I disagree: Shows of force and demonstrations are both legitimate military operations. I think that the Doolittle Raid was primarily a show of force; I think the military significance of its targets were minimal. I could be wrong.

I do agree (I think this is your point) that a strike on the autonomous regions of Pakistan would not have the same effect. It would be strictly for public consumption - the Pakistanis know by now that we have neither the forces, inclination, nor competence to invade and hold large chunks of Pakistan.

Posted by: Wapiti on July 19, 2007 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Wapiti; I do agree (I think this is your point) that a strike on the autonomous regions of Pakistan would not have the same effect.

Yes, that was my point. I just fear that the effect would be much worse, and I fear that the current regime is dumb enough to do something like that anyway.

Posted by: thersites on July 19, 2007 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

>"Had we finished the job at Tora Bora five years ago"

Reality:

Tora Bora was a hoax.

The there was no cave complex, terror headquarters (etc) at Tora Bora.

A formal 'Al-Qaeada' organization is a hoax.

The reality is it's a very loose association of diverse Islamic extremist groups with a variety of goals and only sporadic contact with each other. No command and control, no 'sleeper cells'... the rest is made up.

WMD in Iraq

Hoax.

Saddam's killer drones, centrifuge tubes, yellow cake purchase.

Hoax.

A western occupying army greeted with flowers in the Mideast?

Hoax.

Gulf of Tonkin incident.

Hoax.

Domino Theory of communist expansion.

Hoax.

And the beat goes on. Hmmm... is there a pattern here?


Posted by: Buford on July 19, 2007 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Plunge writes:

Well, Kevin, do YOU have the backbone to say so? What's your solution? Simply wait around talking about universal healthcare until they figure out some way to target our criminally unprotected chemical plants?

Um, could we put protection in place for our chemical plants? And screen shipping containers coming off cargo ships? And put more resources on controlling the Mexican border?

Are those ideas too radical, too dangerous to even consider?

Posted by: cowalker on July 19, 2007 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

The Americanist stated that (we) don't do military operations to send a signal. I disagree:

But you can't disagree with the Americanist. Don't you know he's the intel-savviest paragon of military stratemagy who only from a kind heart deigns to illuminate we poor, brutish naifs with his sparkling analysis?

Also, your effrontery might cause him to pitch a nasty, wailing baby-snit all over this thread.

You've been warned.

Posted by: floppin' pauper on July 19, 2007 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

George W Bush said that he would smoke them out wherever they would hide. He said he would treat those who shelter terrorists the same as the terrorists.

If Pakistan will not bring bin Laden to justice; if Pakistan will not allow American forces to bring bin Laden to justice - then we better damn well better get the damn job done ourselves. Enough of this Iraq bullshit. (of course, I've been saying this for 4 years. Glad y'all are coming around to my point of view).

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on July 19, 2007 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

How were we supposed to stop their retreat without any army there? Kevin apparently thinks we could have teleported several divisions into Afghanistan in a matter of minutes. Reality-Based Community... NOT

Um, Al? We had Special Forces and the 10th Mountain in Afghanistan as well as other forces. The 82nd Ariborne is supposed to be able to go anywhere in the world in 24 hours. We couldn't drop a brigade in?

Besides, don't you think it would have been worth the effort to bring in bin Laden? Or had he already dropped of your and Bush's radar screen by then?

All the Bushies who say now that getting bin Laden at Tora Bora wasn't important, I want you to say the same thing after he hits us again.

Posted by: tomeck on July 19, 2007 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK
"Targeted strikes" and "covert actions" are nice buzzwords, but they won't eliminate or even seriously dent al-Qaeda's sanctuaries in Pakistan and the Post knows it. Only continuous, large-scale strikes and troops on the ground have the slightest chance of doing that.

Well, no that's not true, and the Post doesn't know what you claim they know, and neither do you. Any substantial US action in Pakistan stands a good chance of bringing down the regime and leading to untold chaos, the end of which no one, not you, not the Post, and not anyone else knows.

It might be a Taliban-like al-Qaeda friendly regime. It might be an extremist regime that instead suppresses terrorists groups that operate externally for its own reasons. It might be a nuclear war with India that leaves no one, al-Qaeda or otherwise, with any viable safe haven in Pakistan.

Its not really clear that more substantial US involvement in the form of troops on the ground and continuous, large-scale strikes makes the prospects of a eliminating al-Qaeda's presence any greater than either doing nothing or the kind of limited action the Post recommends, though its pretty clear that none of those three options even remotely can be counted on to succeed.

So for you to suggest that

Posted by: cmdicely on July 19, 2007 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Can Wapiti point to anything that indicates that the "signal" we sent to the Japanese did anything to change the course of the war? Of course, not. The Japanese war plan was to fight to the death and the strike on Tokyo didn't change a thing. Even the first nuke didn't apparently make a big enough impression on the Japanese gov. to immediately surrender. A military strike on any part of Pakistan is such a bad "signal" to send on so many levels that it boggles the mind to even have to consider it. Look, if Iraq hasn't convinced certain people that the GSAG is never going to be won militarily then nothing will: No amount of signalling or sending American troops into killing traps or whatever other poses and posturings that the right wing lovers (but never participants) of combat can think of.

Posted by: digitusmedius on July 19, 2007 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

The spectre of nuclear catastrophe posed by a destabilized Pakistan should have been THE driving force in all decisions even remotely related to the attack on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afganistan. That was clear at the time to anyone with reality-based expertise in the area. The Afganistan invasion and eradication of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afganistan needed to be followed up by a PR campaign involving an immense economic building program involving massive amounts of direct US spending on infrastructure and public assistance.

The sad part is that Cheney didn't even finish the first part about eradication of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afganistan.

The Iraq invasion decision and disaster haunts the future in so many more ways than are ever discussed in the Senate.

The potential dangers go way beyond even 9/11. We could really use sane leadership right, but we don't have it.

Posted by: mirror on July 19, 2007 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

If we spent a tenth of the money we spend on these damn wars on a true national security agenda we would be much better off. Absolute security is, of course, impossible but there is not a shred of evidence that reckless military action against assymetric foes is achieving our goals. It's like vacuuming the house with a leaf blower.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on July 19, 2007 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

(Can ANYONE tell me why this will NOT retain my personal info, regardless of what button I push?)

Actually the rule re. Pakistan would be that "we must fight those who have universal health care over there or we will have universal health care over here."

Posted by: JohnN on July 19, 2007 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Such actions run the risk of further destabilizing Pakistan. Yet those risks must be weighed against the consequences of another large-scale attack on U.S. soil.

And yet those risks must further be weighed against the consequence of destabilizing a nuclear-armed nation where large portions of the population are in sympathy with al Qaeda.

Christ, what shallow, two-dimensional idiots. It's like they're playing checkers while everyone around them is playing chess.

Posted by: Stefan on July 19, 2007 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

These Waziristan havens may well have to be dealt with in the near future. I assume Bush will deal with them, using some combination of air strikes and special operations.

Hey, it worked in Afghanistan and Iraq!

Oh, wait, no. No it didn't....

Oh well. Third time lucky!

Posted by: Stefan on July 19, 2007 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

I propose a more elegant solution: redraw the border to make Pakistan's tribal areas part of Afghanistan. . .
Posted by: Grumpy on July 19, 2007 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Great fucking idea!
If only Islamabad would buy into that.

I can see it now, a pissed off Pakistan providing its nuclear technology to its new friends Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the basis of Arab solidarity and stopping the US. ....
Posted by: aline on July 19, 2007 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't Pakistan already doing this, with the fake "arrest" of AQ Khan?

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on July 19, 2007 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

But people are fundamentally superstitious. We don't think in terms of risk, but in terms of motive. Car crashes are harmless, even though people die, because there is no ill motive involved. But terrorism is nothing but ill motive. So, we're afraid of an evil intent (despite the rarity) and not afraid of a commonplace event that holds no intention.

I saw this illustrated quite directly yesterday. My girlfriend works in Midtown east and was evacuated from her building due to the giant steam pipe explosion outside Grand Central. She said that people seemed to visibly relaxed when they realized that it wasn't a terrorist bomb, which, to her, seemed a bit irrational. After all, she said, whether you're burned by superheated steam from a cracked pipe or burned by a bomb, the end result is still the same to you. But what scared people wasn't so much the danger, as you point out, it was danger caused by other's ill motives.

Posted by: Stefan on July 19, 2007 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

"That is irrational. When it comes to al-Qaeda we seem to have a zero tolerance for risk."

True. It's completely irrational. If there's a Muslim guy, any Muslim guy, under a rock with no shoes, having "bad thoughts" against America, that's apparently reason enough to turn the world upside down. Hundreds of thousands of dead as collateral damage = okay. People in the US seem perfectly happy to accept that cost (as long as it's Muslims dying) to get that porposed benefit (to change the risk of dying from terrorism from 1/10,000,000 to 1/9,999,999).

And as far as the Washington Post is concerned - neo-cons are as neo-cons do.

Posted by: luci on July 19, 2007 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

Even the first nuke didn't apparently make a big enough impression on the Japanese gov. to immediately surrender. ...
Posted by: digitusmedius on July 19, 2007 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

No - long before the first nuke, there were several surrender offers. Some of them in secret, some of them were the military going behind the emperor and parliament's back, but they were all missing one crucial element: an agreement to total, unconditional surrender, from the emperor himself.

In the end, it took the second nuke to accomplish that. And we left him in power as a figurehead anyway.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on July 19, 2007 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

This gets Talmudic, parsing a distinction without a difference: the Doolittle Raid obviously had a military objective, namely to demonstrate to the American public that we were fighting back -- they hit us in Hawaii, we hit them for 30 seconds over Tokyo. It was independent of Midway, cuz Midway was an actual battle in which the other side got to change things, and not something we could do on our own.

You could say that was "sending a signal", but the important distinction isn't WHAT the military objective is, only that there IS one. For Doolittle, the objective was mostly to show Americans we could hit Japan so soon after Pearl Habor, since we couldn't count on any other victory so early in the secondary theater.

I've said it before (notably before this Iraq war started), but folks forget way too much history: the paradigmatic military thinking of the Bush administration goes back to 1983, when Rumsfeld was Reagan's special envoy to the Middle East. At the time, we had Marines as buffer forces separating the various factions, including the Israelis. When Rumsfeld was in Lebanon staying at the ambassador's residence, the usual random nightly shelling from the Bekaa started. A number of shells landed near the residence. So they all trooped down to the bomb shelter, where Rumsfeld demanded to know what the ambassador was going to DO about the shelling. (To which he replied: Isn't that why YOU'RE here?)

Rumsfeld asked for a secure line, called Reagan himself, and 20 minutes later the New Jersey opened up -- and the random firing stopped.

A few weeks later, IIRC 228 Marines were killed by a truck bomb: because we had given up our neutrality. When the New Jersey started firing into the Bekaa, we became just one more faction.

That's the point of "the objective": you have to state it, achieve it, AND THEN CHANGE WHAT YOU DO because achieving an objective changes the world, er, objectively, in a way that "sending a signal" does not. (I'm no military expert, folks: but I do pay attention. Don't you?)

Rumsfeld in 1983 in Lebanon demonstrated exactly the failure of his thinking in Iraq 20 years later. He forgot, or maybe he never learned, that it's easier to START a military operation (like a war), than it is to end one. Achieving an objective (like blowing the shit out of the Bekaa) CHANGES things, so it requires changes that, in instance after instance, Bush's guys don't do: we didn't change the Marines rules of engagement after the New Jersey started shelling. During the first Iraq war, we put troops into Saudi Arabia to protect Mecca and Medina, without a theological strategy to fight al Qaeda which suddenly had the best possible reason for jihad: infidels guarding the Ka'aba. Unintended (yet very predictable) consequences.

And isn't THAT the lesson we want to keep in mind, looking at Pakistan?

(NB to the knuckleheads posting ad hominems: if you're gonna play that game, strive to do better, focusing on facts and opinion. I like a challenge, and you ain't it.)

Posted by: theAmericanist on July 19, 2007 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

I could see very narrowly targeted special forces operations (like deploying small numbers of elite troops via helicopters) undertaken with the consent of the Pakistani government. They would need to:
- Actually work. They should capture or kill people that are clearly terrorist leaders. This implies extremely good intelligence work.

If extremely good intelligence work is a prerequisite, then we may as well wait for the next Democratic administration to come into office. Because under the Bush regime, it just ain't gonna happen.

Posted by: Stefan on July 19, 2007 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

The Americanist stated that (we) don't do military operations to send a signal. I disagree: Shows of force and demonstrations are both legitimate military operations. I think that the Doolittle Raid was primarily a show of force; I think the military significance of its targets were minimal. I could be wrong. I do agree (I think this is your point) that a strike on the autonomous regions of Pakistan would not have the same effect. It would be strictly for public consumption - the Pakistanis know by now that we have neither the forces, inclination, nor competence to invade and hold large chunks of Pakistan.

The difference though is that the Doolittle Raid had little to no negative consequences for the US strategically or even tactically (except as noted for the lost planes and men). We were already in the war, after all, and there was little the raid could do to make things worse than they were at the time, even if it failed.

The downside to an attack on Pakistan, on the other hand, is enormous and almost incalculable. In that sense the analogy doesn't work.

Posted by: Stefan on July 19, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist: ...the important distinction isn't WHAT the military objective is, only that there IS one. For Doolittle, the objective was mostly to show Americans we could hit Japan...

I would suggest that constitutee a political, not a military, objective. Midway, as you point out, was an actual battle with actual consequences for the outcome of the war.

But that's all history. For the reasons Stefan enumerates, a raid on Pakistan would have a completely different outcome, and it wouldn't be pleasant.

Posted by: thersites on July 19, 2007 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

The Americanist: without a theological strategy to fight al Qaeda.

Then GwB is your man in the Middle East. We've witnessed, over the last 5 years, a crusader with little besides his theological fundament driving his actions. From his first pronunciamento that the Afghanistan invasion was a crusade (Operation Infinite Justice) to his obdurate refusal to change anything about his (un)strategy in Iraq, GwB has cast this as good vs. evil. (From the David Brook's column by way of ,The Daily Howler''It's more of a theological perspective. I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn't exist.'')
His theological blinders have put us further from the objective of dealing with AQ. Which goal, I believe, is to assist the Muslim world's governments in dealing with Sunni fundamentalist Luddites who first want the countries they used to rule back and then to widen their rule.

Posted by: TJM on July 19, 2007 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

The problem, of course, is because f*cked up Iraq so bad by simply invading, not to mention the actual process of trying to subdue the country, if we leave Iraq to attack in Pakistan, then al Qaeda DOES simply move to Iraq (or deeper into Pakistan where the US simply doesn't have the resources to follow and where Musharraf is losing control and would likely be unable or unwilling to prevent - if he was, then there would be no need for US action in the first place) as his new nesting ground, unless we can get them ALL before they move.

That will require border control in northern Iraq and the continued presence of American troops. The Iraqi Army ain't going to keep anybody out and it is doubtful the Kurds have the military strength to guard against any incursions from the Sunni-Shiite south as well as securing the northern border against al Qaeda.

But one thing is clear, if you believe the war in Iraq was the right thing to do, then you cannot possibly have any doubts about the advisability of fighting in the Afghanistan-Pakistan borderlands. Conservative war lovers have no answer as to why we should not take on al Qaeda in Pakistan.

Posted by: anonymous on July 19, 2007 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

I like a challenge, and you ain't it.

Well, I remember some more recent history and I would say that you don't like a challenge. Your usual shtick is to open with a few sneering putdowns, then you pump up your expertise before proceeding with some long-winded analysis that (to you) is the only possible way of looking at the matter, yet (to the rest of us) is entirely inconclusive.

Then (and this is why I injected the snark) when a rebuttal comes you go apeshit. I've seen it many times so to me you're a marked man. I don't pretend I could go up against you in some hard-headed, world-historical, geopolitical pissing contest but I know rudeness when I see it. Hence, the ad hominems.

Just trying to wring some humility out of you, bud.

Peace

Posted by: floppin' pauper (or Knucklehead, if you like) on July 19, 2007 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

TJM writes: "The Americanist: without a theological strategy to fight al Qaeda.

Then GwB is your man in the Middle East.... "

Um, no.

As Tariq Ramadan and others have pointed out, the basic AQ view of the world is "us vs. them". They define their "us" as Muslims, by which they mean primarily Sunnis who follow a particular view of Islam (by which is meant not a religion in the Reformed sense, but a way of life, like being male or female. In that senes, Islam cannot have a separation of Church and State, cuz Islam is not a church.)

Ramadan notes that this view of the world as divided into the "House of War" (infidels, us) and the House of Submission to the Will of God (Muslims) doesn't actually derive from the Recitation, but from the time of the Crusades. So to that extent, you're right -- excepting that Bush is offering THEIR theology, not a better one. We didn't defeat communism with a weaker version of the Stalinist vision, yanno.

I've said it before: I like Ramadan's notion of the "House of Witness", which IS actually in the Koran, by which all good people seek to demonstrate obedience to God through good works.

Kinda hard to square that with Guantanamo, waterboarding, or Abu Ghraid, much less 9-11, doncha think?

Posted by: theAmericanist on July 19, 2007 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

LOL -- pauper, yer a pretty limp washcloth to wring anything out of anybody, don't ya think?

Which is more discourteous: to have nothing to offer but a couple weak insults to avoid the subj, or to speak to the point, however (to your dripping sensibilities) gasp! rudely?

Posted by: theAmericanist on July 19, 2007 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Ha! You just gotta wind him up and away he goes.

You need to work on your reading comprehension, bud. First, responding to your miserable demeanor doesn't necessarily mean I'm avoiding a subject. Second, I just finished saying that you use a lot of words NOT speaking to any particular point. Third, if you're going to borrow my analogy, wouldn't what I said make YOU the washcloth?

So it just gets silly now. Are you saying rudeness is OK and to address it is somehow pathetic? How progressive of you.

Political Animal is a pretty good forum - lots of bright, experienced people posting here and Kevin does an awesome job with his research and holding it all together so yeah, it gets my hackles up when you show up and start slagging everybody, including our host.

You and the rest of the knobs and trolls are poisoning the air and driving good posters away. Don't believe me? Just look at the numbers.

My final words in this little brouhaha would be something similar to what Dick Cheney told Patrick Leahy.

Later, dude.

Posted by: floppin' pauper on July 19, 2007 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

The Americanist:excepting that Bush is offering THEIR theology, not a better one.
Since it's pretty clear that GwB is theologically aligned with folks like the Family Research Council and that ilk, you seem to miss the point of your own comment. GwB inter alii will argue all day long (go look at, I mean read, this time the quote from the David Brooks article) that by definition he is the "good" and AQ is the "evil". He is offering a better theology; well, he thinks so anyway. In defeating evil, he must use all available means which squares with every single thing he's been "forced" to use.
Walid Phares in Future Jihad and, frankly, any basic text on Islam better explains who is "of the book" etc. The people here, generally, understand the basic tenets of the AQ philosophy so you wasted 2 paragraphs but hey, that's ok, doncha think?

Posted by: TJM on July 19, 2007 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, TJM, 'tis you who've missed the point: and of course pauper ain't worth the time.

What's the alternative to "us vs. them"?

You're basically arguing that, gee, BUSH is an us vs. them guy, so obviously somehow by simply changing who's the us and who's the them, Bush is offering a theological alternative.

Not so. Even attempting to argue something that idiotic proves yet again that progressive folks are often so unbelieveably stupid about their own prejudices that it is almost impossible to talk to us -- we're so afraid of being taken IN, we can't be taken OUT of our own navel-gazing: "Yeah, isn't Bush an asshole?"

This is why I argue so harshly here: folks on the left, no less than on the right, virtually NEVER start with the notion that it might be useful to LEARN something about the subject before they form a complacent, self-congratulatory opinion -- and, oh yeah (just to note pauper), it always helps to find somebody to sneer at for trying to do something more sensible. (Why, he actually called somebody stoooopid because he said something dumb: it gave me the fan-tods!)

Cuz, ya see, there IS an alternative to "us vs. them". A bunch of 'em, in fact.

One is evidently your preference, TJM -- the classic sneering progressive disease (Adlai Stevenson-ism) that WE'RE so much smarter, and nuanced, and clever that we don't actually have to be right: that, seen properly (as you just exemplified yourself), it is ALL "us", since (as you noted) Bush himself is no different from AQ.

Bullshit.

This is the same disease that scoffs at the Pope when, as he just did, he reasserts ancient doctrine that outside of the One, True Faith, there is no salvation. Why, no one believes such a thing in this day and age, do they?

YOU may not BELIEVE that, but it does happen to be Catholic (and in fact, Christian) doctrine -- so dissing it without understanding that it IS the doctrine (Vatican II basically finessed the issue by saying righteous non-Catholics really ARE Catholics, they just don't know it) is the kinda thing that causes a bajillion people of even occasional faith to be alienated from the sneering Stevensonism of the left.

That;s pretty stooopid.

So -- what is the SMART alternative to "us vs. them"?

I cited Ramadan's notion of the House of Witness. You sorta skipped that part -- just like you skipped the story about Rumsfeld in Lebanon in 1983, which IMNSHO is a better insight into how we got into this mess than most.

LOL -- you may claim to know all about AQ (and of course, it's a waste of time to actually know the subject), but like I keep saying: if we're NOT at war with all of Islam, then we need to be able to say, as a matter of theology, what IS the Islam with which we are not at war.

In the case of Roman Catholicism, which had essentially the same theological problems (only in an easier structural way, cuz they have a pope), it was resolved by.... the Americanist heresy.

That's the notion that civics in itself has a moral value. It's not an 'us vs. them' theology, changing only who's the us and who's the them: that's no alternative at all, much less a strategy that can identify the Islam with which we are NOT at war. Nor is the reflexive sneering at the President of the United States who is (according to you) no different from AQ where it counts.

LOL -- I ain't the one with a reading comprehension problem, TJM.

Posted by: theAmericanist on July 19, 2007 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

"Had we finished the job at Tora Bora five years ago, instead of foolishly plunging into Iraq to pursue George W. Bush's petty little act of revenge, we wouldn't have to be discussing this.

Pakistan remains the most dangerous country in the world and the next Democratic president better be thinking damn hard about what to do about that."

Goddamn right.

Posted by: cazart on July 19, 2007 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Amen.

(unlike some folks who post here)

Posted by: theAmericanist on July 19, 2007 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

You're basically arguing that, gee, BUSH is an us vs. them guy, so obviously somehow by simply changing who's the us and who's the them, Bush is offering a theological alternative.
Do you even bother to re-read what you type? That sentence, besides its run-on nature, is an archetypal tautology and not at all what I said. GwB isn't offering a theological alternative, he is acting on behalf of the archangel Gabriel. He doesn't seek conversion, although the US has tried that since 1776 (see Michael Oren's Power, Faith and Fantasy), he seeks to crusade against Islam and he makes no distinction between sects whether Sunni, Shiite, sevener, niner, fiver etc because he doesn't know or care about those distinctions.
Here's you:Cuz, ya see, there IS an alternative to "us vs. them". A bunch of 'em, in fact.
Here's me above:
His theological blinders have put us further from the objective of dealing with AQ. Which goal, I believe, is to assist the Muslim world's governments in dealing with Sunni fundamentalist Luddites who first want the countries they used to rule back and then to widen their rule.
Here's you:It's not an 'us vs. them' theology, changing only who's the us and who's the them: that's no alternative at all, much less a strategy that can identify the Islam with which we are NOT at war.
Here's you:LOL -- I ain't the one with a reading comprehension problem, TJM.
Here's me agreeing with you:That;s pretty stooopid. You certainly are stupid.

Posted by: TJM on July 19, 2007 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

TJM, do you really want to go through remedial reading in public?

You wrote: "The Americanist: without a theological strategy to fight al Qaeda.

Then GwB is your man in the Middle East."

Man, you really are thick. Read your own self replying to me pointing out that W ain't the way: "GwB isn't offering a theological alternative, he is acting on behalf of the archangel Gabriel...."

Um, last I looked, folks who invoke archangels (which W hasn't done, so far as I know) are generally considered to have something that might legitimately be described as a 'theological' agenda. What's this difference you keep explaining as a distinction?

As noted -- thrice! -- you keep conflating AQ and Bush.

But the case that, like lots of folks who post here, TJM, you're simply too blindingly stupid to get out from under your 'gotta bash Bush' take, is too easy.

Try something harder -- your utter ignorance of Islam, which you are (even for a progressive) impressively complacently sure is actual knowledge.

You think that what we ought to do is "to assist the Muslim world's governments in dealing with Sunni fundamentalist Luddites who first want the countries they used to rule back and then to widen their rule...."

Um, and which countries would those be? Saudi Arabia, f'r instance? DO tell us when the Saudis ruled anyplace but Arabia.

Bin Laden himself (no scholar of Islam, mind), mutters about re-establishing the caliphate, but in fact that was NOT about the countries which guys like him used to rule: for the last half-millenium or so until it was abolished by Kemal, the caliphate was an instrument of TURKISH rule over Arabs and Persians, among others.

This is yet another reason Ramadan intrigues me -- his grandfather founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1920 (long before al-Qutb really SHOULD have found some hot young American woman to reach him about life). The Brotherhood was founded precisely as a reaction to the abolition of the Caliphate AND, not incidentally, it the first time since the Turks showed up that Islam was re-united with Arab nationalism.

As noted, it helps to learn a few facts before you form opinions, TJM, much less to post 'em in public. I wonder if you're smart enough to be embarrassed.

Wanna remind us again how much you know about AQ, since (as you said) it was such a waste of time for me to post facts about 'em?

Posted by: theAmericanist on July 19, 2007 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

But in the end, if there isn't a THEOLOGICAl quality to our alternative, we're disarmed no matter how many we kill or how much we destroy.
Posted by: theAmericanist on July 19, 2007 at 7:57 AM

To which I replied, GwB is your man (see David Brooks quoting GwB). Americans have been in the Middle East offering theological alternatives, not to understand but to convert, since 1776. Not very effectively, mind you, but the attempt has been there.
Good works in the religious context is a fundamental part of Catholicism but not any of the Protestant sects. GwB can commit any number of heinous acts (Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo etc.), but Jesus will stand before god to be judged in his stead, so he needn't worry.

Posted by: TJM on July 19, 2007 at 8:32 PM | PERMALINK

If this is really what the Post supports, they should have the backbone to say so.

Kevin, it isn't spine that Hiatt's editorial board lacks. You need to look a little higher. And a little lower.

Posted by: markus on July 19, 2007 at 10:52 PM | PERMALINK

Let's deal with the things you don't understand one at a time, k? So we can leave your ignorance of religions OTHER than Islam outa this for the nonce.

I keep noting that we need a THEOLOGICAL strategy to deal with the GWOT, and you keep saying that Bush doesn't have one, cuz he does. (sic)

It might be more useful for you to read what folks say FOR WHAT THEY MEAN (in my case, explicitly what the words say), rather than constantly returning to smacking Bush around or the last book you read (and didn't understand).

I said it above -- twice, I think: if we're not actually at war with Islam (a central piece of the bad guys' thinking), then we need to be able to say what is the Islam with which we are NOT at war.

THAT's the theological strategy. Honest, I can't make it any simpler than that.

Perhaps you should read it again, and this time, strive NOT to make it about Bush.

Can you tell us what IS the Islam with which we are not at war? Try it by countries: how are we NOT at war with the Islam of Saudi Arabia, the home of the 9-11 hijackers? What exactly is the difference between THEIR faith, and the one taught with Saudi money, all over the world?

Tell us, TJM -- since you are, after all, so familiar with AQ's thinking there is no need to discuss it.

Put it this way: after 9-11 I interviewed a guy, a US citizen imam who shortly thereafter took it on the lam because the FBI wanted to discuss with him the hijackers who had been part of his congregation in Virginia, about the Americanization of Islam.

During the interview itself in the Virginia 'burbs, I thought: he GETS it. He understands that Islam in America is as the late Jamil Diab taught it -- THIS is the best society for Muslims that there has ever been, including the caliphates. In the proper sense, the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution are profoundly Muslim documents: the Declaration in particular is abundantly clear about aligning human events with the will of God.

That is only possible if (as it is possible within Islam to do) you believe that civics in itself has a moral value.

But after he fled, I found out some more things about this guy, including that he was lying to me -- because THAT is a morally sanctioned practice within Islam, cuz of the whole us vs. them concept I described above.

That's troubling -- THEOLOGICALLY troubling, if you like, and certainly as a civic matter.

IF we are NOT at war with Islam itself, kindly cite some (ahem) theological examples of Muslim thinking that unequivocally condemn what he did with me. (Feel free to cite the distinctions between Shi'a and Sunni on the point, cuz they're significant.)

When the faith of a billion people draws a circle around them to exclude folks to whom lies can be told with moral authority, the ONLY way to respond, IMNSHO, is to draw a bigger circle with the same center, that includes them. Once you've done it with countries (like Saudi Arabia) and schools of Muslim thought (ARE the doors of itjihad closed, or not?), kindly explain it as a matter of culture: just how can it be possible to be an American Muslim? Or a European one?

LOL -- your ignorant reflex, TJM, to misunderstand Catholicism and dis Protestants in order to make this about Bush and his faith, rather than the bastards who killed several thousand of us and what the hell we do about that, flat out misses the point... but it does prove mine: you're pretty typical, actually.

Posted by: theAmericanist on July 19, 2007 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

to misunderstand Catholicism and dis Protestants in order to make this about Bush and his faith
Uh,no, one of the major theological differences between Catholics and protestants, especially evangelicals, is the concept of salvation and good works. Catholics need to have both faith and works. Protestants need faith alone. Having Jesus as your personal savior means just that. The judgment will be of Jesus, not GwB, and so Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, torture et al won't affect GwB's salvation. That's not "dissing" protestants, that's just the way it is. Your ignorance on such a fundamental point is indicative of the rest of your tripe.

Posted by: TJM on July 20, 2007 at 7:45 AM | PERMALINK

One of my favorite things to see in folks who "argue" here, is how easily they drop the points on which they have demonstrated their ignorance once it's exposed, in order to raise NEW ways to be shown up.

Take just a couple f'r instances from TJM: His first sublimely ignorant reply to me talked about Al Qaeda, referring to "Sunni fundamentalist Luddites who first want the countries they used to rule back and then to widen their rule..."

When I pointed out that, in fact, AQ is primarily Saudis who never ruled anything but Arabia (and little enough of that for a very long time), he let it alone -- neither acknowledging that he was wrong, nor showing any sign that he'd learned a thing.

When I noted that in talking about the caliphate, "the countries 'they' used to rule" refers to TURKS ruling Arabs, he had nothing to say.

When I pointed out that the Muslim Brotherhood was founded BECAUSE the Caliphate was abolished, providing the first link in half a millenium between Islam and Arab nationalism -- well, a classier guy would have been grateful to have learned something, but he's evidently capable of neither class nor learning a thing.

'Course, that IS the place to start figuring out where a theological strategy regarding Muslim terrorism would fit into how Muslims think and what they believe. A smarter guy than TJM would have, yanno, STARTED there?

Alas! that (typical of progressives), TJM would rather dis Americans cuz he doesn't understand religion, much less logic.

So much for his ignorance of Islam.

But it is typical, cuz rather than learn something about a subj on which he is free with his invaluable opinions, he'd rather dis the President of the United States and evangelicals generally from an ignorance so bone deep that it's a wonder he can type.

Hell, just look at two sentences TJM posted: "[Bush] is offering a better theology..." followed a little later by "GwB isn't offering a theological alternative, he is acting on behalf of the archangel Gabriel...."

Then again, perhaps typing coherently IS beyond this guy.

It's a MUCH larger discussion than can be had here, and pointless to boot, but it is simply not the case that Protestants are divinely sanctioned to sin as much as they like, "so Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, torture et al won't affect GwB's salvation..." because Christ's sacrifice somehow assures otherwise.

Psst, TJM: there's a bit more to it than that. That whole right and wrong thing ever cross your mind? Surely you've heard of it -- many people of faith actually put great store by it. (It's sorta like the late Pat Moynihan once said to Patrick Buchanan: "Now that Novak has become a Catholic, what are the odds we can make him a Christian?")

Your impressively ignorant bigotry about faith posing as a sure intellectual grasp is precisely what I meant by Stevensonism, the disease that plagues progressives.

Heal, already.

Posted by: theAmericanist on July 20, 2007 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Instead of declaring war on a pseduo ally, invade the offending region (Waziristan, mostly) if we must and say we are helping Mushie suppress a dangerous insurgency.

Posted by: Neil B. on July 20, 2007 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

More errors from the Amerroricanist:but it is simply not the case that Protestants are divinely sanctioned to sin as much as they like, "so Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, torture et al won't affect GwB's salvation..."

So what do you interpret "accepting Christ as a personal savior" (justification by faith) means? Here's what justification by faith means: Luther explains that after the great liberation about faith — that we are saved by faith in Christ’s work, not by our works — comes a great liberation about works. That liberation was in Romans where Paul said the just shall live. So you're free to do good works because it is the right thing to do, but those works won't lead to salvation. And if you do no good works, but accept Christ as your savior, that can still lead to heaven.
The Muslim rule in Spain, for example, was well before the Turks so you're a bit off there.

I could go on about the other points but I learned rather quickly that your habit of hurling insults doesn't prove any of your points, it makes you look arrogant. Piss off.

Posted by: TJM on July 20, 2007 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

(sigh)

1) TJM asks: "what do you interpret "accepting Christ as a personal savior" (justification by faith) means?"

For most denominations, it means accepting that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and that none are saved except through JC.

2) TJM goes on: "So you're free to do good works because it is the right thing to do, but those works won't lead to salvation."

Not exactly. Your lame approach to this point is sorta like describing baseball as a game played on a field with a ball. It's accurate, so far as it goes -- but that ain't far. Shortstops don't kick a soccer ball to first.

ALL Christian denominations of which I am aware teach that works ALONE won't lead to salvation, because without faith in JC, you can't meet criterion #1. (For Catholics, this is the Notion that outside of the Church, there is no salvation.) You keep mistating this, TJM: is it cuz you're ignorant, illiterate, or stoopid?

There ain't a a third option, viz.,

3) TJM completes his blundering, yet again: "And if you do no good works, but accept Christ as your savior, that can still lead to heaven..."

"Can" doesn't mean "will".

All Christian denominations of which I am aware, including the loose glop called "evangelicals", argue that Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven. That does NOT mean that a Christian merely has to "believe" to be saved regardless of sins.

Think about it for a second, and you'll see why: someone who GENUINELY believes will try not to sin. There's a zillion things Christ said explicitly about right and wrong, not to mention the 613 commandments, so it's not like there's
any lack of direction about what trying not to sin would mean.

You want to blame Bush's waterboarding on his evangelical Christianity: fine, but that's got meiyoshemma to do with Pakistan. You obviously don't understand Christianity -- but it's a bit more significant for the thread that you don't know jack about Islam, either.

ALL Christian denominations of which I am aware (names done that don't), teach that failing to try -- sinning on purpose -- indicates a lack of faith. (Tariq Ramadan writes about something similar -- with a matrix, of all things -- in How to Be a European Muslim, the axes
as "to be" a Muslim and "to act" as a Muslim.)

So if you bothered to understand this stuff better, we coulda got someplace beyond your weak insults.

Posted by: theAmericanist on July 20, 2007 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

On the 'saved by faith' discussion. Luther's point during the Reformation was that a Christian doing "good works" came after they accepted salvation - they were a consequence of joy at knowing you were saved, not a requirement to be saved. Thus, it is true that a 'real' Christian will do good things, but they are done because that's what you want to do in response to God's gift, not because you are trying to earn God's reward.

It sounds like hair-splitting, but it is a key distinction. Do you do good work at your job because you have to or get fired - or because you're finally working for a good boss? We've all been on both sides of that issue.

Posted by: JohnN on July 20, 2007 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

The Amerroricanist says:beyond your weak insults. You have a lot of nerve. But it's clear that all you have in your arsenal is one book and a passel of insults. You sure spend an inordinate amount of time, though, on another tautology.
It is both necessary and sufficient to accept Christ as your savior to achieve salvation according to the Lutheran writings. That's what he found in Romans. It is neither necessary nor sufficient to do good works as JohnN points out. To Catholics,however, (you know, the sect Luther was protesting) it is necessary to both do good works and to have faith and you cannot achieve salvation without both.
You seem unable to grasp even this most simplistic explanation of the differences between two Christian sects. I was hoping that reducing it to a simple distinction would help but it's clear this is beyond your ken.
When you say the religions argue that Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven you elide when that forgiveness occurs. It's not here on earth, it's on Judgement Day when, for evangelicals e.g., Christ is judged in your stead( see that means you the sinner are not judged but Christ is) and so it is irrelevant what works you have or haven't done. That is not true for Catholics because a Catholic (per the theory anyway) is judged on faith and works.
is it cuz you're ignorant, illiterate, or stoopid? It appears that weak insults being your speciality, I'll be magnanimous and let you pick the appellation that fits you best.
Sheesh, you're a thick one.

Posted by: TJM on July 21, 2007 at 7:19 AM | PERMALINK

Man, TJM, you really don't have to try SO hard to prove you're dumb: it's not like yo're hiding it, or anything.

John N points out that I'm correct: "it is true that a 'real' Christian will do good things..."

It is also true that a fake Christian will do bad things, precisely BECAUSE their claim of faith is false.

I said that, what, six times?

How unbelieveably stupid can you BE, TJM? (Obviously, the nuance between doing good things in hope of reward and doing good things because you ARE good, is beyond you, so I've never gone there, out of charity for your lack of depth.)

But, golly, look at how you keep moving to avoid what is obvious to everybody.

As noted above, this is pretty typical -- somebody posts something complacently wrong, like TJM's notion that 'everybody knows all about AQ' here. Somebody else (me, in this instance) corrects him, e.g., over the Saudis only ever ruling Arabia, and the 500 year dominance of the caliphate by the Turks, not to mention the origins of the Muslim Brotherhood in linking Islam to Arab nationalism and, thus, the potentially vital strategic THEOLOGICAL asset of the "House of Witness".

But, hey, TJM is too smart to admit error or learn a thing, much less to give up bashing Bush as if he and AQ are the same. (TJM remains utterly astonished that Christians from America tried to convert Muslims, and somewhat less impressed that we and the Brits largely forced 'em to abandon that slave trade.) He keeps shifting ground to a more narrow and less relevant examples of his ignorance, as if what he doesn't know about Islam isn't enough, so he has to argue from ignorance about Christianity, too.

On which JohnN nicely illustrated that I'm right and TJM is wrong.

Which, impressively enough as a coda, TJM managed to MISS -- rather like Bush, ironically.

Posted by: theAmericanist on July 21, 2007 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

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