A Smart Post – And Two That Aren’t

Three articles caught my attention today, and I thought I’d pass them along with some quick comments before I have to go outside and grill dinner.

First, Gary Hart – who I like and generally have wished would be one of the most-heard voices in the Democratic party on issues of national security has a – delusional? – post up at Huffpo. His point, simply, is that we ought to expect a US airstrike on Iran before the 06 elections. An ‘October surprise’, as he calls it.

It should come as no surprise if the Bush Administration undertakes a preemptive war against Iran sometime before the November election.

Were these more normal times, this would be a stunning possibility, quickly dismissed by thoughtful people as dangerous, unprovoked, and out of keeping with our national character. But we do not live in normal times.

Look, there are a lot of things to talk about in regards to the appropriate things to do in dealing with that dapper hipster running Iran. Some people – including some of my co-bloggers – think that a bombing campaign as outlined by Hart for the fall sweeps

Therefore, he will announce, our own national security and the security of the region requires us to act. “Tonight, I have ordered the elimination of all facilities in Iran that are dedicated to the production of weapons of mass destruction…..” In the narrowest terms this includes perhaps two dozen targets.

But the authors of the war on Iraq have “regime change” in mind in Iran. According to Colonel Sam Gardiner (author of “The End of the ‘Summer of Diplomacy': Assessing U.S. Military Options in Iran,” The Century Foundation, 2006) to have any hope of success, such a policy would require attacking at least 400 targets, including the Revolutionary Guard. But even this presumes the Iranian people will respond to a massive U.S. attack on their country by overthrowing their government. Only an Administration inspired by pre-Enlightenment fantasy could believe a notion such as this.

is the best idea since Marshmallow Fluff. I’m on record as thinking it’s a bad idea.

But politically, in the current environment – absent a YouTube video of Ahmadinejad personally machining plutonium hemispheres while pointing to a map of Washington DC – I can’t imagine that the US political reaction would be survivable for the GOP. And that once the Democrats were sworn in in January, that Bush would then be looking at some serious face time with the Judiciary Committee.

So, Gary – what the hell? Do you think Karl Rove is that stupid?

Next, over at American Footprints, another thoughtless post by Eric Martin, who points out that – in the middle of the conflict with the movements behind terrorism, there is more terrorism. This is kind of like saying that GI’s didn’t start to take casualties in Europe until after D-Day. Hint: there is an enemy, and they will fight back. While we’re engaged with them, they’ll fight back harder.

This seems so obvious that I’m puzzled that people keep bringing this point up. It’s part of the fantasy 110-minute war that people envision, I think, when they watch too much television.

In contrast, praktike has a thoughtful and smart post on the interaction between how Islam and the West talk about each other and how they act – including an interesting and first-hand account of the Muslim Brotherhood wrapup to a day of worship.

Go read it, and while you ought to know where prak and I may disagree with his conclusion:

Where I would have written: “If we don’t find a solution to the Palestinian question that Arabs and Muslims view as legitimate, and if we keep backing disasters like Iraq and the recent Israeli war in Lebanon, the decent men and women of the Middle East, most of whom are faithful Muslims, will have a very hard time defeating those who have brutalized and coarsened their culture and religion.”

The problem of course is that there may be no solution to Israel-Palestine that the Arab and Muslim view as legitimate short of the destruction (or such severe strategic disenfranchisement that it is effectively destruction) of Israel? And while we can absorb a lot of terrorism while the decent men and women of the Middle East work to defeat the bad folks – there is a limit, and I think we’ve already absorbed a lot of it.

Having said that, I’ll suggest that I line up closely to prak when it comes to defining the optimal solution – helping those decent people take control of their nations and region.

Now – the question is how?

31 thoughts on “A Smart Post – And Two That Aren’t”

  1. First things first: accurate quotes are good. praktike used the same quote most people read. That is fine and no fault in him, but it’s been corrected – and I don’t mean fudged after the fact. The original translation was incomplete and wrong, and more provocative than what Benedict XVI said, as shown by the German-language video/audio file. The updates are important. (link)

    A third difference involves the emperor’s quote employed by the Pope: “…things only evil and inhuman…”. What the Pope said, and which is found in the German text and verifiable with the audio from the lecture, was “… things only bad and inhumane … “. The word used was “Schlechtes” (bad/wicked), whereas the English word “evil” would have corresponded to “Böses”, a word the Pope did not use. Similarly, the German word “inhuman” (inhumane) was used, and not “unmenschlich” (inhuman).

    Also, I think Benedict XVI’s lecture should be considered as being in a sense incomplete till we see his footnotes.

  2. Ah, A.L.

    Back to your favorite pastime. Criticizing DEMOCRATIC thinkers. That’s the best use of your energy and intelligence.

    Hey, since you are referencing good national security posts, “how about this one?”:http://www.intel-dump.com/archives/archive_2006_09_17-2006_09_23.shtml#1158687984

    _Nearly 40 percent of recruits now score in the bottom half of the Army’s ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery), according to David Chu, undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness. More high school dropouts are now recruited than five years ago. There are fewer “washouts,” meaning the Army is holding on to more borderline soldiers, critics say._

    _Thousands of key Army weapons platforms – such as tanks, Humvees, and Bradley Fighting Vehicles – are sitting in disuse at Army maintenance depots for lack of funding._

    _The Army reports the vast majority of non-deployed active-duty combat units have the absolute lowest readiness levels. The situation for the Army Guard and Reserves is worse._

    _There are indications of growing drug and discipline problems among the newest Army recruits, more of whom have criminal records than at any time since the 1970s._

    _The Army reports that many combat and combat support units scheduled to deploy to Iraq in 2007 will have less than the required one year period for rest and re-training. This is one of the key indicators that lead many Army officials to conclude that current deployment rates cannot be sustained without breaking the force._

    _Despite calls for over four years to increase the permanent end-strength of the Army by at least 30,000, the latest Quadrennial Defense Review calls for cuts to the Army’s end-strength (number of soldiers permanently authorized)._

    Oh, and more choice quotes:

    _The commander of Fort Eustis recently admitted that the Army was ordered not to plan for the post-war occupation of Iraq, and that when Army leaders continued to argue with Secretary Rumsfeld over the critical need for a post-war plan, he threatened to fire the next person that mentioned the subject._

    _The previous Chief of Staff of the Army was publicly chastised by the administration for his “wildly off the mark” prediction that success in Iraq would take years, hundreds of thousands of troops, and billions and billions of dollars. Gen. Shinseki’s replacement was announced a full year before he retired – in violation of tradition – in order to make him a “lame duck.” However, his appointed successor REFUSED To accept the Army’s highest position, preferring to retire rather than work with Rumsfeld and the Bush administration. Many other generals also refused the Army’s highest position, and for the first time in US history an already-retired general had to be recalled to active duty to become chief of staff, an unprecedented show of no confidence in Rumsfeld and the administration by the officer corps of the US Army_

    The best use of your time, is to loudly and consistently make the final point of the essay I link to:

    _Can someone please explain why this administration is considered by ANYBODY to be stronger on national security than – not just the democratic opposition, not just the republican dissenters such as Sen. McCain, but better than anybody reading this right now? Better than anybody… period? Is all of this what a successful national security program is supposed to be like?_

  3. Thought I would get some of the particulars of the referenced post in there – make it how obviously you are CHANGING THE SUBJECT.

  4. I found the post weak and thoughtless. It engages in several intellectual dishonest techniques to reach its “conclusion” which is just a variant of “leaders should do good things and then peace will reign”. Among these techniques are

    1) Selective history. JP II spent many years reaching out the way pratike says B16 should, yet no mention of this is made. It’s not exactly irrelevant, given the closeness of B16 to JP II before the former became Pope. And, as noted in the comments, the recent history in Gaza.

    2) Presuming lack of agency among the ummah, particularly in seeming to reason that the moderate middle will get tired of American “brutality” but never the brutality of the Caliphascists. On the other hand, if that’s actually true, I don’t see any resoution except a global religious war.

    Moreover, if such a war occurred, it would be the Muslims who would be wiped out, so shouldn’t they have at least a little interest in not letting things get that far? pratike seems to be skirting very close the “White Man’s Burden” via of the needing to be tamed savages. Or is his view that a peaceful, prosperous, liberal democratic ummah is only of benefit to Israel and the West, not the ummah?

    3) Blame the USA. Case in point, Iraq. It’s a mess, but who is causing the mess? The Coalition, or the Caliphascists blowing things up? pratike’s view seems to be clearly the former. Is he advocating a return to the “he’s our bastard” style of relationship with the Middle East?

  5. On the Israeli-Palestinian dispute (which is basically that the Palestinians wish to wipe out the Jewish state and the Jews don’t wish to be wiped out), I think Islam stands both before and behind it.

    It works like this:
    ISLAM – generates violently aggressive culture.
    GRIEVANCES – “humiliations” sought and sustained (like the refugee status of the Palestinians), in ways that suit cultures that religiously define jihad as the pinnacle of legitimacy – so the preferred solution is always going to be some variety of conquest, domination and Arabic supremacism.
    GRAND SOLUTIONS – for example, Arab Nazism, Socialism, pan-Arabism, political Islam. Grand solutions can be evaluated and replaced according to their success in advancing the Ummah, winning allies (like the Third Reich or the Soviet Union), mobilizing combatants of various sorts and laying hurt on whoever is the target of the modishly decorated jihad this time.
    GRAND STRATEGY – for individual states and non-state actors, and so on down as in the West. But in this picture, grand strategy is not at the top as in the West, rather the particular state or non-state actor like Hezbollah is a component of the Muslim nation.

    Grand solutions can be replaced, and have been. If political Islam does the job where previous grand solutions failed (that is, if it leads to the destruction of Israel), it will be historically legitimated to an extraordinary level, something like how the Great Patriotic War legitimate Socialism in the Soviet Union for a long time. But if it fails it can be replaced by something that seems to give more promise of wiping out the problem and the grievance.

  6. In that sense, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute really is fundamental, and political Islam in the exact forms we see now, another grand solution being attempted, is relatively superficial. It can pass.

    And in any case, the white-hot forms of political Islam we have now are not going to keep going as the same intensity and in the same way forever. Arab history doesn’t work like that. Nobody’s history does. There have been other grand solutions before, like the Turkish solution, a very successful and long-lived one, and there’ll be others after. (Or old ones recycled, as the Salafists are recycling the old old flavor or Muslim terror practiced by Muhammed (pbuh) as well as they can in a modern age.)

    If a superficial color of Communism would win Chinese backing for continued jihad, I’m sure some of the turbaned gentleman we see now would quickly remember that they or their fathers were “socialists” before. As long as the game remains unchanged in essence, the clothes and slogans can alter, within limits.

  7. But can Islam (top level) really cease to be at war, viscerally and viciously, with everything that is not itself? Can grand solutions cease to be selected other than by old and grim criteria? I doubt it. You will get the Christians to boot Jesus out of their religion before Islam abandons jihad.

    Fire will not cease to burn, nor will Islam stop producing jihad and supporting Muslim domination in one form or another.

  8. In that sense, which I think is the important one, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is a trivial thing, artificially sustained as a spur for the war of Islam on the rest of mankind, and readily replaced if the Jews are crushed by any other target/grievance.

    We don’t even have to guess at that, because we have Qutbism and the war on the “Great Satan” now.

    So we don’t even have the excuse of saying “first they came for the Jews…” With us, it’s “at the same time they went after the Jews.”

    I don’t think tossing the Muslim world a big chunk of bloody Jewish meat will make this school of sharks quiet down.

  9. hr – 3 things: a) I did see the Intel Dump post, and thought it was a good one except for the editorializing (about which more later); b) I criticize the Democrats, as I always have (and have said I have) because they are playing a losing game, and – oddly enough – I’d like them to be able to win, and having won, to be worth having supported. Funny concept, I know…; c) the force readiness issues raised by Intel Dump are ones I’ve raised (without the new facts, which weren’t then in evidence). I’ll be talking about this some more (possibly by Monday morning), so just come on back, you hear?


  10. Do people seriously think that an attack on Iran (saber rattling to that effect), properly timed, won’t produce a “rally ’round the flag and the Commander in Chief” effect in public opinion?

    I believe that’s one of the immutable laws of physics.

  11. By the way, and just for the record, again.

    Armed Liberal: “Having said that, I’ll suggest that I line up closely to prak when it comes to defining the optimal solution – helping those decent people take control of their nations and region.”

    “Moderate Islam” is Islam, just editing out the bits of the beast you don’t want to look at.

    I disagree that “more power of Islam” is a wise agenda.


    Is the best solution for Nigeria to pick out Muslims who look relatively “moderate” to us and to help those decent people take control of their nations and region? No, that is a terrible idea. Failure is when Islam wins. Success is when Christians, Animists and the rest of the “anything but Islam” coalition wins.

    I would prefer a Christian-dominated Lebanon too, though we have left it way too late to do anything about that.

    I wouldn’t dream of helping moderate Muslims take control of their nation of India and its region. Not even to the extent of favoring Muslim claims in Kashmir.

    I don’t think it would be good to have more moderate Muslims in power in Sudan, and to help those decent people take control of their nation and region.

    (Though again, it is too late to save the Christians and Animists from the horror of jihad – which is the great weakness of my position. Global jihad is advancing so swiftly that in many cases its already too late for people I would have preferred to help and make allies of. But you could have raised a logical objection to an anti-National Socialist line on the same ground: look, most of the Jews are already smoke, so what’s the point?)

    Your formula of helping moderate Muslims seize control works better in some states where the only surviving alternative is less-moderate Islam – because of harsh Muslim domination and ethnic cleansing, which is going on as we discuss this.

    Oh, and back to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea: I would not help more moderate Muslims (say, compared to Hamas) take control of their nation and region, rather I would prop up the local chapter of “Anybody But Islam” and support the Jews, with no pretence of being a referee. Just make sure an ally wins and enemies lose, with no more fairness than is inherent to war.

    Armed Liberal: “Now – the question is how?”


    But of course, we will sometimes want different people to be victorious.

    This has substantial policy implications. For example, I would sometimes and fund arm different people than you would.

  12. bq. ” And that once the Democrats were sworn in in January, that Bush would then be looking at some serious face time with the Judiciary Committee.”

    Given the modern American tendency to criminalize opposition (somewhat reminiscent of ancient Athens, though not yet on that scale), this would be true no matter what under a Democratic adminstration, or even a majority in the House or Senate. Anyone who thinks the partisanship can’t sink farther hasn’t read their history – and that’s the logical next place for it to go unless trends reverse.

    But there’s no real legal issue here, since ordering action by American forces is well within the perogative of the Commander-In-Chief at any time during his lawful tenure.

    As for political survivability, your call re: American political reaction may be on the money and then again, it may not. I tend to think “not,” but the key question in this discussion (as in all such discussions, including and especially discussions re: foreign affairs where the other side is from a different culture et. al.) isn’t what YOU believe, it’s what the people you’re talking about believe.

    When dealing with homo sapiens, the correct response to “they couldn’t be that stupid” is often “uh, yes, they can.” And sometimes, they turn out not to be so stupid after all.

  13. “If we don’t find a solution to the Jewish question that Germans view as legitimate……”

    As many have pointed out – sometimes there are irreconsilable differences.

  14. #12:

    The Ukrainians rallied around the Nazis as a relief from Stalin until they found out he was worse. Your law doesn’t pass muster.

    Karl Rove only needs them to rally on one Tuesday in November. If they wake up pissed on Wednesday, what does he care? It’s two years until the next election.

  15. For those who haven’t followed the link to Intel Dump, not that the cited post is not from Phil Carter, who usually seems well grounded and credible, but JD Henderson. A lengthy discussion ensues, in which Henderson, among other comments, posts the following:

    The reason I want the democrats to pick up the House is because without a check on this president we may not have another election. Picking up the Senate as well would do more than merely check and balance presidential power, it would force a change to failed policies that are clearly NOT WORKING.

    So I can, strangely enough, say that every voter should vote for the Democrats in November and yet NOT be partisan. This is not about R v D or red v blue or right v left. It is about the rule of law and the need to check an out-of-control and dangerous executive. The Republicans have had six years to gain control of this out-of-control president and have not even attempted to do so. Thus we must have a change in Congress or we may never have another opportunity.

    and continues in the same vein. Nonpartisan? A full blown case of BDS more like. My moonbat detector just went off.

  16. I believe that’s one of the immutable laws of physics.

    Except, apparently, American physics, to judge by the partisan tantrums Dean, Murtha, Kucinich, Pelosi, Kerry, Kennedy, etc., etc., began throwing almost immediately after 9/11.

  17. Tim –

    Yes, Henderson has a full-blown case of BDS to be sure.

    But that doesn’t obviate the force-quality issues he raises, which are real and serious…as I noted, the editorializing is foolish at best.

    Blind squirrels, etc.


  18. Armed Liberal: “Now – the question is how?”

    Seems to me that if we armed the people who are getting killed by terrorists, it would change the equation. In other words, give guns to women who are being raped, give guns to the people in Sudan who are being genocided, give guns to people in Saudi Arabia who are being enslaved, give guns to people in Africa who are being starved.

    Although since Iraq has a heavily armed populace and THEY don’t seem to be able to defend themselves very well against Bad Guys, there may be something wrong with my posit.

  19. 1. Hypocrisy — Dems are found factually to be weaker on Defense because they are totally unwilling to use force at any time and any place except extremely limited bombing campaigns. At a time when Muslims tell us “Convert or Die” and use terror to try and make one or the other happen, this is a non-starter.

    2. Praktike is plain wrong. Muslims will only stop trying to use terror to convert or kill non-Muslims when enough of them are killed (mostly the men) so that the rest of them are profoundly feminized. Iran has more public space for women than other Muslim nations because it lost something like a million plus men in the Iran-Iraq War. Germany and Japan are far more feminized than they were because they lost so many men in WWII and the demographic echoes to this day are profound.

    But looking for a “moderate muslim” is like chasing after unicorns. Such creatures do not exist. Islam simply cannot exist with the modern world and must destroy it or be destroyed.

    3. Hart is a fool. If ANYTHING Dems could clean up if they got Cowboy. Promise voters they’d attack Iran with everything to remove the regime, they’d break it, Iranians would own it, and they would not tolerate a nuclear Iran. Up to and including use of nukes if required to take out Iran’s missile and nuke facilities. Americans loathe and despise Iran and it’s leaders and see them as a threat.

    Bush if anything has been too timid, too PC, too namby-pamby. Dems could move to his right and promise to take out Iran’s nukes. Acknowledge reality, and compete with Bush to offer better and more comprehensive solutions to Muslim jihad. Muslims have made it utterly clear world-wide: Convert or Die.

    I’m put in mind of that line in Silverado, where Linda Hunt tells Kevin Kline that Brian Dennehy’s character cannot threaten her if Dennehy’s character is dead. Dems to be competitive need to get to that moment, and they will only get there if they Cowboy up and get rid of the PC multiculti peaceniks.

  20. I have seen Hart’s comments on Iran repeated, or restated, by so many Democratic figures and operatives in the past 24 hours that it is clearly a Democratic Party position.

    I predict the Democrats will oppose an attack on Iran unless Iran first publically announces a nuclear weapons test.

  21. Which thread within the original post are we on here?

    Gary Hart? (link) This is just BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome).

    Eric Martin? (link) This is so silly that as Armed Liberal said the only potential interest in it would be in wondering why people say this.

    praktike? (link) Reporting from the Al-Azhar mosque = very good! Bravo praktike! This is the only one with worthy content, so I’ll continue from here.

    But there’s interpretation that goes with that worthy reportage, and I think the interpretation is not so good.

    Reuel Marc Gerecht’s call for civilization debate is seen by praktike as likely unproductive “lecturing”, which should be replaced by the bit:

    Where I would have written: “If we don’t find a solution to the Palestinian question that Arabs and Muslims view as legitimate, and if we keep backing disasters like Iraq and the recent Israeli war in Lebanon, the decent men and women of the Middle East, most of whom are faithful Muslims, will have a very hard time defeating those who have brutalized and coarsened their culture and religion.”

    I’m all for dialogue, if not the sort of lecturing that Gerecht seems to want. But dialogue will get lost in the din unless we take the Israeli-Palestinian conflict off the table for good, and have a long period of stability and political and economic reforms that will build a Muslim middle class with a stake in moderation.

    I think there’s a lot wrong with that. I’ve given the model I use, to show why. (And I think you need some such model at least in your own mind if you want to talk about Islam as a lasting force, otherwise it’s embarrassing to go back just a few decades and discuss why the bearers of this lasting force were into Socialism or Pan-Arabism or whatever, though still somehow playing the same old jihad games.)

    Given the way that Islam and its front ends works, it’s not our free choice to have the Muslim world “have a long period of stability and political and economic reforms”. (The enemy gets a say.)

    And providing a solution to the Jewish state that Muslims regard as just (which means breaking the back of the Jewish state) will just legitimate the jihadis who made us do that.

    And moderate Muslims personally opposed to jihad are not going to become and remain the dominant force in Islam anyway.

    This last bit is like betting your national defence strategy on helping John Shelby Spong to replace the Pope (and others who believe in Christian dogmas that Spong has abandoned) as the dominant preacher in Christendom. It’s never going to happen. Yes, moderates do exist, even Muslims who will say that by definition any religious text that seems to suggest violence must be a misinterpretation, and for exactly that reason, because they abandon key articles of faith that the jihadis uphold, the moderates are never going to win in Islam any more than Spong-ism is going to dominate Christianity.

    (If anything, Spong is a better bet: it’s easier for him because he doesn’t have to worry about Christian jihadis deciding that since he’s an apostate he should be killed.)

    If you do things that may strengthen Islam in general and cut against enemies of Islam (which you have to to make any pretence at all of legitimating moderates) and what you get in return is the hope that when the meek inherit Islam they’ll stay meek and remember you with gratitude – I think that’s silly.

    “I want to see the meek inherit the Earth. I want to see how long they can hold onto it.” (Old joke) That does double for Islam.

  22. #22 from NahnCee: “Armed Liberal: “Now – the question is how?”

    Seems to me that if we armed the people who are getting killed by terrorists, it would change the equation.”

    I believe you are thinking about the “how” to the right “what”.

    There are / we have problems.

    As you say, guns alone don’t work; people need to organize.

    A lot of the people one would like to organize for self defence are already dead or soon to die.

    Locally, people need an organizing principle that is not wholly novel and alien to them. The problem is that going with what the locals know and like that Islam is crushing may often take us back to the Cold War game of “they’re bastards, but they’re our bastards”. Example: I don’t want the Traditional African Religions crushed by Islam, but they’re a mess, and they’re about as much into female genital mutilation as the Muslims are. Allies like this stink. (Though in my opinion not as badly as the Muslim “allies” our present strategy gives us.)

    Globally, that emphasis on helping people to rally around local banners adds up to at least a tacit “anybody but Islam” coalition – Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Animists, all welcome. That is really unfriendly, from a Muslim point of view. And it would be hard to maintain. And it would look to many like a policy of divide and rule, and in some ways that is what it would be.

    I’m prepared to accept those difficulties, and I think the practice of the British Empire gives a lot of clues on how something like this might be made to work. (And I’d suggest we’re being forced willy nilly to go a long way toward this model anyway, so in for a penny, in for a pound.)

    But other people will reasonably decide that the difficulties are too great. And, Americans just don’t dream happily of becoming redcoats.

    A crunch point that Queen Victoria faced is when you wake up one day and realize “the meaning of Empire” is just that you are likely to be at war in any part of the world at any time without any warning.

    This is bloody and dispiriting, and even the British could not carry that burden forever.

  23. #27 from Nortius Maximus: “I believe he’s referring to the old aphorism “Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while.”

    The version I heard first substitutes “pig” for “squirrel”.


  24. #30 from Tom Holsinger: “David Blue,

    A quibble. The British problem with that burden was called Germany.”

    A sensible remark.

    The problem with us stitching up an adequate global response to jihad based on pseudo-imperial coalition-building (my idea) and the kind of divide and conquer tactics Robert Spencer recommends in taking the war to Islam may yet be called China.

    Even so, I think we can’t do better than try it.

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