D’Souza

You know I haven’t talked about Dinesh D’Souza’s idiotic book ‘The Enemy At Home’ because I assumed it was so transparently stupid that it would collapse of its own vacuity. His thesis (from the reviews – I don’t have enough time to read all the good books out there, and I’m not burning an afternoon reading this one) is that the conflict between the nutball Islamists and the West is caused by Madonna. No, I’m serious – it’s the claim he makes. From the introduction to his book, as posted on his website:

The left is responsible for 9/11 in the following ways. First, the cultural left has fostered a decadent American culture that angers and repulses traditional societies, especially those in the Islamic world, that are being overwhelmed with this culture. In addition, the left is waging an aggressive global campaign to undermine the traditional patriarchal family and to promote secular values in non-Western cultures. This campaign has provoked a violent reaction from Muslims who believe that their most cherished beliefs and institutions are under assault. Further, the cultural left has routinely affirmed the most vicious prejudices about American foreign policy held by radical factions in the Muslim world, and then it has emboldened those factions to attack the United States with the firm conviction that “America deserves it” and that they can do so with relative impunity. Absent these conditions, Osama Bin Laden would never have contemplated the 9/11 attacks, nor would the United States today be the target of Islamic radicals throughout the world. Thus when leading figures on the left say, “We made them do this to us,” in a sense they are correct. They are not correct that “America” is to blame. But their statement is true in that their actions and their America are responsible for fostering Islamic anti-Americanism in general and 9/11 in particular.

OK, that’s just historically ignorant, insulting, and stupid. But it’s now being picked up. Some guy named Glenn Beck who is a talking head on CNN (haven’t seen him, still have no TV thankfully) echoed his claims this week, and has been getting picked up in the blogs.

BECK: You know, there’s a new poll out that Muslims, the higher educated Muslims in the Middle East are more likely to be extremists? More and more Muslims now hate us all across the world, and it really has not a lot to do with anything other than our morals.

The things that they were saying about us were true. Our morals are just out the window. We’re a society on the verge of moral collapse. And our promiscuity is of the charts.

Now I don’t think that we should fly airplanes into buildings or behead people because of it, but that’s the prevailing feeling of Muslims in the Middle East. And you know what? They’re right.

Let me a take a moment and explain why this is beyond lame.

“The American girl is well acquainted with her body’s seductive capacity. She knows it lies in the face, and in expressive eyes, and thirsty lips. She knows seductiveness lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs — and she shows all this and does not hide it.”

D’Souza would have to agree, right? He’d see that argument and believe that we needed to push back to an earlier, more virtuous America.

But that quote is about an earlier, more virtuous America. It’s about 1949 Colorado, and it’s from Salman Qutb’s book ‘The America I Have Seen’.

Ironically, Greeley in the middle of the 20th century was a very conservative town, where alcohol was illegal. It was a planned community, founded by Utopian idealists looking to make a garden out of the dry plains north of Denver using irrigation. The founding fathers of Greeley were by all reports temperate, religious and peaceful people.

But Qutb wasn’t convinced. “America in 1949 was not a natural fit for Qutb,” Siegel says. “He was a man of color, and the United States was still largely segregated. He was an Arab — American public opinion favored Israel, which had come into existence just a year before.”

In the college literary magazine, Qutb wrote of his disappointment:

“When we came here to appeal to England for our rights, the world helped England against the justice (sic). When we came here to appeal against Jews, the world helped the Jews against the justice. During the war between Arab and Jews, the world helped the Jews, too.”

Qutb wrote about Greeley in his book, The America I Have Seen. He offered a distorted chronology of American history: “He informed his Arab readers that it began with bloody wars against the Indians, which he claimed were still underway in 1949,” Siegel says. “He wrote that before independence, American colonists pushed Latinos south toward Central America — even though the American colonists themselves had not yet pushed west of the Mississippi… Then came the Revolution, which he called ‘a destructive war led by George Washington.'”

Look, I’m a real believer that we need to rediscover the good in American and Western values, and that a certain philosophical decadence leaves the doors open to bad outcomes. I’m not happy with many things I see in our culture, not so much because they are about promiscuous sex or Bloomsbury languor, but because they divert us from the very real daily work of building and making futures in favor of consuming the present.

But to suggest that the decline in morals in Hollywood in 2001 is why we were attacked is both deeply insulting and immoral because it claims the horrors of 9/11 and what has preceded and followed it as an argument for a callow Puritanism, and ridculous because it is not grounded in anything remotely like historical fact.

I’m not a believer in shutting people up, and good for D’Souza for grabbing his advance and running to the bank, I guess. But this debasement of political argument needs to be backhanded out of the public arena as quickly as possible, and someone needs to bring some disinfectant wipes in to clean up after it.

134 thoughts on “D’Souza”

  1. AL-

    You are spot on once again. The problem with D’Souza is that his premise and arguments are so shallow. It seems to me that there is a general lack of reason in most of the discourse that goes on today. I blame, in part, TV. The 30 second sound bite is what passes for inciteful analysis these days. The left has bought into that and uses it to advantage. I am a former lefty (email me and I will give you the details) and it took a couple of years of study before I made the transition to the Conservative side of the street. Maybe advancing age had something to do with it.

    Anyway, it appears to me that the Muslim world enjoys it’s indignation and seething anger over minor slights, implied or otherwise. I believe it comes from the type of system that drives their belief system. It is basically flawed.

    America has failed in that has not told it’s own story correctly in the world. We failed when we abandoned Vietnam. We failed when we did not finish the job in North Korea. We failed in Somalia. We are in danger of failing to finish the job in Iraq. We did not rescue our friends in Iran in 1979. That was a failure. I believe another issue is that no one likes the biggest, baddest dude on the block, we tend to demonize the powerful in this world. I think that jealousy and envy drive the inner political life of the US and the external political pressures from without.

    Any way, D’Souza is a fringe thinker. The danger is that people cannot and will not recognize the speciousness of his argument. Argument in the singular, as it is one dimensional.

    We do need a rebirth in the US of the values that make us successful. I believe we have lost our way, but it is not that difficult to find it again. It just takes some effort. The issue is that most may not be willing to do the hard work it will take.

    The Hobo

  2. American public diplomacy has never received adequate funding to do the job expected of it, with perhaps the exception of a few years during the Reagan Administration, when Charles Z. Wick was the Director of the US Information Agency.

    As a USIA officer, I was always bemused (and saddened) by the fact that the budget for the Comedie Francaise exceeded that of USIA. And that was only part of the French PD program.

    American Congressmen don’t see the point in spending much money on people who don’t vote for them, particularly when they _can_ spend money on those who do. American taxpayers don’t like to see foreigners getting ‘free scholarships’ when their kid’s paying full freight.

    We get what we’re willing to pay and militate for.

  3. Sorry, the “decadent” Western values D’Souza talks about are not the only reason Islamists attack US interests, but neither is our support of Israel.

    Radicals use every and any excuse. Listen to many Muslim clerics who rail agaisnt “the West” (as if we were one coherent block of thoughts and opinions) and you will hear references to Western culture’s decadence with its threat to “pure” or traditional Islamic beliefs and culture. The idea of a decadent west poisoning Islamic societies is an oft repeated theme in these speeches to raly suicide bombers and other hate-mongers.

    Have not read D’Souza’s book, so cannot refute whether he fails to make substantive points to support his thesis, as outlined by AL. However, AL refutes decadence in the West, relative to traditional or conservative Muslim societies, has contributed to their hatred for the West. I disagree. I think it has contributed to the hatred and (at least) has been used by those who hate us to foster more hate amongst average, less radical Muslims.

    I do think the quote cited by AL, “the cultural left has routinely affirmed the most vicious prejudices about American foreign policy” would need to be explained and supported, as I think overall American foreign policy rarely changes that much, adminstration to administration, Democrat or Republican.

  4. The usual game seems to be to imagine, against the plain declarations of the jihadis themselves, that the global Muslim army wants only what the anti-American or in this case the anti-leftist-American critic wants.

    Scott W. Johnson quotes Dinesh D’Souza thus (link): “When bin Laden calls America a Crusader state, he means that America is on a vicious international campaign to impose its atheist system of government and its pagan values on Muslims.”

    This is quite a lot like saying: to get peace from those guys, you must humble or break everyone I object to.

    It is a lot like this (link): JERRY FALWELL: And, I know that I’ll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen’.

    This is a malicious, dishonest and despicable game.

    I don’t like abortion, to put it mildly, or abortionists, but that has nothing to do with 11 September, 2001. Nor do America’s pagan values – which do not exist, as America is and always has been a Christian nation. And even if such values or an “atheist” system suddenly came into existence, it would make no difference.

    “Our struggle is not about land or water,” the late Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini said in 1980. “It is about bringing, by force if necessary, the whole of mankind onto the right path.”

    The right path, according to our pitiless and unappeasable enemies, is the one they follow: Islam.

    It’s just that simple.

  5. First, I’d point out that the answer on whether the Left is responsible for 3/11 is pretty much clear.

    Secondly, I think D’Souza may be right. Would 9/11 have happened in the 19th century? No. Why? Forgetting the obvious answer that in the 19th century there were no planes and a few skycrappers: because the answer would have been terrible for those that supported such attacks.

    Therefore, our weakness is what made those attacks possible. Mr. D’Souza puts the blame on the Left, but some right wingers are also responsible.

  6. Of course, the same “social decadence” and “Jewish influence on our foreign policy” was what got us into World War II, so I guess D’Souza has some historical context here. ;)

  7. When we’re sexualizing 5 year old girls, with the predictable results (depression, anorexia, self-destruction of all kinds) then our society is indeed decadent — and that’s a central cause of our weakness.

    Which is NOT the same issue as how we as a society should respond to that decadence and weakness.

    There’s a huge difference between legal freedom for adults to choose their actions (which I strongly support) and wise use of that freedom. It is not our decadence that makes us strong, M. Simon — it is our freeedom. Poor use of that freedom will indeed bring us down.

  8. J Aguilar,

    I’m not sure I understand. Since 9/11 was a suicide attack, how did the attackers’ belief that our response would be negligible motivate them. Surely, the 9/11 attacks were meant to provoke a response, to start some sort of war. AQ had been trying for ten years to bring us into the fray they need and want.

    What other purpose could they have reasonably–not that these are reasonable people–hoped to achieve. The Cole attack was an attempt to provoke, not sink the US Navy.

    If AQ could get the US to start firing on muslims (&, according to their twisted logic, show our true colors), then AQ would move from the fringes of the Islamist movement to the forefront of it.

    These are people who want a fight–more even than a victory. They don’t want to win and go home to their loving families. These are people who are willing, not reluctant, warriors. It’s how they define themselves in their lunatic heads. They need an enemy badly.

    I think D’Souza is partly right. I think the value system of the west and its encroachment into the traditionally non-western world are perceived by these people as an evil to be fought against. I strongly disagree with D’Souza that a) the value system AQ opposes is constructed by the Left or that b) the Left’s value system needs opposing by anyone.

  9. I think D’Souza has a point, except that when I drive by our local Adult Books emporium I see as many Bush-Cheney bumperstickers as Kerry-Edwards.

    The point D’Souza does have is that globalization is changing all cultures and homogenizing them. And nobody wants the Arab culture homogenized with theirs any more than the Arabs want to be homogenized with us. (That’s why there’s no Arabs in Star Trek.)

  10. And nobody wants the Arab culture homogenized with theirs any more than the Arabs want to be homogenized with us. (That’s why there’s no Arabs in Star Trek.)< .blockquote>

    Dr. Bashir might beg to differ.

  11. I think it’s awfully convienent to blame a traumatic terrorist event on a particular party, especially when the party is contrary to your own views. I took a class in cultural sociolgy in college (sounded intereasting, took a care of a core class). In the first chapter it claims that when 2 cultures meet for the first time, they are several generic pathways these cultures can take next: (my memory is a little shake, but it was something like…)

    1)open trading
    2)assimilation
    3)migration (away from other culture)
    4)indifference (ignore eachother)
    5)war for territory
    6)forced slavery
    7)genocide

    The first two are the most rare, but are also natural functions of globalization. Western infleunce is slowly encroaching over the entire world, and it is disrupting centries old power structures in the ME. Those at the top of those structures have a lot to lose from westernization.

    Wether they recognize this, or wether they simply see it as ‘paganization’, I don’t know. Either way, they see they survival of their culture at stake, and that the only way to protect themselves is to destroy the imposter.

    I expect this would also have occurred if globalization spread with christian ‘symbolism’. BTW: I feel most of this encroachment is not directly liberal, but also through corporations and consumerism, which we see as right-leaning. Of course, consumerism is very left-leaning to radical islam.

  12. Some of D’Souza’s earlier books – particularly Illiberal Education and The End of Racism were worth reading, whether you find them persuasive or not. I hope that people won’t consider the earlier books “discredited,” or cease to read them, because of this.

  13. 9/11 was a suicide attack, how did the attackers’ belief that our response would be negligible motivate them.

    It probably didn’t. But it probably did motivate the state-level sponsors/tolerators of terror to ignore or even encourage/fund them.

    This is a really common fallacy: that we can’t deter terrorists. Technically, it’s true. But what we can do is deter the more rational people who do want to go home to their families at night to do something about the terrorists on pain of getting thumped.

    What other purpose could they have reasonably–not that these are reasonable people–hoped to achieve.

    Well, they killed a bunch of infidels, which they wanted to achieve. They demonstrated their strength to recruits and possible state sponsors as well as possible state opponents. And given that violence in Beruit and Somalia had led to American withdrawal (and the embassy bombings and the Cole had drawn essentially no response), it was not unreasonable for them to image that we might withdraw from the ME entirely. 230-odd dead Marines = US out of Lebannon. A few dead Rangers = US out of Somalia. 3,000 dead civilians = US out of ME entirely. Not an insane calculation, I don’t think, and an excellent explanation of how weakness leads to victimization.

    Just because it’s obvious to us that 9/11 would lead to military action, doesn’t mean it was obvious to them, given our past actions.

  14. quick correction: in the end of my last post, change “consumerism” to “free-market capitalism”. That better expresses what i mean.

  15. Even Victorian England would be rather too liberal for hardcore Islamists. Their perfect society was Taliban’s Afghanistan, go figure.

    I think that there are too few voices asserting forcefully what’s good and positive and worth preserving of our society. And asserting that liberty is our most important value, to the point we will tolerate a fair amount of abuse of this freedom.

    Instead, I see a lot of self-flagellation and navel-gazing from all sides.

  16. Rob,

    “This is a really common fallacy: that we can’t deter terrorists. Technically, it’s true. But what we can do is deter the more rational people who do want to go home to their families at night to do something about the terrorists on pain of getting thumped.”

    Okay Rob, but this raises the question: Has our response detered the more rational people? Or has it spurred a greater number of people to take up arms against us than otherwise would have (& spurred support for those by others).

    We seem to agree on the goal here: fewer terrorists & less support for them. We seem to disagree on the effectivness of our response in achieving that goal.

  17. Good post. Right on. Trying to turn the West into something culturally palatable for Islamists is utter capitulation. D’Souza’s thesis concedes much to our enemies; in some essence he agrees with them about our decadence, while deploring what they do. It’s ridiculous.

  18. Mark,

    At first, our responses did have the desired effect; Pakistan, Libya, etc were cooperating. Heck, even Iran “condemned” the attacks, and when military action abainst Afghanistan loomed, the Taliban made a show of offering to hand Osama off to a “third party,” which offer we (understandably) refused. That cooperation has been damaged by the problems in Iraq. I would argue (and here you would probably disagree) that the problem internationally is less that there are bombings in Baghdad than that the world, no less than the bombers themselves, fully expects us to surrender, a belief supported by history and the current political climate. For that reason, I believe withdrawal from Iraq would merely confirm Osama’s belief that we are a paper tiger, and put the seal on our post-Vietnam/Beruit/Somalia reputation: No better enemy, no worse friend. Why would any government side with us against a radical movement in their own country, knowing we won’t do much for them at crunch time?

    (Of course, our sick relationship with the terror-and-radicalism exporting Saudis doesn’t help our credibility on this score much.)

    I was once more of an idealist about Iraq and the ME generally, and now I favor a realist approach. Not the boneheaded ISG realism that apparently thinks it’s “in Iran’s interest” to support a stable Iraq, but a more Mafia style of realism. We can’t be loved, so we had better be feared. If not by the suicidal nutcases, who are after all suicidal, then by the governments that harbor them.

  19. _I think it’s awfully convienent to blame a traumatic terrorist event on a particular party . . ._

    I would say its awfully difficult, perhaps even disingenuous, to attribute something as unwieldy as culture on a particular party. American culture today is not solely a product of the cultural left and in particular some of the things D’Souza might be complaining about are equally products of the more libertarian elements of the right. See M. Simon.

  20. On topic: I’m amazed that an argument this dumb gets published. I frankly favor a return to a much more uptight sexual morality (most especially as it relates to a man’s honorable obligations, which we ought to rigidly enforce) for the simple reason that it’s better for society, and women and children especially. Widespread debauchery benefits mostly adolescent males (of any age).

    But what the (*^% this has to do with lunatics who think that widows should let their children starve because it’s wrong for a woman to work, I have no idea.

  21. Rob,

    “…that the world, no less than the bombers themselves, fully expects us to surrender.”

    Surrender what? Surrender how? Assuming that what we are talking about extends well beyond Iraq (or, chronologically, before), what is that you imagine AQ wants us to surrender?

    I mean if AQ wants us to leave Iraq, what was it they were after before we went into Iraq? I do not think it is a wise policy to NOT do something simply because we think our enemy wants us to do it and will have some sort of propogand triumph if we do it.

    My main argument against yours is that our staying in Iraq is not having the desired effect. We are doing as you recommend: Showing our strength, our might, our will, our determination–for 4 years now in Iraq–and it doesn’t seem to have the effect of reducing the number of people willing to fight against us. It seems to have the opposite effect. Therefore, I am not too worried about the perceptions that AQ will have of us, if we were to leave, leading to further attacks. Because they already are.

    It reminds me of the guy in Life of Brian who is about to get stoned to death and one of the leaders cautions him against blasephemy because “you’ll just make it worse for yourself.” I don’t see that admitting Iraq was a mistake can be a greater mistake than the initial mistake itself.

    As far as Afghanistan went/goes, that, to me, is a case where because of their concentration, we killed a lot more terrorists than we created. It was about effectiveness of mission, not perception of strength.

  22. A.L., well chosen words. You’re quite right. They “may have.” Then again, they may have been looking to start a fight. I’m going with the latter. They are evil people, no doubt. But they’re not that dumb.

  23. Therefore, I am not too worried about the perceptions that AQ will have of us, if we were to leave, leading to further attacks.

    I’m not worried about their perceptions either. They hate us and will continue to fight until the last one is dead. Nothing we can do to change their minds. I would not necessarily expect military action to reduce the number of terrorists (except by killing them) and I accept that it might increase the number of recruits.

    But terrorist need a place to train, a banking system to move money, and sources of weapons. My focus in reducing terrorism is on states that provide these things. I’m worried about what Pakistan does if we leave Iraq, what Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the rest of the states in the Muslim world do. If we show that a militarily tiny number of casualties (significaltly fewer than those required to take Iwo Jima, an tiny rock with two airstrips) will cause us to abandon a project, then our friends will have no reason to back us and our enemies will be confident we can always be induced to flee. Such a posture invites attack by enemies using terrorists as proxies and gives potentially friendly powers no reason to put their necks out for us.

    There are no more Afghanistans handy, and we won’t be shutting down our borders or invading Saudi Arabia soon. We have to depend on the cooperation of semi-hostile governments ruling semi-hostile populations to control terrorists. And to get that cooperation, they need to to fear us, not think we are trecherous as friends and weak as enemies.

  24. Mark, out of curiosity, do AQ’s actual words mean anything to you? Osama said repeatedly he wanted the infidels to leave the holy land, and AQ in Iraq claims to want us to leave rather than stay.

    Maybe they’re lying, but I don’t have any reason to think so.

  25. Yay, another western intellectual casts non-westerners as merely reactive puppets of western actions, with no independent motivations, values, or ambitions and solely as mirrors, reacting against our actions. He then decries western arrogance and self-obsession.

    Irony anyone?

  26. Rob, hmmmmm, do AQ’s actual words mean anything to me? One word: propoganda.

    Well, OK, fine. So your position is that AQ actually wants the US to invade countries in the ME, but goes around for years and years before any such invasion takes place saying what they really want is the US off of holy soil. Meanwhile, most of their followers, who are watching these videos and reading these statements, secretly understand that the true meaning is exactly the opposite of what is being said, and that when they shoot at US soldiers, it’s NOT to drive them out of Iraq or Afghanistan, it’s to keep them in.

    That’s possible. But a little weird and seems rather unlikely.

  27. Rob,

    “Maybe they’re lying, but I don’t have any reason to think so.”

    Al Qaeda spokesperson: we may butcher your baby or burn your mother alive, but we promise that we will never ever lie to you. We give you our word. Trust us.

    Fade out

    Voice over: Al Qaeda, a name you can trust.

  28. Mark, this isn’t a little lie like “We’ve captured one of your soldiers” or even a propaganda broadcast like “your girlfried is doing a Muslim guy while you’re overseas.” It’s the constantly repeated refrain, for years before 9/11, that the US should butt out and get off of Saudi soil. All that, while they were secretly hoping we’d outright invade somewhere?

    Maybe.

  29. Rob,

    For goodness sakes, it’s not propoganda directed at you. It’s directed at potential recruits around the world.

    I think it’s a little like Bush’s WMD. a pretext to offer potential followers in order to get them to go along with the program.

    Jihad is its own reward, it’s something that gets you on God’s good side, it isn’t that goal-oriented. It’s a movement, a holy lifestyle, something to die for.

    And to that extent, yes, I do believe that AQ leadership’s needs are served by gettig the US to invade ME countries. It reaffirms their world-view, it makes them heroes, it broadens their support, it gives them someone to fight.

    I don’t think Osama could have wished for a better US president than Bush. He’s a terrorists wetdream.

  30. So mark, if Bush is the best thing to happen to terrorism, whose your model for beating them? Carter? He certainly didn’t overreact to having American soil attacked by a raving mob.

    I say we kill leaders who allow AQ to function on their turf, less to scare AQ than to scare others governments into cracking down (which they can do better than we can). You oppose that because military action recruits terrorists. Fine. WTF do we do?

  31. Instead of the Leftist values, if the Rightist values were dominant in the World/ US, a war was inevitable anyway. Here, the Leftists prompted the AQ to attack. But the Rightists would have gone ahead and attacked the AQ types/others themselves, if they were dominant. The Centre is only achieved for a short period of time when the pendulum is swinging to the other direction.

    In my view, its a fight of ethnic dominance between dominant ethnic groups, rather than just religion or even value culture, so was the Cold War. If it was not so, the other state victims of terrorism would have been in Iraq, not just the US. ex. Russia, Israel, India. Or, US would’ve been in other places who sponsor terrorism, not just the Mid East + Afghanistan. eg Sudan, Pakistan, some Cen Asian states.

    To give another example, not too many in the Mid East are supporting Iran even when they love to hate the US.

    My 2 c for their worth

  32. Mark —

    AQ’s plan as spelled out in various documents that they themselves publicized or have been seized and published by the US and other governments is simple:

    Conquer the world through terror.

    They did indeed wish to provoke a war, but felt and still do that America and the West lacks the ability to fight prolonged wars and after conquering the Soviet Union the stronger superpower that America could be easily defeated.

    D’Souza is wrong about the nature of the conflict though which goes back to the birth of Islam, and is seen against other cultures: India, China, Russia, Thailand, Africa, etc. What can possibly be said about the “permissive West” when Muslims blow themselves and ordinary Chinese up to establish a Caliphate in Uighur territorries.

    D’Souza’s thesis doesn’t hold up against non-permissive non-Western cultures that suffer Jihad against them.

    Since the beginning of Islam, Islam has conquered (like a shark that must move to stay alive) weaker cultures by using terror to destroy neighboring societies. When faced with a united and ruthless opponent such as the Reconquista, or Czarist Russia, or the US Navy in the early 1800’s they have not fared well.

    This is really a war of the peoples; Muslims vs. everyone else. When it comes down to it, Western peoples determined to remain themselves and not conquered (America at least, Europe will surrender easily and already has) can provide the usual Western response: mass killing on a widely efficient scale, and apologies later.

    Terrorism will end when Muslims are reduced to half their number or less. That “Silverado” moment (where Kevin Kline’s character realizes Dennehy’s character will no longer be a threat to those he loves when he’s dead) will indeed come. It will not be a politically correct like Clinton-Bush; but more akin to Curtis LeMay in WWII.

  33. Rob, fair questions.

    But keep in mind, that I don’t think ALL military actions recruit terrorists. I think that indiscriminate ones do. I think that military actions that kill more innocent people than kill terrorists create active support, as well as sympathy, for terrorists causes. I think that targeted military action is necessary and helpful. I have no problems urging the US to kill actual terrorists–the more the better, in fact. But not unwisely.

    According your last post, you would have us kill Musharef, which I don’t think is a good idea. It would backfire. It would drive even more people to become our enemies. It could even get a nuke in the hands of AQ or Taliban types, since there remain many sympathizers of both within the military and intellegence services of Pakistan which could take over if Musharef were asassinated.

    Not to be glib or cute or anything, but I do honestly beleive that Bush has been such a disaster for the cause agaisnt terrorism that any randomly chosen name out of the phone book would be an improvement.

    I think that Bush doctrine of “for us or against us” is really really really stupid and I think the adventure in Iraq has been without question the single worst foriegn or domestic policy blunder by any president…ever.

    While I do not advocate doing nothing, doing nothing does have an advantage over making the situation worse. I don’t expect there is a single-word or single-doctrine solution to a complex problem such as the one we face against AQ and its ilk. But I do think invading an Arab country that has zero connection to AQ was not helpful. I think that measured, effective responses that are adapted to individual circumstances are the best course of action. AQ needs to be reduced piece by piece over a long period of time with as little damage to innocent or neutral parties as possible. Patience, not beligerence is key.

  34. mark – what you’re saying is logical … but … the implementation is problematic. One reason I decided to support the war was that I believed that Clinton had actually done a passably good job at law enforcement and that AQ had grown dramatically in strength and support regardless.

    The model that’s suggested – a ‘covert’ war is one that I’m less comfortable with than an overt war; it involves commiting acts of war in multiple nations, will be very difficult to do effectively, and risks creating a military centered around secrecy and assasination.

    A.L.

  35. According your last post, you would have us kill Musharef,

    Well, not exactly. I think he’s probably doing about as much as he can be expected to do, and his replacement is likely to be worse, at least short-term. Ahmanutjob, or whatever his name is, on the other hand…

    As for AQ/Iraq, I emphasize again that I don’t think militarily beating AQ is as important* as scaring state sponsors of terror. Whacking Saddam and his sons (which I have favored since 1998), followed by prompt withdrawal, would seem to me to have a salutary effect on Syria, Iran, the PA, and nutjobs in places like Somalia even if there were zero terrorists in Iraq. The message need not be “You have AQ in your land, so we invade,” it need only be “You piss us off, so we invade.” Then, we define failing to combat AQ to the best of your ability as “pissing us off,” and leave it at that.

    I didn’t like the prompt withdrawal idea in 2003 because it seemed immoral to decapitate Iraq and then abandon it to civil war. Now? Well, if they want a civil war, it seems we can’t stop it (although in fairness, something like 70% of the population lives in relative peace, so a part of me hasn’t given up hope of a decently liberal state, and I certainly don’t think it’s a worse policy disaster than Vietnam, which cost us 60,000 men and is the source of our well-deserved reputation as a paper tiger).

    Now, long-term, I think decently liberal states will be much better for us than authoritarian states; when people are free have influence over the government, they will use it to avoid pissing us off. But short term, the best thing we can do is threaten leaders who tolerate terror and assist those who try to stamp it out.

    * Or even possible, frankly.

  36. D’Souza’s statements were about as idiotic as anything that Noam Chomsky, Jerry Falwell or Oliver Stone said. 9/11 was an act of war. As the most powerful nation in the world, and as the defacto ‘world’s policeman’, this act of war was carried out in order to weaken, not just our defenses, but the world’s defenses. Many nations don’t have the ability to militarily defend themselves, and most hope that when they need us, we’ll be there. That’s why the world cared so much about the attack.

    The decadence of the left, Britney Spears, right-wing warmongering and the fact that we didn’t sign the Kyoto treaty had nothing to do with any of it.

    The model that’s suggested – a ‘covert’ war is one that I’m less comfortable with than an overt war; it involves commiting acts of war in multiple nations, will be very difficult to do effectively, and risks creating a military centered around secrecy and assasination.

    Secrecy and assassination allowed us (and other democracies) to win wars in the past. I doubt that we can win a war against any terrorist organization without using those tactics.

  37. _Al Qaeda spokesperson: we may butcher your baby or burn your mother alive, but we promise that we will never ever lie to you. We give you our word. Trust us.

    Fade out

    Voice over: Al Qaeda, a name you can trust._

    so mark, if AQ told you the sky was blue, you’d assume it green because they’re an untrustworthy source? That’s as good of a way as any to become a raving idiot, I suppose. Not that you are one, but with comments like that you’re dangerously close to sounding like one.

  38. A.L., granted: implementation is problematic. but then I think the one thing nearly all of us agree on is that there is no one single easy fix-all quick solution to the problems we face vis-a-vis the hydra that is AQ.

    As I have said too often on these boards, Jihadism, which is our enemy, is a movement, a kind of global insurgency against what is perceieved as a hegemonic west. It’s a very very tough problem with very very serious consequences. It requires a great deal of thought and effort–not neccessarily the kind of heroic, cinematic feel-good, emotionally-satisfying effort you get with a battle won. It’s not going to be won with Churchillian speeches or grand strategies and doctrines. It’s like fighting cancer–or aids–not the Nazis.

    I would like to comment here on one form of argument that has become all-too prevelant, to my mind at least, inside both the Iraq and the AQ debates.

    When it is pointed out that a particular strategy is not working, the response as often as not is: “well, what’s your idea then?” The implication of this seems to be that if a fully-formed response is not immediately offered then the only other possible course of action is to continue on with the activity that is not working.

    I hate to resort to the old gasoline-on-a-fire analogy but it seems particularly apt in addressing this type of argument. If the goal is to put out the fire and I keep dumping gasoline on it and you suggest that’s not working very well but all I do is shout, “Well what’s your bright idea.” I think a proper response is: first, stop throwing gas on the fire and then lets discuss how we might prevent it from spreading. Then lets see if we can figure out how it got started and maybe we can think of way of putting it out. Or maybe not. But for Christ’s sake stop thowing gasoline on it.

  39. No, Jack. But if you give it a little bit of thought, I’m confident it won’t take you very long to understand the difference between someone who is untrustworthy telling you a independently verifiable fact such as the color of the sky and someone who is your sworn enemy telling you something a little more difficult to discern–even for him–like his motives, intentions, strategic plans. If we were to use your model, we should believe that Iran is not trying to produce nuclear weapons because they have told us they aren’t—because we certainly don’t want to find ourselves in a position of being skeptical about the public pronouncements of our enemies. If we were to do that, we might be accused of thinking the sky was the wrong color simply because our enemies told us it was. And that is the very worst thing in the whole wide world that could happen to us, isn’t it Jack? Next, of course, to being thought of as being close to a raving idiot by a sharp mind like yours.

  40. Mark,

    Agreed that throwing gas on fires is a bad idea, but of course I don’t agree with you that that’s a good analogy here, because it’s not obvious to me that the war in Iraq is making us worse off. I don’t care if we piss off or please AQ, or if they recruit tons of new members, I only care that they be unable to attack us because they are denied access to weapons and money (and are occasionally killed by US or foreign soldiers). As I’ve suggested, the key to that is more in securing (perhaps reluctant) cooperation from foreign powers, not in directly killing AQ members.

    You’re right that it’s in some sense unfair to ask someone for a comprehensive anti-terror strategy, but on the other hand, surely it isn’t too much to ask that critics of the current strategy be able to identify its flaws and suggest how to correct them. Just saying “that’s bad” without saying how it’s bad isn’t enough. Even if X isn’t working, it may be that X + Y will work; it certainly doesn’t mean that not-X is the right answer.

    Police chases are dangerous. The solution is not to replace cruisers with Segways.

    In a sense, though, we’re talking past each other here. You’re focused on what AQ thinks and does, while I’m assuming we can’t influence their actions, but should focus on influencing the actions of the host organism, so to speak.

  41. Rob, I agree that we cannot influence the thoughts of AQ. But I think you are dead wrong on two points here. What we do can and often does influence others who might or might not join or support AQ. And it is deeply against our interests if they “recruit tons of new members.” Stoping the spread of AQ is as important–maybe more important than killing existing members.

    So I am not focused on what AQ thinks. I am focused on what the 1-billion-large pool of potential recruits thinks.

    I don’t want Jihadism to spread. That is my fear. I want it contained & then reduced. Ideally, I’d like it eliminated, but I don’t think that’s realistic.

    I think invading Iraq has the very direct consequence of spreading Jihadism both within Iraq and around the Arab and/or muslim world.

    Remember that jihadist are, by definition, people prepared to die for their cause. Threatening them with violence or death will not stop them. I realize you are emphasizing that we should threaten those who would harbor them. But I think that’s bound to back fire. You kill someone’s leader, no matter how disliked, some of those people are bound to turn against you. It’s a risky proposition.

  42. mark, descerning truth from fiction is something that needs to be done on a case by case basis. I’m not the one saying we should unilaterally believe or disbelieve statements based on the moral credentials of the speaker… that’s your argument, and it’s a silly one. I disagree with it, but that doesn’t mean my position defaults to one where we should believe everything we hear. That’s actually the same argument in equal but opposite terms and is just as invalid. The point, which you missed, is this: whether or not AQ is “a name you can trust” is irrelevant to the discussion.

    AQ says and has said for DECADES that they want us out of the ME. You don’t believe them. Fine. Without using their willingness to murder babies as a means to question their obviously questionable character flaws, tell me from a strategical standpoint why their actual goal was always to get us to have a LARGER presence in the ME.

    I think a proper response is: first, stop throwing gas on the fire and then lets discuss how we might prevent it from spreading. Then lets see if we can figure out how it got started and maybe we can think of way of putting it out.

    Whoops, there’s a classic blunder. You want to figure out how it got started BEFORE you get around to putting it out. That’s backwards thinking, to say the least. Common sense tells us we need to use water and not gasoline, but we need to get a source of water close enough to the inferno before we can make any difference whatsoever, meanwhile every lost second means the blaze gets stronger and more difficult to put out. We’re busy attaching hoses and throwing everything we’ve got into fighting it from side A and you want everyone to drop their equipment and turn the other way while you draw up a plan to fight it from side B. And if everyone actually agrees to do something that foolish, your position is you shouldn’t be expected to have actually drawn up the plan, or for that matter, even THOUGHT IT UP YET. Are you f-ing kidding me?

  43. What we do can and often does influence others who might or might not join or support AQ.

    Agreed. I just don’t think we can simultaneously 1) avoid creating recruits and 2) defend ourselves against the existing ones. Invasions will create terrorists; lack of invasions will merely let the existing ones do their dirty work.

    Stoping the spread of AQ is as important–maybe more important than killing existing members.

    Here’s the thing. They had enough members on 9/11 to do some serious damage. Even if they have 5 times that number now, they don’t seem to be as capable of attacking us, do they? In any case, there is no evidence that their spread was being slowed by indictments in the pre-9/11 era. What to do, then?

    think invading Iraq has the very direct consequence of spreading Jihadism both within Iraq and around the Arab and/or muslim world.

    Certainly that is true in Iraq itself; as for the rest of the world the results are less clear. As you yourself have argued, jihadism is a lifestyle choice in search of an excuse; it’s not at all obvious that otherwise-sensible people in Malaysia will become terrorists because of Iraq. At the very least, those who become terrorists were not reliable allies to begin with.

    Threatening them with violence or death will not stop them.

    Agreed. Actually causing death will of course stop them, though, and that approach is impossible if we take a “no military action” line.

    You kill someone’s leader, no matter how disliked, some of those people are bound to turn against you. It’s a risky proposition.

    Agreed that it’s risky, although of course some of them may turn towards rather than away from you. But the best policy isn’t indiscriminate killing, it’s well placed and credible threats. Kill one, frighten 10. That’s my goal here, and one that Saddam was uniquely well-positioned to fulfill.

    As I said, not too much disagreement.

  44. You kill someone’s leader, no matter how disliked, some of those people are bound to turn against you. It’s a risky proposition.

    Except that a riskier proposition is to not kill the leader. I’d rather face 50 followers without a leader than 5 men with a good leader any day of the week.

  45. Jack, I have to apologize for the quotes below. I’m not computer savy enough to provide the links, but I don’t think you’ll have too much difficulty finding similar info–it took me all of 2 minutes using google. They both come from gov’t safety websites.

    The quotes below are in response to this from you:

    “You [meaning me] ]want to figure out how it [a fire] got started BEFORE you get around to putting it out. That’s backwards thinking, to say the least. Common sense tells us we need to use water and not gasoline…”

    Now, you see, Jack, common sense, as well as not being willing (or able) to think things through, causes a lot of harm.

    “Because of the reaction many metals have with water, sprinklers and the use of other water-based agents are not appropriate and, in some cases, quite dangerous.”

    “Never put water on an electrical fire. Use a CO2 fire extinguisher if the fire is small.”

    When dealing with a fire, it is very important to understand what caused it before deciding how to put it out.

  46. Rob,

    I don’t understand how you make my words italic. I have to put yours in quotes:

    “they don’t seem to be as capable of attacking us, do they?” my understanding is that they are killing several US soldiers each week in Iraq & that since 9/11 they have bombed civillians in London, Istanbul, Casablanca, Madrid, Bali, Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan, Mombassa and no doubt other places that I can’t think of right now.

    Rob, if I didn’t think AQ was getting stronger and more lethal then I wouldn’t be arguing that our invasion of Iraq was making them stronger and more lethal.

    I do think an increase in their numbers would translate into an increase in the liklihood of successful attacks.

    I don’t believe that getting rid of Saddam weakend AQ. I believe it strengthened them considerable. Saddam wasn’t assisting them in any way so his absence doesn’t harm them. AQinM, however, didn’t even exist until after we invaded and it seems to draw recruits largely in response to our having invaded.

    Listen, Rob, I have to continue this tomorrow. I’ve done zero work thanks to our discussion today and I have to justify my having got out of bed this morning somehow.

  47. Clever, but obtuse. Note the disclaimer “if the fire is small”. That’s not very fitting in this discussion, is it?

    The whole town is on fire, friend. I suggest you rally your friends and get to work using whatever tools you have readily available before you’re left standing in the middle of the charred ruins of what used to be your home, and nevermind the indescernible splatter of grease inside the kitchen that’s already ablaze.

  48. Jack, Jack, Jack, Jack. I think the point was that if the fire was large, a fire extinguisher wasn’t going to work, but that in any case, water is dangerous. I know it is tempting to react emotionally to such an emotional situation. I know, too, that it’s very romantic and satisfying to envision bold action, bold heroes, bold plans as the best solution to gut-wrenching problems.

    I am suggesting a more thoughtful and less emotionally-satisfying course of action than the one chosen by our leaders because I think it will be more effective. The problems we face because of AQ are difficult and complex and not given to quick-fixes no matter how well-intentioned or emotionally satisfying.

    Also, to get back to your point of entry, I am suggesting that we be somewhat skeptical about the claims of AQ propoganda statements. I beleive that they do want a war because they want a kind of glory that only a war will give them. I think a wiser strategy would be to deny them that war.

  49. mark:

    With all due respect, I still can’t figure out what your proposed “more thoughtful and less emotionally-satisfying course of action” actually is. I’m certainly not sold on the current course of action being optimal, or even necessarily beneficial, but as they say, even a bad plan is better than no plan at all.

    FWIW, I believe I’ve seen Muslim opinion polls showing that Al Qaeda’s popularity has been greatly diminished across the Muslim word, primarily due to the fact that Al Qaeda’s primary target is now other Muslims in Iraq. I wouldn’t claim this has been Bush’s plan all along (although they could hardly admit to it if it was), but in general I don’t think it’s a bad outcome. Iraq clearly hasn’t been a knockout blow against Jihadism, but it’s hasn’t been a victory for the Jihadis either.

    I find it hard to paint a scenario in which withdrawl from Iraq has a net positive effect against Jihadism. This doesn’t in any way mean that it was a good idea to invade in the first place, but withdrawl doesn’t correct the intial mistake, it compounds it. But I’m open to being convinced. Since the only thing you’ve stated with certainty is that we’re on such a wrong path that anything else would be better, could you explain how leaving Iraq and giving Jihadists a clear victory acts to defuse their movement?

  50. Mark,

    There are instructions on using italics right above the comment entry form. I use html coding…but I can’t tell you how to do it because I’m not savvy enough to make the tags actually appear for you to see.

    I’m happy to pospone until tomorrow, although I’ll be working all weekend, too.

    I’m not happy to se AQ action abroad, but better there than here. I’m not sure how we measure their dangerousness, maybe you can give a good metric tomorrow. The fact that they set off bombs in a bunch of Muslim nations, though, is not to me evidence that Iraq was the wrong choice. The idealist in me regrets the loss of life. The realist in me is glad its not here. And it confirms the thesis, shared by many here, that they are about killing and dying on any pretense.

    (I’m also curious how we can deny war to people bent on war–we may not be interested in war, but apparently war is interested in us)

  51. I do appreciate seeing some sanity from my those on my right on the matter of Dinesh D’Souza. But D’Souza is no Ward Churchill, a seventh-rate academic who got himself a job on the squishiness of an over-the-top Affirmative Action program that didn’t even check if he were a genuine American Indian. (He isn’t.) Dinesh D’Souza is an honored member of one of the American conservative movement’s leading think tanks and a former member of another. He previously edited a leading neo-conservative journal then under the aegis of yet another mainstream conservative institution. Any bets on whether he will be disinvited from the Hoover Institute on the basis of this new worthless, vicious screed? Moreover, D’Souza is a CNN Analyst. Churchill and Chomsky making regular appearances on a mainstream news show? Not that I’ve seen.

    And while WoC doesn’t seem pleased with D’Souza, other conservatives seem to be down with his ideas. Glenn Beck of CNN thus:

    The things that they [radical Muslims] were saying about us were true. Our morals are just out the window. We`re a society on the verge of moral collapse. And our promiscuity is of[f] the charts. Now I don`t think that we should fly airplanes into buildings or behead people because of it, but that`s the prevailing feeling of Muslims in the Middle East. And you know what? They`re right.

    I remember a piece in Salon right after 9/11 blaming America, mostly for not being tolerant enough as far as I could tell. It was incoherent and the comments on it were extremely critical. And I remember a piece in the London Review of Books by a Berkeley professor on sabbatical who hadn’t been around to sense that his article, mostly blaming the USA for the attack because of dunderheaded foreign policy, was badly off key even in his home town. But a liberal host on mainstream media saying this: you guys would have wanted him strung up on the nearest broadcasting tower. Think about that the next time you dream of a liberal media conspiracy.

    Say, where is Osama bin Laden, anyway? Didn’t our own Fearless Leader promise to take him dead or alive?

  52. Probably dead, since he hasn’t made a verifiable appearance or broadcast in quite some time. But if not dead, then effectively removed from daily inspiration and leadership of the terror network.

    Good enough for me.

  53. Mark,

    You believe that Al Qaeda is strengthened by fighting them in Iraq. And you agree that we cannot convince current members of Al Qaeda to stop attacking us. So which scenario will result in a stronger Al Qaeda, one in which we stop killing their members in Iraq and they continue to recruit with propaganda about how they chased us out of Iraq or we continue to destroy them where we find them. I agree that many innocents in Iraq have been killed, but the vast majority were killed by Al Qaeda or the sectarian militias, not us.
    At some point this disagreement is about perception; your’s that Al Qaeda is made stronger by overt action against it and mine that relieving pressure from Al Qaeda in Iraq would strengthen them even faster
    As far as the costs of the war, we have not had to resort to conscription, and at this point our military is comprised of a majority who have volunteered or re-enlisted after the start of the war in Iraq. Although the financial cost of the war sounds large to the average citizen, it is in fact a tiny portion of the federal government’s spending, equivalent percentage-wise with what an average American family might spend on entertainment in a year. And as others have pointed out, the numbers of Americans killed in combat in Iraq is smaller both in absolute numbers or as a percentage of the military or general population of a single day of a single important battle of World War I, II or the American Civil War. Again this appears to be another area where it appears to be a matter of opinion, do we consider the threat of Al Qaeda to be able to find a way to duplicate the damage they caused on 9/11 to be worth asking volunteers to risk a 1 in 100 chance of being killed to fight and kill Al Qaeda where we know they are and can reach them. From the protests over the Al Qaeda prisoners in Cuba, who have gone through military tribunals, I do not believe the alternative of capturing them and imprisoning them for life is feasible or would make a dent in the risk of Al Qaeda killing large numbers of American civilians as they are doing to Iraqi civilians right now.

  54. Fitzgerald: “There is a clooud over Dick Cheney”

    Fitz, as in Patrick Fitzgerald, recently finished making a case against Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby for lying and obstructing justice in the government’s investigation of who leaked the classified identity of a CIA NOC, Valarie Plame.

    It seems, from evidence presented at trial, that the who that leaked is Scooter Libby under the direction of Dick Cheney but Fitz can’t prove it yet because Libby is lying to protect the guilty parties.

    In Fitz’s closing argument he explained “There is a cloud over Dick Cheney.” Fitz has enough goods to question Cheney’s actions in this public forum. THAT is NEWS.

    If that son of bitch, Cheney, leaked classified info about a CIA NOC as an act of political retribution toward the CIA agent’s husband, Cheney must be impeached.

    Fitz! is the supportive cry for the principled prosecutor who doggedly pursued the case, in spite of all the right wing propoganda that would have him quietly walk away. Fitz is a rather conservative guy but he believes in the rule of law not partisan favoritism and cronyism.

  55. mark, according to your original comment the second step in your fire prevention analogy is to stop the fire from spreading, that is accomplished with water regardless of the type of fire you’re dealing with. That’s as simple as it gets. Water isn’t dangerous in firefighting, it’s your best friend in the whole world as long as it’s used correctly. Sorry, but you’re wrong if you think otherwise. But what do you say we let your fire analogy rest? I know you’re not a firefighter, like your not a military strategist or analyst and you’re really not qualified to put an alternative plan together in either scenario, so I don’t blame you for focusing on a faulty comparison while you consistently dodge the specific questions to which I and others are asking for a response.

    No one here is reacting emotionally and no one here thinks this war is romantic or satisfying. What exactly do you find romantic about IEDs and RPGs that our finest endure on a daily basis? If there was any other logical or reasonable choice for us to consider, I’d consider it as opposed to war in a heartbeat. I keep hearing people like you talk about better alternatives without mentioning so much as a suggestion of what those alternatives might be. How can you declare that your vague notion of a “more thoughtful and less emotionally-satisfying course of action… will be more effective” when you don’t even specifically know what you course of action you’re referring to? It appears that you are opposed to the plan of the current leaders because you find them “untrustworthy” (much like your characterization of AQ) and therefore any plan put forth by them is flawed and inferior to an as-yet-to-be-quantified plan put forth by others (read: someone more intelligent than Bush, and incidentally, yourself). This, of course, is lunacy.

    It’s not possible to deny a war to warriors intent on bringing you one.

  56. Mark:

    Regarding indentation and italics:

    Paragraphs are indented by using the blockquote marker. Prefix each blockquote paragraph with this sequence of characters:
    b q period space

    Italics are marked out by using the italic start and end tags.

    Prefix text to be italicized with:
    open-angle-bracket i close-angle-bracket

    At the conclusion of the block of text to be italicized, place this tag:
    open-angle-bracket forward-slash i close-angle-bracket

    Nort

  57. No one here is reacting emotionally and no one here thinks this war is romantic or satisfying. What exactly do you find romantic about IEDs and RPGs that our finest endure on a daily basis?

    That’s only because W is too busy clearing brush, choking on pretzels, and sneaking whiskey to comment here.

    [Mark Kleiman, then a supporter of the war, March 23, 2003] The New York Daily News reports that the President was seen on a closed-circuit TV hook-up inside the White House, just before his the Wednesday night declaration of war, pumping his fist, smiling, and saying “Feels good.” Knight-Ridder has a similar account, as does the Philadelphia Inquirer. So far, I cannot find any denial from the White House. What sort of sociopath “feels good,” and says so, when he is about to give an order, or has just given an order, which, even if all goes well, will lead to the deaths of some thousands of human beings? Alas, the story, assuming it is true, is characteristic of Bush: the man who made fun of the pleas of a woman who begged him for her life in vain, the man who boasted of the dead enemies “who are no longer a problem to the United States.”

    Now, let me remind you that we can not unbreak eggs. We have already made our great and generous gifts to Islamic radicalism: exhaustion and deterioration of our armed forces; failure to eliminate the Taliban (diverting resources to Iraq) leaving them to come back more virulent like germs after not-enough penicillin; tens of thousands of grieving families who blame us for disruption of their society regardless of who pulled the trigger; a number of remarkably candid remarks at high levels about forcible exploitation of Arab natural resources; barbaric and uncivilized conduct of the war so egregious our own allies indict our agents; weakening democratic movements in Iran and Syria by equating democracy and pro-Americanism with chaos; removal of forces from Saudi Arabia exactly as Osama bin Laden had demanded (funny how the Bushbots always find some way to make this an exception to the Anything Osama Says Must Be Bad Rule that applies to Democrats)—one AQ recruiting bonanza after another. I don’t think it’s even that close a call that the boost to AQ from our leaving Iraq to stew in its own juices—more likely to run to local Iranian and Hezbollah terrorism than AQ’s trans-national Wahabbism—will be less than the boost accruing from our continued participation in the Iraqi Civil War. Yes, all choices are bad now. We have to deal with that, not pretend that a few more surges and a few more years of hell will create the pro-Wester Iraqi pony.

  58. Whether or not any of these events you’ve listed directly boost AQ’s ranks, the fact is AQ wasn’t having any trouble recruiting before 9/11. Whether or not AQ is larger or smaller from a numbers standpoint really isn’t the point. If they’re tens of thousands strong but don’t have any money to operate, that’s a lot better than a thousand with unlimited funds. A better question is are they as capable of operating and carrying out attacks on the United States as they were before we responded to them?

  59. AJL, mark,

    I wonder if you two might answer two questions for me:

    1) If Iraq is such a recruiting bonanza for AQ, what is Afghanistan? I believe both of you supported and continue to support a military presence there. In not an attack agaisnt a highly pure Islamic state an even bigger bonanza, recruitment wise? If not, why not?

    2) I hate to be a bore on this, but what about the impact of withdrawal on the local dictators? Both of you seem obsessed with what Iraq means to AQ, but uninterested in what it means to Assad. I’m fine with ignoring AQ so long as our proxies suppress them. In fact, I think that’s a better way to go, given that we simply can’t kill them all them ourselves. I believe (although I’m ready to be corrected) that being feared by nasty dictators is preferable to being laughed at by them. I also believe it preferable that our friends be able to rely on us. Is not withdrawal from Iraq more likely to result in laughter and a sense of abandonment than fear and reliance?

  60. and sneaking whiskey

    That sort of stupid snide comment is the reason why, every time I consider voting Democrat again,

    I don’t.

    It’s not founded on fact, it’s beside the point for the argument and the author so clearly considers himself clever.

  61. Interesting thread; long for WoC; you folks are usually more concise.

    Why the reaction to Dinesh D’Souza? Because he struck a nerve? I think that he did make a case that the virulent left in America sowed a self-guilt that made us less likely to respect ourselves and thus command respect from the Islamists. One hallmark of progressive anti-Western thought seems to be that if we in the West are so powerful, we must then be responsible for every bad thing that has happened. We are expected to make omelets without breaking any eggs. This paralyzes us and makes us weak. The weak get attacked.

    This from Rob Lyman hit a nerve for me:

    This is a really common fallacy: that we can’t deter terrorists. Technically, it’s true. But what we can do is deter the more rational people who do want to go home to their families at night to do something about the terrorists on pain of getting thumped.

    I felt this strongly after 9-11. I didn’t want to occupy Iraq, I wanted to kill Saddam, punish them for their long evil, and then draw back and see if they and the others in region grew any brain cells.

    I believed that several actors were playing the support terrorism; develop WMD; maintain deniability game. Would they have tried to use a WMD in a deniable terrorist attack? This was the threat that was articulated. I believed it, and the polls said 70% of you did, too.

    I have moderated my views somewhat since, but only because we cannot risk disrupting the world oil supply, and thence the world economy and food supply. Crushing Iraq upsets the balance, unleashes Iran, and sets in motion some potentially ugly scenarios. Pinpoint strikes like we did to Libya under Reagan might have been better.

  62. I agree with Rob that the issue is state support rather than terrorist recruitment.

    To be more precise, state support for Islamic militarism. The distinction is important.

    As has been pointed out, recruitment was sufficient to kill nearly 3000 in a single day before 9-11. Before, the conventional wisdom was that Islamic militarism was merely a form of terrorism — essentially a criminal nuisance, the goals of which is to grab headlines to bring attention to causes, assumed in the case of AQ and Islamically-based organizations, to be the elimination of Israel, and that the chances that any particular American would become a victim was insignificant. The best weapons to fight it, it was thought, were law enforcement and the gradual spread of prosperity and modern thinking (secularism, for lack of a better word) through global trade and communications.

    9-11 changed the conventional wisdom. The attacks killed many more people than would be needed merely to grab headlines or protest US support for Israel. (One plane would have easily sufficed for that.) In fact, those of us who were lurkwarm in our support for Israel have become much more sympathetic toward it, at least on an emotional level. It was realized that Islamic militants are bent on conquest and that, for them, killing infidels is good for its own sake, nevermind bringing attention to a cause, such that the more that could be killed, the better.

    After that epiphany, it wasn’t much of a leap to start thinking about our other vulnerabilities to mass murder at the hands of Islamic militants, the most important of which is the possibility that they could cooperate with state actors to obtain WDM, which I’d define as the kind of weapons ownly states, as opposed to criminal organizations, possess. That is where Iraq came in. It didn’t matter that Iraq didn’t know about 9-11, it was enough both AQ and Iraq hated the US and could potentially work together to enhance each other’s strengths to murder masses of Americans, Iraq supplying the weapons and AQ the deniability.

    Note that whether there are 5000 AQ members or 50,000 doesn’t really add to what it brings to the table. Thus, recruitment is secondary issue at most. The real issue is mass murder, and the biggest threat respecting it is the combination of an organized Islamic militant group and a state willing to provide it with WDM. Iraq was such a state.

    Granted that Iraq, it turns out, had no WDMs to speak of, but I don’t think that was known and I don’t think it ultimately matters. The fact was that the sanction regime was crumbling and it was only a matter of time before it would possess them. Thus, it was a major threat and it was not a mistake to eliminate it as a threat. It is unfortunate that there was not more international support in that perhaps Hussein might have been persuaded to leave the country had the Security Council voted to invade if he didn’t, but he miscalculated our resolve and his country suffers, and he and his sons are dead, as a result. In that most important sense, the war, while unfortunate, was successful.

    It was also useful, as Rob points out, to send a message to other states. Several of those in Hussein’s position got the message. Libya is the most famous example. Unfortunately, that message has becomed blurred because political forces in the West, most importantly in the US, are creating doubt about American resolve to do it again.

    There’s plenty of fault to go around. I won’t bother addressing the anti-war forces, either those originally against the war or those who say it was/is a failure now. Those forces were present at the outset as a matter of culture, and if a cultural attack is to be made, that is where it should be made rather than argument D’Souza is apparently trying to make.

    The more important lessons, as time is too short to wait for cultural miracles, are political. In my opinion, and I believed it at the time both as a legal and political matter, the Administration’s biggest mistake was not seeking a declaration of war. The key is forcing the worst political opportunists to have a big stake in the success of the venture. That increases resolve by making it more difficult for opportunists to act. Obviously, the occupation has not gone according to plan (to the extent there ever was one for it), and many occupation mistakes have been made, but that should not be allowed to drown out the main message.

    I don’t know how to make the killers of Iraq stop killing. I suspect the Iraqis have to figure that out, and if we can help, we should. As a foreign policy matter, however, the overriding goal is to avoid the perception, to the greatest extent possible, that America lacks resolve to bring down regimes that would make mass murder of Americans possible. Every foreign politician should understand that if he or she supports Islamic militants, particularly if his or her country it seeks or possess WDM, he or she is liable to lose his/her loss power and/or life. That is the primary objective, and the policy of withdrawal or non-withdrawal should be determined in light of that.

    Ideally, the democratically-elected Iraqi government will keep taking over responsibilities and we’ll gradually withdraw as we were doing before withdrawal became an internal political lever to force Bush — who happens to be not only a Republican — but also the President of the United States, to “admit” eliminating the Hussein regime was a “mistake.”

    The last thing we should do is give the impression that we have to talk to Iran and Syria to get out of a supposed “quagmire.” Thus, the surge was a politically necessity and has to be supported mostly for that reason.

    The genius of the Constitution is working. The Senate stopped the hotheaded House, which was trying to encroach into the executive power to decide foreign policy. The President still controls foreign policy, so that we can, to some extent at least, speak with one resolve to threatening foreign powers. Since George Bush will not be running himself in the next election, perhaps the campaigns will center less on Iraq, which will hopefully improve in the meanwhile.

  63. Rob,

    If Iraq is such a recruiting bonanza for AQ, what is Afghanistan?

    When we (or, rather, our allies) evicted the Taliban from Kabul, obviously that was a disaster for AQ and Islamic radicalism. Now that we are failing in finishing the job, that makes Al Qaeda look good, too. But we already know how Bush’s perception of that war has changed: “I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority.” [Check out the evolution of Bush’s thought.]

    what about the impact of withdrawal on the local dictators?

    Well, we already made that bed, didn’t we? After looking at our performance in Iraq, what conclusions can the (much larger) Iranian military and population draw? We know part of the answer: get a nuke as invasion insurance. Meanwhile, we made “National Makeover” look chaotic and brutal. We’re in a reverse shock and awe position, up against diminishing returns. And while the penalty for losing keeps growing, that doesn’t guarantee success is possible. When Sen. Biden describes the IraqWagmire as a worse blunder than Vietnam, this is what he refers to. I suppose we’ll be a generation recovering, if ever. Look what happened to the USSR…

  64. When we (or, rather, our allies) evicted the Taliban from Kabul, obviously that was a disaster for AQ and Islamic radicalism.

    I agree, but I don’t understand why you do, from your (and mark’s) perspective. Didn’t this just increase recruitment? Didn’t it give them the war they had been seeking? Isn’t that just what bin laden intended when he attacked the WTC?

    After looking at our performance in Iraq, what conclusions can the (much larger) Iranian military and population draw?

    Well, for one, that they can supply weapons and funding to people killing us with no consequences, which is a huge problem. I heard recently that Iraq plans to close the border with Iran. WTF took so long?

    But let’s be fair here: what lesson were they drawing in 2002, before we went in? Basically the same: they’ve been funding and arming our enemies since ’79. Also, at that time the worst that had come from defiance of the US is that the head guy gets huge palaces while simultaneously depriving his population, and CNN refuses to report on it to maintain access to the palaces.

    It’s not obvious to me that the current lesson is worse; certainly it costs more in blood and treasure, but success, even with weaker goals like Saddam-lite, would be better than the old status quo. And causing Iran some reciprocal pain–not an invasion, but perhaps some gun-running to opposition groups–would not go unnoticed, either.

  65. There is a lot of talk about how prominent political leaders here in the U.S. cannot tell a Sunni Muslim apart from a Shia Muslim and how this speaks volumes as to why the U.S. is flailing around in Iraq. But how come people don’t discuss and analyse the consequence of an equally deep fault line in American culture? Oh, I guess we talk about Red State and Blue State America, but we don’t seem to have any deeper an understanding than that of what is going on in our own society, and the people “over there” are even less clued in.

    Mr. D’Souza is a stranger to this aspect of American culture, much as I am a such a stranger, owing to my parents being immigrants. But I do know that America is far from homogenous, in part owing to recent immigrants such as the D’Souza’s and the Milenkovic’s, in part owing to the racial split between black and white, but also in part owing to divisions in the English heritage of our country. All white people look alike, now don’t they, and once you split off white people who are of Jewish, Italian, German, Scandinavian, Slavic heritage, you are left with WASP’s — white Anglo-Saxon Protestants — and isn’t that a group that is completely homogeneous? Not!

    I am beginning to think that to truly understand American culture, one would need to understand Oliver Cromwell’s Glorious Revolution, New Model Army, the Coventanters, the English-Scotland split within the U.K. itself, and the tripartite split of Ireland-England-Scotland (should I add Wales, Cornwall, and a few other nationalities?) into Catholic, Church of England, and Protestant, the whole train wreck started by Henry Tudor’s divorce of Catherine, the whole Henry-Elizabeth-James succession and political intrique up all the way through the French and Indian War, the American Civil War, and the Red State-Blue State divide of today. Our friends overseas talk about “Crusaders”, and yes Saladin expelled the Crusaders by force of arms, but there is a whole long history among those Crusaders between the Crusades and now that have changed the balance of power, and I don’t mean simply the time since WW-I with the emergence of industrial technology on warfare.

    If we are to give this element of American culture a name, perhaps Scots-Irish is as good as any other name, and a Usenet blog entry attributed the military defeat of the North American Indian nations to the westward migration of this group. This group has a lot more perforative names, and is probably the target of a great deal of hatred in America or at least derisive scorn. George W. Bush is not of this group — I imagine the patrician Bushes are from another branch of English as well as other ethnic origins, but President’s Bush’s public personna and appeal is directed to this group. Judging by the bumper sticker “art” where I live, the tremendous degree of, cannot find another word for it, hatred directed towards President Bush is perhaps displaced feelings for this group.

    While people of all ethnic origins have served our country in a military capacity, my estimation is that of all the many peoples making up our country, the Scots-Irish are perhaps exemplarly as far as the martial virtues. Not only are the Scots-Irish at the forefront of all things military in America, they are arguably best-in-world if it ever comes down to an Apocalypic conflict.

    In Classical times, these different tribes were all Greeks, but there were Athenians and then there were Spartans, and people like Mr. D’Souza, myself, and many others who like to talk about the Iraq War but don’t even know anyone serving in the Iraq War (Chickenhawks!) are definitely from Athens, but there is a whole other part of America that hails from the Pelloponeas – what we call the Southern Border States in a narrow geographical sense and what we call Red State America in a broader sense.

    I am amused about people getting all worked up about Global Warming when it is based on a conceit that the puny workings of humans are any where near the scale of forces of Nature. On the other hand, I get worked up that a dumb non-binding resolution in Congress is going to communicate some kind of signal of weakness to our enemy is the GWOT and cause my house or place of work to be attacked.

    Athens is the predominant power — economically, culturally, politically, and even militarily in terms of numbers. Athens is at risk of losing all of this because it sees itself more as a debating society than a culture with anything at risk. All of the posturing between Murtha, Obama, Clinton, Pelosi, the MSM, the Libby trial is pure Athenian in its style. Dinesh D’Souza is acting like an Athenian. But people are forgetting all about Sparta.

  66. Haven’t a drop of Scots or Irish blood in me. Not Southern culturally or in my tastes and manners. But on military issues, count me squarely in that Jacksonian camp.

  67. Molon Labe: That sort of stupid snide comment is the reason why, every time I consider voting Democrat again…

    Oh, puhleeeze. How much do you want to bet that Bush has been near whiskey more recently than Barack Obama has been near a madrassah? But I don’t see you cutting off the Republican Party for that nonsense, which, as you will recall, was even endorsed by a couple of loony-right WoC commenters. Oh, yeah, and by Fox News.

  68. The obscenities coming out of Hollywood are not the only reason that the US was attacked, but his point was that moderate Muslims (heck, and moderate Baptists in Oklahoma) would like to see just a little restraint on the nude ladies, promiscuity as normal, violence as the only way to respond to a problem, etc. etc.

    We know that Americans are mostly moral, hard working, and religious. But do you think that anyone watching American movies or TV thinks this is true? Especially when their government run press demonizes evil America.
    Who is prsenting the positive side of the USA…It’s not CNN international, which I have to watch to get the news.

    The problem of course is not limited to the USA…

    When I visited Ireland as a studen, my friends living in an urban area with one murder a week told me I’d be shot…they only heard about northern Ireland murders. My African friends were afraid to visit New YorK city after watching TV. My Native American friends were afraid for me when I worked in Africa. And now, my grandchildren are not allowed to visit us in the Philippines because of terrorism, even though they live one mile from the Pentagon, and visited us when we lived in Tornado alley…

  69. mark (#11)

    _I’m not sure I understand. Since 9/11 was a suicide attack, how did the attackers’ belief that our response would be negligible motivate them. Surely, the 9/11 attacks were meant to provoke a response, to start some sort of war. AQ had been trying for ten years to bring us into the fray they need and want._

    But Al Qaeda knew the response won’t be as hard as it would have been in the 19th century, because inner opposition (on what D’Souza argues) won’t allow a too long or too committed conflict. Therefore, Al Qaeda saw an opportunity to win, not by KO, but by points, and that triggered the attack.

    Tell me, who would attack the world’s one and only hyperpower if there was no inner opposition in it on which search for support? Nobody would dare.

    (#74)

    _It’s not CNN international, which I have to watch to get the news._

    My Godness! Al Jazeera english edition might be more pro-American than that. Is still CNN an American corporation? I couldn’t believe it.

  70. I agree, but I don’t understand why you do, from your (and mark’s) perspective. Didn’t this just increase recruitment? Didn’t it give them the war they had been seeking? Isn’t that just what bin laden intended when he attacked the WTC?

    It’s hard to remember, after four years of Bush blunder, how reviled the Taliban and Al Qaeda were when we attacked Afghanistan, and how much sympathy there was for the US and our right to remove them. Iran, for example, loathed the Taliban, for religious reasons if not others. (The feeling was mutual.) In fact, Iran quietly cooperated with our attack. Even Saudi clerics condemned the Taliban’s demolition of the Buddhas. And we routed and humiliated the Taliban and Al Qaeda, at the beginning, before we pulled troops out of there to chase Moby Iraq. Perhaps this was a war that Osama was seeking, but the results were not at all to his liking: complete support for the USA in the Western World (except in D’Souza’s imagination, where exactly one Democratic dissenter speaks for the entire party), and hostility across most of the Islamic world.

    Then, with reverse Midas touch, we changed that, by giving them an opportunity to lend expertise, materiél, and lives to a more popular cause, while at the same time fueling (pun intended) Muslim suspicions of our own motives. Saddam, to put it as FDR might have, was an SOB, but at least he was their SOB. With new and radical theories of regime change at American whim (why Saddam and not Mugabe?), our decision that we could fight against “terror” without regard to civilized norms, and our simple lack of effective execution starting with the first days of our occupation of Baghdad, we breathed life into Islamic terrorism. You would almost think Bush wanted more terrorism so that he could use fear in the campaign against the true enemy, American liberals. And it’s that (bloodless) campaign in which D’Souza has enlisted.

  71. That is where Iraq came in. It didn’t matter that Iraq didn’t know about 9-11, it was enough both AQ and Iraq hated the US and could potentially work together to enhance each other’s strengths to murder masses of Americans, Iraq supplying the weapons and AQ the deniability.

    Wow.. Tough to sum up the mindblowingly inept jump from false circumstances to even falser conclusions that marked the start of this debacle so well. My hat’s off to “ricg”.

    What in God’s name would Saddam have ever gained from a WMD terror attack on US or Euro soil? How would have that have boosted his political standing, enriched him, or shored up his then tenuous geopolitical situation in any way? It’s all too easy when Saddam was painted in the hitleresque brush of a madman. But Saddam was always more rational than ideological, just as our relationship with him always was.

    Why would a secular leader like Saddam, after he had seen what happened to the Taliban, support some of his enemies (Saudi and Kuwaiti extremists) in an attack on the U.S.– one that would obviously be linked to him and inevitably lead to his overthrow and destruction?

    Every foreign politician should understand that if he or she supports Islamic militants, particularly if his or her country it seeks or possess WDM, he or she is liable to lose his/her loss power and/or life.

    Wow, tough talk and politically correct at once! But um… Pakistan?

    That’s the problem with this sort of combination of statism and idealism when it comes to fighting terrorism. It’s marked by such a glaring internal contradiction that it inevitably defeats itself. Consider that when given the chance, many Muslim populations will gladly elect and/or support radical Islamist types. The same ones who can offer at least the perception of not being entirely corrupt, the same ones who see the battle with the West as existential and thus leads to oh-so-convenient! interpretations such as:

    It was realized that Islamic militants are bent on conquest and that, for them, killing infidels is good for its own sake, nevermind bringing attention to a cause, such that the more that could be killed, the better.

    So just the scale of 9.11 proves their intentions of conquest? I don’t think so. Even counting the numerous statements of by Al Qaeda and random islamists who have waxed genocidal over the years, I don’t think so. What with three carrier groups parked on Meca’s doorstep, I wouldn’t blame them if they saw the war as existential (total conquest being the only victory in that sort of war). But my guess and of course it’s just a guess, is that 9.11 was an attempt to strike our weakpoint– our economy, and that the majority of Islamist leaders would rather like our armies out of their countries than some neverending Holy War and would mean them actually having to start getting along with all the other ideological sects and factions that even the Ottomans could barely hold together.

    Of course, we’ll probably never have our armies out of their countries, so who knows.

  72. I hear this theory a lot – by military action we are creating a lot more terrorists than when we started. The terrorists push us, we push back, our heavy-handed reaction breeds more resentment, and the cycle of violence continues. The Israelis have been trapped in this cycle of violence with their neighbors for the past 60 years or perhaps longer by seeking a military solution to the difficulties they are having living with their neighbors, and it looks like America is going down that same path.

    The problem I see with this theory is that the Israelis have had this cycle of violence going with their neighbors, but, wouldn’t you know it, the Israelis have been acting all of this time like, well, like Israelis, and there are numerous examples of their heavy handedness and disregard for human rights. America is getting into this cycle of violence, and we all know about American arrogance and heavy handedness, and we are a lot less respectful of human rights than we think we are, especially beyond our borders where most Americans don’t see it. Oh, and India has been caught in a cycle of violence, gosh, for about as long as the Israelis in the current iteration, and I always thought of India and the majority Hindu culture as being a rather peaceful people, but I guess there must be a dark side to everybody. Then there are those Philippines, Thai’s, Ethiopians, a other places in Africa and elsewhere not on my list.

    In some situations there is conflict because there is injustice and that correcting injustice can go a long way to resolving conflict. In other situations, there are people who have a grievance and are just plain angry about something. We try to parse their words about what they are angry about and try to determine what we could do to remedy their hurt and bring peace, but what they are really angry about and what we could do to remedy their grievance is completely out of the plane of our culture and life experience. Appeasement actually is effective at resolving some types of conflict, but appeasement has historically proven ineffectual at resolving this kind of conflict.

    Mr. Lazurus’ theory is that if we would only live up to our Judeo-Christian ethic of avoiding military action except as an extreme, last resort, we would live in peace. Mr. D’Souza’s theory is a similar one – if we would only live up to our Judeo-Christian ethic by upholding stricter sexual morals, the licensuousness of Western culture seen as is equally threatening to Islamic culture, we would live in peace. What we are debating is whether either theory hold up in practice.

    What I argued in an earlier post is that whether Mr. Lazurus is right or Mr. D’Souza is right doesn’t matter because there is a culture within our own society that is as tribal and honor-bound as any in the Middle East and has historically proven itself to be better fighters than anyone on the planet since the time of Oliver Cromwell. Once the Spartans are turned loose against our enemies, Athens won’t stay around that much longer either.

  73. Israel seeks all clear for Iran air strike

    By Con Coughlin in Tel Aviv

    02/24/07 “The Telegraph” — — Israel is negotiating with the United States for permission to fly over Iraq as part of a plan to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.

    To conduct surgical air strikes against Iran’s nuclear programme, Israeli war planes would need to fly across Iraq. But to do so the Israeli military authorities in Tel Aviv need permission from the Pentagon.

    A senior Israeli defence official said negotiations were now underway between the two countries for the US-led coalition in Iraq to provide an “air corridor” in the event of the Israeli government deciding on unilateral military action to prevent Teheran developing nuclear weapons.

    “We are planning for every eventuality, and sorting out issues such as these are crucially important,” said the official, who asked not to be named.

    “The only way to do this is to fly through US-controlled air space. If we don’t sort these issues out now we could have a situation where American and Israeli war planes start shooting at each other.”

    Which will soon evolve into the US getting into the shooting match and probably using nukes in the process.

    Israel needs to learn how to live in peace with its neighbors.

    STOP THE UNITED STATES OF ISRAEL FROM STARTING WW III

  74. _”Israel needs to learn how to live in peace with its neighbors.”_

    Thats rich. How many times has Israel been invaded by its neighbors? Im not clear how allowing Iran an arsenal of nuclear weapons advances the cause of peace in the region.

  75. #79 Paul,

    In the first part of your post you pan across the globe and approach, but don’t quite say that Islam has bloody borders. Is this your view?

    In the second part, I am taking that our Spartans are the Scots-Irish, or “Jacksonians” that provided the American military backbone during the countries formative years. If so, and you attribute them as supreme warriors, I beg to differ. I have served in that proud institution, the US Army, and I hold it in the highest regard. My family has served extensively in American wars back to the Civil War. But frankly, the German’s, pound for pound were better warriors that our citizen soldiers in WWII, the Japanese were inhumanly tenacious, the Chinese in the Korean War were tougher and endured privations our soldiers could not, and the Vietnamese were no petunias. We have won many of the these engagements by virtue of superior air power, technology, and industrial base.

    You might want to look around the globe some more. Some of that winning equation is changing. Just how many wolf-tickets are you wanting to sell?

  76. My point is that America is not unique and not alone in coming into confrontation with militant elements of Islamic culture If American cultural arrogance (D’Souza hypothesis) and military arrogance (a main point of liberal commentators) is to blame for the lack of peace, militant Islam is also in confrontation with cultures that are 180 degrees apart from what America is reputed to be.

    The question is not “Why do they hate us?”, the question is “Why do they hate us along with others who are so different than us?” Whenever I have brought this line of reasoning up in polite society, the inevitable response is “Oh, so you are saying that ‘they’ hate everyone, now, aren’t you?” Lets just say there is at least one more place other than America and Israel in conflict with militant Islam – India – its not the whole world, but its a big place, and while I have heard that America is culturally and militarily arrogant from many people from India, I somehow don’t have the impression that anti-American protests are a big phenomenon in India lately.

    My second point is that people from around the world have viewed the United States as a wealthy country with people accustomed to a soft life, and have attributed American military success more to its overwhelming industrial and technological capacity and have discounted the role of its traditions and cultural history. The WW-II Germans didn’t have a prayer of stopping the American and British advance through France post Normandy, but there was a belief that Americans were somehow “soft” and that dealt setbacks such as the Battle of the Bulge/Bastogne or even a sufficient high level of casualties that America would lose its stomach for the war. I know of this reputation for “soft” Americans from parents who had lived under German occupation and had gotten the full measure of the German view of things in the form of wartime propaganda.

    A big worry from the conservatives these days is that the world view of the MSM, the liberal commentariat, and the debates in the Democratic-controlled Congress on the War in Iraq is making America seem as squishy soft as can be, and this will prove to be our undoing down the road. If the people doing the debating were from the same segment of American society who are doing the fighting and who we will rely upon to do the fighting in the future, I would say we are doomed, but they are not the same group. I include myself as part of the debating element of American culture, by the way.

    Just as Americans are accused of being clueless in not knowing a Sunni from a Shia, there are people “on the other side” (i.e. who used to be called the enemy) who will draw the conclusion that they can prevail because America’s military might is largely technology and industrial wealth but in a protracted conflict of will, Americans will prove to be “soft”, and the public disheartening with the Iraq War is further evidence of this. America is more multi-faceted and perhaps factional than they realize (America is Classical Greece!) and long term this will prove to be to our foes’ disadvantage.

  77. #35 Rob Lyman:

    WTF do we do?

    What we do is to turn any country that finances, supports, promotes, or gives land and facilities for the training of, terrorists into a glass parking lot.

    We should do that. We haven’t done it yet; all that I hope is that we do it before a Western country loses a city.

  78. With the subtlety that the pro-war movement is known for, we get

    What we do is to turn any country that finances, supports, promotes, or gives land and facilities for the training of, terrorists into a glass parking lot.

    Yeah, for some people blowing shit up is fun. Too bad that Pakistan has nukes, we are saying Iran will soon have nukes (probably an exaggeration), and we don’t have the ground forces to seize all of the oil which we would have to after Operation Glass Parking Lot. That’s before we even get into the morality of taking over the world.

    Clinton got in trouble for a teenager’s sexual morals. Now we have an administration devoted to the simple, black and white, everything is possible world view of pre-adolescent boys at a James Bond movie.

  79. #83 Paul, #84 AJL,

    The Germans in WWII were first ground down by the Russians who paid the bulk of the butchers bill to defang what Bismark, Hindenberg, etal. built and Hitler perverted. We merely paid the tip.

    The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are important but they are just that. They can overreach. The Germans and Japanese told themselves stories of racial supermen and Bushido. In the end, they faced bitter disillusionment.

    I don’t want to underestimate America or overestimate it. We are 300-350MM in a world of 6.5BB
    China will catch us on GDP in about 20 years. Russia might regroup, but it will take time. If France, Germany, and other EU key players learn to really work together, the EU could easily outstrip us. This stuff about being a hyperpower is crap.

    Check out the magnificence:

    It really is something to behold. But can it solve the Middle East tangle and ensure stable reasonably priced oil? Not so sure about that.

    AJL, I never said anything about will. I think it is more important to the leadership of a democracy in war than to any given army. In an existential struggle, it may matter less. Did we crush the will of Germany or Japan in WWII? Or did we simply physically overwhelm them?

    The big brush historians I am reading all say that empires usually die from within and from a collapse of will. The civilization itself does not necessarily die, it just loses the will to project empire.

    My concern is that we will exhaust ourselves trying to maintain world hegemony/order. Can someone explain to me what benefit we are getting for all of this cost? Is my standard of living that much better than someone in say, Belgium?

  80. _”Can someone explain to me what benefit we are getting for all of this cost? Is my standard of living that much better than someone in say, Belgium?”_

    You’re assuming Belgium could have maintained/evolved their standard of living without the US there to back them. I better example is someplace where US influence was never able to ward off the Soviets or the Chi-coms or even the garden variety local thuggery endemic to human history. Those arent the kinds of places most Westernize would be interested in living in, even for a day.

    There are many reasons we choose not to run up the drawbridge and let the world deal with itself- history being the most important. Its simply not possible. We arent going to sit by while some burgeoning empire idiologically opposed to everything we stand for gobbles up our far weaker allies and historical brethren like we did in the lead up to WW2. Was the price of the Cold War ever anything like as high as the price of fighting WW2?

    The bottom line is that empires do eventually crumble, whether through apathy or overexertion. Pulling down the curtains and barricading the doors is just as likely to eclipse our civilization as actively trying to keep the world dancing to our tune. The difference is we _know_ what a world devoid of US leadership looks like (and its really ugly) but we still hold out hope that someday far it the future enough of our better qualities will rub off on the rest of the world enough to live in something akin to a peaceful harmonious world.

  81. This is very rough and quick search, but the answer surprised me…

    cost WWII $1,600,000,000,000
    http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/peaceinthepacific/numbers

    cost WWIII $8,000,000,000,000
    http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cold.war/episodes/24/epilogue/

    Direct lives cost is vastly greater for WWII, but WWIII lasted a long time and drastically impacted quality of life worldwide. Think of that effort applied to global development. Also add in the casualties for the proxy wars during WWIII.

    Little time to post now, but I want to quibble about we know what a world devoid of US leadership looks like . My issue is that we might accomplish more as a leader among peers than as ‘boss dog’. I think we got into this mode because of WWII and the Cold War and now might be a good time for us to step back (not isolationism by any means) and see what the others would do to take up some slack.

  82. JDWill, I shouldn’t have left off the sarcasm tags.

    It’s my (minority at WoC) opinion that insisting we just need more “will” in Iraq—preferably expressed by self-lobotomized allegiance to George W Bush, the Republican Party, and Joe Lieberman—is absurd. Rather than confront the failure of the last four years’ performance in Iraq, this group continues to obsess about the liberals’ disregard the painted schools or whatever other statistic is today’s bogus index of success. You can click the “Cheney” and “Taheri” links for specific examples, but the general theory is that tithing to the Minotaur shows we are tough. Myself, I think it shows we are slow learners.

  83. Andrew strikes a note i think has to be taken seriously. But the next question has to be what are our alternatives? To turn a phrase, we go to war with the government we have.

    Bush has been pretty terrible about letting things get this far afield before taking Iraq seriously again, but do we turn to Murtha who wants to stage a quick reaction force in Okinawa, or John Kerry who probably spends hours a day trying to remember which stance he last look on Iraq? I have no truck with the Bush administration these days, but the democrats have by and large looked flat out irresponsible and unserious. Letting Bush drag our body across the finish line in a losing effort seems preferable to curling up in a ball and calling for oxygen as the Democratic leadership seems _insistant_ on doing. I think the problem may be that the liberal wing of the party has spent the last half century obsessing on what the West needs to do to self-flagelate our guilty consciounces into redemption- and that mindset is just hard to shake. But ironically the enemy we are facing is idiologically as far from Western Liberalism as it is humanly possible to be. I still hold out the hope that the danger of this particular enemy’s message starts striking enough alarm bells to wake up the American left to its danger as it woke up once to the dangers of fascism a generation ago.

  84. _We have won many of the these engagements by virtue of superior air power, technology, and industrial base._

    True and the point that AJL has repeatedly missed is that in nearly all of these wars, the enemy realized this and attempted to defeat America’s will by developing strategies that focus on the perceived weak link. This is not to say that “will” is everything, but it is where the enemy will form strategy.

    The Japanese didn’t believe they could defeat America, just make victory beyond its will. (At the same time, Japan appears to believe that it could defeat the British in East Asia and that this would encourage the loss of American will) Did Japan lose because of America’s technological/industrial advantage or because its strategy failed?

    Before the Civil War, Sherman argued with his fellow officers about whether the North had the will to fight. According to Sherman, many of the secessionist overlooked the naval, industrial and manpower advantages of the North in the belief that Northerners were soft and unwarlike and that will would be determinative. Sherman disagreed, believing that the North did have the will.

    By 1875, Sherman saw that the North had lost the will to enforce the peace and wrote that in the end, the will wins. Similarly there was no will to enforce the terms of the Treaty of Versailles of 1919, nor the terms of the treaty that ended the First Gulf War. The will to win the war after its been won is one of the hard parts. Only in a few instances (Europe and East Asia after WWII and the Korean War) has America shown a willingness to fight for the peace.

  85. _Can someone explain to me what benefit we are getting for all of this cost? Is my standard of living that much better than someone in say, Belgium?_

    I don’t have a good answer for that. A few observations:

    * I believe Alexander Hamilton said that it was axiomatic that a commercial nation would have a military proportionate to the size of its commerce. Its not that the Belgians don’t have commercial interests, but the larger commercial powers have more at stake and they can rely on the U.S. much as the U.S. relied on the British to safeguard the seas in the 19th century.

    * Americans always seem to have always spent disprortionate amounts of money on the military. (Look at the WWII costs link, the U.S. spent 7 times as much as Japan on the war) I think our ideals (the value of the individual) make it particularly expensive for America to fight wars since we always look for technological advantages.

    * The military ability of many of America’s natural allies has atrophied since the end of WWII. There are a lot of reasons for this (discussed by Robert Kagan in “Of Paradise and Power”:http://www.cceia.org/resources/transcripts/4380.html ), but one of which is the U.S. has possibly never sought to encourage Europe to continue to develop militarily. Be that as it may, I don’t think Europe can and will do it until the world looks drastically different than it does today.

    (BTW/ Sorry jdwill, you are in the line of fire on this “will” thing)

  86. William Rees-Mogg said: “In the 20th century the world failed to adjust to two major belief systems, nationalism and Marxism. Now we face a similar global challenge from Islam, which opposes Judaism in Israel, Hinduism in India, Buddhism in South East Asia, Christianity in Europe and America and modernism in the whole advanced world.” (link)

    I don’t know whether William Rees-Mogg is a clever or a foolish man in general, but I think that’s a good line that highlights what’s wrong with Dinesh D’Souza’s view that the American Left today should bear the blame for Islam’s commitment to jihad. An African can pledge all his loyalty to the great god Ogun, and renounce all the works of Leftism and Modernism as if they were from a Devil, but he or she is still a target for Islam – and always was and always will be. It’s not about us. It’s about Islam.

  87. Andrew:

    Sure. And who makes the decision to use Pakistan’s and Iran’s nukes, when the city where they live is a glowing, smoking hole and the leaders that would make the decision are a small part of a cloud of smoke?

    Fundamentalist Islam won’t stop until the entire Earth is either dead or converted by force. I submit that it might be a good idea to get our licks in first.

  88. Mark:

    Actually, the cost of the Cold War was probably a hell of a lot higher than that of WW2. Not in lives, sure; but trillions of dollars, pounds and rubles, and a large part of the world living in fear of instant annihilation for fifty years – which may go a long way towards explaining the mess Western society is in now. And almost certainly does explain the current state of Russia.

    It’s arguable, and I’ve seen it argued, that America should have used its absolute nuclear supremacy in maybe 1952 and smashed Soviet communism for good; which would have avoided Korea, Vietnam, the Gulag and probably the current bout of terrorism, and may have meant that China would be a democracy or perhaps a constitutional monarchy now.

    And maybe all that effort could have been made to actually make progress, and maybe there would be people living on Mars now. And maybe the whole of Africa and most of Asia wouldn’t be a hellhole.

    But America didn’t, and here we are.

  89. Digging himself in deeper, Fletcher defends his nuke-em-now comment with

    Sure. And who makes the decision to use Pakistan’s and Iran’s nukes, when the city where they live is a glowing, smoking hole and the leaders that would make the decision are a small part of a cloud of smoke?

    You don’t think they Iranians and Pakistanis have, like just maybe, thought of that? And, like maybe, they have hardened sites equipped to retaliate on short notice? You think they’ll all stand around waiting for the now-dead Maximum Ayatollah to give the order?

    Look, in 24 or Goldfinger the gaping plot holes don’t really matter, Dying in World of Warcraft, no biggie, wait a few minutes and you resurrect.

    But we’re not playing a game.

  90. Fletcher, maybe you are right and maybe on the other hand incinerating millions of Russians would have made enemies of the rest of the known world and incited even more hostility against the US. There are a lot of what ifs.

    As far as WW2- it lasted us 5 years compared to 50 years of Cold War. Regardless, dollars and cents are meaningless compared to lives. Its easy to say in retrospect that maybe we should have asked our victories GIs to go ahead and take on a victorious Red Army across the remains of Europe, but at the time the idea was ludicrious to everyone short of Patton. As it should have been.

    Any way you look at it, world wars are something to generally be avoided, if it can be done. Heading them off early with a strong and involved US seems vastly preferable to waiting until they strike us where we cant ignore.

  91. Thanks, all, for the various viewpoints.

    It is interesting how the Germans, Japanese, and American Southerners, all miscalculated and thus brought profound misery to so many. It might have been better for all concerned if we had presented a more monolithic and menacing face to them. But we are a fractious, unruly, democratic bunch. It may be our fate to be underestimated, but there are worse fates.

    points out that the US had 41.7% of the global war making capacity in 1937, with Germany in second place at 14.4% and Japan a very weak 3.5%. It seems that only a fanatical belief in their superiority of will could have induced the Japanese to attack. Not germane, but he also argues that we could have lost at Midway and still won handily.

    Also this – Furthermore, the United States was more than willing to utilize American women in the war effort: a tremendous advantage for us, and a concept which the Axis Powers seem not to have grasped until very late in the conflict. As an aside, I wonder if the Islamists will ever buy a clue.

    While I am stuck on will (NPI ;-), I bought a copy of Chris Wallace’s book: Profiles in Presidential Courage and skimmed it before giving it to my very liberal aunt as a present. I will get it back soon to read, but anyway, I think Chris Wallace is on to something with this – “The Presidency is not and exercise in intellect or ideology. It is a test of will and purpose.” Because of this, I still hold on to hope regarding President Bush. He is stuck on stubborn.

    Another twist on will – The best I can make of Murtha is to hope that this is, in effect, if not in essence, an American Kabuki that will scare the crap out of the Iraqi fence sitters and put resolve into their government. And I pray that we don’t screw the Kurds, because over time they may help us turn the Middle East.

    Andrew, I don’t get the “tithing the Minotaur” reference. If the lesson you refer to is we shouldn’t have occupied Iraq, how does this inform us on how to proceed now?

    Anyway, I think we should rethink our American Empire. Even if we have the will, I hate giving the Europeans a free ride.

  92. Continuation, this got eaten somehow…

    “This maven”:http://www.combinedfleet.com/economic.htm
    points out that the US had 41.7% of the global war making capacity in 1937, with Germany in second place at 14.4% and Japan a very weak 3.5%. It seems that only a fanatical belief in their superiority of will could have induced the Japanese to attack. Not germane, but he also argues that we could have lost at Midway and still won handily.

    Also this – Furthermore, the United States was more than willing to utilize American women in the war effort: a tremendous advantage for us, and a concept which the Axis Powers seem not to have grasped until very late in the conflict. As an aside, I wonder if the Islamists will ever buy a clue.

    While I am stuck on will (NPI ;-), I bought a copy of Chris Wallace’s book: Profiles in Presidential Courage and skimmed it before giving it to my very liberal aunt as a present. I will get it back soon to read, but anyway, I think Chris Wallace is on to something with this – “The Presidency is not and exercise in intellect or ideology. It is a test of will and purpose.” Because of this, I still hold on to hope regarding President Bush. He is stuck on stubborn.

    Another twist on will – The best I can make of Murtha is to hope that this is, in effect, if not in essence, an American Kabuki that will scare the crap out of the Iraqi fence sitters and put resolve into their government. And I pray that we don’t screw the Kurds, because over time they may help us turn the Middle East.

    Andrew, I don’t get the “tithing the Minotaur” reference. If the lesson you refer to is we shouldn’t have occupied Iraq, how does this inform us on how to proceed now?

    Anyway, I wish we would rethink our American Empire. I hate giving the Europeans a free ride.

  93. jdwill, check out the book by Bernard Lewis called “What Went Wrong? The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East.” Its an outstanding primer on Muslim mentality and how it works for and against them culturally. One of the big issues addressed is their unwillingness to countenance the equality of women.

    Lewis argues Islam as a religion of law, not lawmakers (such as Christianity and Judaism), and if God’s Law dictates (quite specifically in the Quo’ran) how women are to be subserviant, it is simply unthinkable that society could be perverted into doing otherwise. No authority can argue otherwise, nor certainly ammend laws handed down perfectly from God to his Prophet. Its a major conundrum, even in the face of badly losing the ‘civilization’ race as Arabs at least certainly have to date.

    “link”:http://www.amazon.com/What-Went-Wrong-Between-Modernity/dp/0060516054

  94. #101 Mark,

    That one is on my to-read list. Is it the same as What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response? Is this a rerelease?

    I have watched the C-Span booknotes on this one.
    http://www.c-span.org/classroom/booknotes/lewis.asp

    I the meantime, what am I to make of this?

    “Review of Bernard Lewis’ What Went Wrong”:http://www.juancole.com/essays/revlew.htm

    Bernard Lewis’s What Went Wrong? is a very bad book from a usually very good author.

  95. jdwill, As is probably pretty obvious already, I was against the Iraq War from the start. The “Minotaur” reference is wrapped up with the “will” argument: that as long as we have the will (stubborness; stupidity) to leave our troops in Baghdad and accept the casualties, then we aren’t “losing”, no matter what sort of carnage befalls Iraqis, nor what sort of repercussions our presence has elsewhere in the world. It’s my opinion that the President holds this view. He’s made it quite clear that leaving is losing (although his VP is trying to explain why for British troops leaving is winning), and lack of tangible progress is just a success that hasn’t happened yet (as the Administration literally said about capturing Osama).

    You can’t unbreak eggs, but if you want an off-the-cuff suggestion of what we could do, we could redeploy a lot of those troops to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and try to salvage a situation that isn’t yet so desperate. For one thing, although our inattention has allowed Al Qaeda to regroup on its home turf, at least we haven’t built up the resentment through so many civilian deaths, and we have a clear preference insofar as this is an Afghan civil war.

  96. #103 Andrew,

    It seems to me that “tithing the Minotaur” is quite similar to “paying the Danegeld”. It further seems that this is quite the opposite of what support for continued operations in Iraq entails. If we paid off someone to avoid conflict in Iraq, then the phrase would fit better.

    BTW If you follow the C-Span link above and listen to Bernard Lewis on Sunday, Dec 30, 2001, about 3/4 of the way in, he clearly sets out two alternatives: Get Out or Get Tough. For Get Out, he expands that he means get off oil and leave the Middle East to its own devices. Get Tough is explained to mean addressing the regimes (multiple) that are supporting terrorism and holding back modernity.

    Wouldn’t leaving Iraq while attempting to intensify the effort in Afghanistan be a partial retreat, and further, a mixture of the two strategies? Wouldn’t this be conflicted?

  97. AJL,

    Free advice, worth what you pay for it: if carnage befalling Iraqis is a serious concern of yours, then advocating withdrawal is probably not a wise strategy.

    That said, it’s pretty clear that getting out is losing. I think it also clear that merely staying does not guarantee victory. Whether staying can lead to winning is, of course, the topic under discussion.

    On the subject of will, I have repeatedly emphasized the necessity that the US be feared by terror-sponsoring regimes. Demonstrations of will, and yes, toughness, are more likely to lead to fear in the right quarters than constant wavering in the face of casualties.

    I wish you would address that aspect of will. It is clear that will alone cannot lead to victory. But a lack of will can easily lead to defeat on a much larger scale than we currently contempte. Weakness invites contempt and attack. Do you disagree?

  98. _”You can’t unbreak eggs, but if you want an off-the-cuff suggestion of what we could do, we could redeploy a lot of those troops to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and try to salvage a situation that isn’t yet so desperate”_

    If we cant fight an insurgency in Iraq what in gods name makes you think dropping a huge footprint into some of the most forbidding terrain on earth, where we dont have even the limited tolerance we have in Iraq, have an impossible supply line to maitain, more limited air power, and a bunch of jihadis flush with driving us out of Iraq to contend with is going to work? This idea smacks of contrarianism, not to mention unsound strategic sense. I Bush announced exactly this plan Andrew, would you really back him on it?

  99. Not saying I agree with the book (never read or even heard the guy speak that I know of) BUT he does have a point. The Islamic Radicals don’t call US Big Satan for no reason.

    I would say Hollywood does show the US in a bad light after all according to hollywood movies we are all either hores, gays, murderers, corrupt cops, all round criminals of one kind of another.

    However even taking this as true I don’t believe the Islamic Radicals would not hate US or come up with another reason to hate US. I don’t buy the Radicals excuse of religious purity as there main motivation, I think it is a mere means to their ends which is world domination by the Arabs no different that the Spanish/Portugese use of Chotholic religion as a excuse to conquer/spread the word to the heathens/foreigners.

    The Radicals do use our culture as shown by hollywood as propoganda to rally the troops.

  100. Andrew:

    All the more reason to teach the Iranians a permanent lesson now, while we still can.

    For that matter, same for the Pakistanis; nowhere have I seen any evidence that they have any sort of delivery system that will reach any Western country (yet), and the country is sliding slowly deeper into fundamentalist insanity.

    The Taliban with ICBMs; what a lovely prospect. The Soviet dictators, while just as unpleasant as the Islamic ones, were at least sane, and cared whether they themselves and their people lived or died. Neither applies to the current enemy, and the second Cold War won’t stay cold for long.

    In any case, the world doesn’t have another fifty years to waste. There are serious problems that require thought, scientific and engineering talent, and serious investment; spending a hundred billion dollars per year on containing the Islamic plague will stop all of that.

    They want to see God. Fine. Let’s show them the fires of hell.

  101. AJL: _we could redeploy a lot of those troops to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border_

    Could you be clearer? Would these troops be in Pakistan or Afghanistan or both?

  102. _Wouldn’t leaving Iraq while attempting to intensify the effort in Afghanistan be a partial retreat, and further, a mixture of the two strategies? Wouldn’t this be conflicted?_

    There are a number of rather hawkish individuals who frequent this site who support some sort of reduction in the intensity of the Iraq theatre accompanied by intensification elsewhere. One of the questions I would have is whether much of anything more can be accomplished in Afghanistan without crossing the border into Pakistan. If it can’t be and if there is not the will to broaden the war into Pakistan, then it would appear to be a theatric move.

  103. We could mine the mountain passes, but we wont.

    50,000 troops cant do what 5,000 can in that region. 5,000 troops speared by special forces and filled out by light quick reaction types could build a series of forts and interdict the mountain passes. This couldnt stop incursion but it could make it much more hazardous for the enemy. Furthermore it would bring the Taliban out to fight, and confine their efforts to the mountains instead of the plains where they can disperse and strike where we arent.

  104. They’d be on top of a mountain range, making sure no terrorists cross the border (except those smart enough to use the caves and tunnel systems that go under the border). Because we’re so good at closing down borders, aren’t we?

    Helluva strategy, that one. AJL, if you were Pres, people like you would be crucifying your intellect.

  105. “_Because we’re so good at closing down borders, aren’t we?”_

    I’d suggest its because we never try very hard.

  106. OK, I’ll ask a dumb question. If resources are thin, why not bail in Afghanistan and reinforce in Iraq? Don’t we gain more by stabilizing a more central and arguably less backward region in the ME? And don’t we gain more by supporting the Kurds, who seem to be the most ready to make a go of modernity?

  107. Exactly, jdwill, you’re absolutely correct, but because 9/11 was orchestrated from Afghanistan, meaning geographically that’s where OBL was sitting in a cave at the time, logically it follows that we have NO RIGHT to conduct military operations anywhere else on the planet. Regardless of AQ’s lack of ties to any nation-state or geographic location, Bush’s detractors will forever oppose the war in Iraq (or anywhere else for that matter) but will (reluctantly) support a war in Afghanistan because of its (however indirect) ties to 9/11, regardless of whether or not AQ or OBL is physically operating there.

  108. Projection Alert.

    The Taliban with ICBMs; what a lovely prospect. The Soviet dictators, while just as unpleasant as the Islamic ones, were at least sane, and cared whether they themselves and their people lived or died. Neither applies to the current enemy, and the second Cold War won’t stay cold for long.

    Hey, Fletch, if the Iranian mullahs are so insane as to order a nuclear first strike, what does that say about you, since you also want a nuclear first strike?

    Oh.

    Replies to sane posters, next comment.

  109. jdwill 104, remember the Minotaur was paid in lives and not in coin. That’s the difference from the Danegeld. As for Lewis, I, like Juan Cole, am not really sure why he’s gone for popularized oversimplification. I’d suggest we get smart.

    Rob Lyman 105, Frankly, at this point, I don’t think the presence of US troops in Iraq will affect the internecine carnage much one way or another. And we have the problem that none of the factions (outside the Kurdish area, which is a separate issue) has any long-term affection for the United States. We have the pro-Baath Sunnis and the pro-Iran Shias. Yummy. For will: let’s stop getting things inside out. I suppose in North Korea, will is created by lifelong indoctrination, but in most of the rest of the world (and especially the democracies), confidence comes from success, not from ignorance. (Just today, the First Lady babbled about the media over-emphasizing the one bombing a day in Iraq. Well, there’s a lot more than one bombing a day in Iraq, so the question is whether Laura Bush is an ignorant fool, or she’s hoping she addresses a nation of ignorant fools.) What killed American will to fight in Iraq was, plain and simple, the twin recognition that the expedition had nothing to do with 9/11 and that the war leadership was incompetent, mendacious, and perhaps demented in its visions of success. Mission Accomplished. Last Throes. Ooops. We need Plus Up.

    All you critics of sending the troops to Afghanistan: OK, fine, let them come home for some R and R. I’m not like former frequent WoC poster [name deleted out of courtesy] who explained our order of battle for the 2003/4 invasion of Iran based on his extensive wargaming experience (which compensated for complete absence of real-life military experience). Tony Blair must think more troops in Afghanistan can do something, because he’s sending some there.

  110. I’m not a critic of sending more troops to Afghanistan, I just want to know what they would do. If they are simply there because crictics of the administration believe that the Iraq war is illegitimate and the Afghanistan war is legitimate, that suggests no strategic thinking.

    BTW/ “Henry Kissinger and JFK used to wargame.”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diplomacy_(board_game)

  111. BTW/ Henry Kissinger and JFK used to wargame.(board_game)

    So did I. But I wouldn’t claim to real-world expertise, not even for my buddies Jack and Dan who were much better. (Jack was trying to avoid the draft by gaining weight, and Dan by losing it, so their skills would not have been available to the Pentagon in any case.)

  112. AJL,

    What I keep getting at (and you keep avoiding) is not actual American will, or what the American public thinks or why they think it.

    It’s what our enemies think.

    If they know our will can be broken easily, they will be emboldened. Leaving Iraq now demonstrates that it can be broken easily. Or rather, confirms it; we have a well-deserved reputation for a weak will. Reversing that reputation would be a great benefit security-wise because it would make our future threats credible.

  113. Rob, we would do better by influencing what our enemies think by intelligent application of our forces than by wading further into the Big Muddy. Our enemies in Iraq, and probably elsewhere, know very well how many bombs they set off every day. It’s only Laura Bush who doesn’t know. Their plan, one might guess, was to lure the United States into a situation in which all remaining choices are bad. The Iranians are emboldened because in all likelihood the best remaining possibility for the USA, indeed the one we seem to be aiming for with all our will, is a pro-Iranian repressive government in Baghdad. Mullah wet dream.

    I guess it’s a tradeoff between our reputation for will vs our reputation for stupidity. For myself, being stupid is worse.

    Marshal Bosquet said of the Charge of the Light Brigade, “C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre.” That’s will for you.

  114. AJL,

    Thank you for that response. I agree that appearing smart is good. I do not share your apparent belief that Iran will look at withdrawal from Iraq as such a brilliant move that they will come to fear our strategic acumen. More likely they’ll laugh at our weakness and gloat at their victory; how many men did they lose in an utterly pointless war with Iraq again? How many jihadis have died in Iraq?

    Ho Chi Minh said he would beat us even if the casualties were 10:1, because his people believed. Will won out there, didn’t it? I don’t know the kill ratios in Korea, but given the Chinese were known for something called the “human wave,” my guess would be that raw numbers didn’t drive the negotiations. And the kill ratio was better for us than ever before in Somalia, and will won out again. Iraq will be yet another example of will beating superior force. You say will alone didn’t benefit Imperial Japan, which is true–but only because we had a corresponding will to carry it through. Since that time, will alone has beaten the US again and again in winnable wars.

    My son is just over 2. I always follow through on my promises and threats. He needs to know that I mean what I say, and he needs to learn that a man keeps his word.

    The US neither keeps its promises to friends nor backs up its threats to enemies. That is a very bad thing, and you seem loath to admit it.

  115. Here’s a shorter take on smart vs. will:

    Which is better:

    Watch out for the US, they always achieve their strategic objectives!

    Or

    Watch out for the US, they kick the crap out of people they don’t like!

    I agree it is better to be the guy who achieves his objectives than the one who simply to kicks the crap out of others. But being known as one who kicks the crap out of others is very useful in achieving one’s objectives.

    Better, at any rate, than being know as the one who could kick the crap out of others, but chooses not to because it fears much weaker opponents.

  116. Rob, certain of our threats are empty. Now, we said we would take out Saddam, and we did. Certain of our officials pretended to ourselves we were going to establish a pro-American, pro-Israeli regime in Baghdad, and that’s pie in the sky. Leaving Iraq, we also said that we wanted Osama bin Laden dead or alive. How’s that working out? Indeed, President Bush rewrote history on that one all by hisself.

    Bush’s priorities have always been skewed. Just months after declaring he wanted bin Laden “dead or alive,” Bush said, “I truly am not that concerned about him.” Turning his attention away from bin Laden, Bush trained his focus on Iraq — a country he now admits had “nothing” to do with 9/11.

    I know you aren’t going to tell me that liberals were responsible for this volte face; our influence on Bush has always been negligible, and in 2002 it was zero. With respect to will, I believe that the word I have emphasized in

    Since that time, will alone has beaten the US again and again in winnable wars.

    is known technically as petitio principii.

  117. Andrew:

    What it says about me is that I am not an adherent of a religion that has been killing people in the name of faith, and with the sanction of its prophet and its most holy book, for thirteen hundred years, and continues to do it now, and will never give up until either it is dead or the rest of humanity is either dead or converted.

    Some people seem to think we have more choice than we actually do. I think that there is little doubt about what will happen when (not if) the first nuke goes off in the West. You seem to think that it is acceptable for a million or so Americans (or Brits – we are the Little Satan) to die to make the rest feel better about it.

    The choice is not what some people think. It’s a choice between a pre-emptive strike and a retaliatory one.

  118. Rob, certain of our threats are empty.

    1) This is true
    2) Everyone knows its true
    3) That is very bad for our security.

    Partly, blame Bush for making threats he can’t or won’t follow through on. Partly, blame 50 years of the US failing to follow through. I want to change it. Do you?

    Are you saying it was impossible, militarily, to defeat North Vietnam? Even after the Viet Cong were dismantled and we faced only conventional tank and infantry divisions?

    Was it militarily impossible to capture or kill Aidid? Really? Killing a thousand of his men to 18 of ours, and it was utterly, totally impossible for us to get to him?

    Korea is more debatable, I’ll grant. Not sure if we could have done much in Beruit other than level it, but we didn’t really try so who knows?.

    I’m no historian, but you’ll have to do more than simply say “You’re assuming those wars were winnable.” From where I sit, that’s a reasonable assesment.

    There is no price to defying the US and killing its soldiers. There is a minimal benefit to being an ally, given that we have a tendency to abandon them.

    As I said before: the US. No better enemy, no worse friend. Why are you so cheefully insouciant about that?

  119. #122:
    “we would do better by influencing what our enemies think by intelligent application of our forces”

    You are the second person in this thread to assert that we should be doing something more intelligent. I agree. What is that more intelligent course of action?

    Let’s assume arguendo that the decision to invade Iraq was a bad one. Invading Iraq was a bad idea, you were right all along, we should have listened to you. But we didn’t and as you’ve observed, we can’t unbreak that egg. We have to live with that decision and make the best out of the current situation.

    So how does withdrawing forces from the center of the Middle East to anywhere else improve our position against our enemies? How does abandoning an active battlefield to our enemies improve our position against our enemies? Given your demonstrated prescience, I’m willing to be convinced that there’s a scenario that makes that option make sense, but I can’t see it.

  120. Frankly, at this point, I don’t think the presence of US troops in Iraq will affect the internecine carnage much one way or another.

    Iraq does not exist in a bubble. Ask yourself what happens when a resource-rich country lacking a strong central government is left to defend itself with insufficient forces?

    Well, there’s a lot more than one bombing a day in Iraq, so the question is whether Laura Bush is an ignorant fool, or she’s hoping she addresses a nation of ignorant fools.

    Well, there were at least two that day, but on average, there have been 1 to 2 bombings per day for some time now. Some days there are none, and you can’t expect that a bombing would go unreported by the media (gasp!), so you know no bombings in the news = no bombings, period. This is corroborated by family members I’ve personally spoken to who are currently stationed in Baghdad. So I must take issue with your using the phrase “a lot more” to describe the difference between “1” and “0 to 2″. It begs the question, are you an ignorant fool, or are you hoping you’re addressing an audience of ignorant fools?

    I guess it’s a tradeoff between our reputation for will vs our reputation for stupidity. For myself, being stupid is worse.

    Are you intelligent enough to recognize the paradox?

    Leaving Iraq, we also said that we wanted Osama bin Laden dead or alive. How’s that working out? Indeed, President Bush rewrote history on that one all by hisself.

    I love the whole “OBL dead or alive” comment. Like a lot of your judgments, I’ve noticed, this one seems clouded by an emotional, let’s call it “distaste” for the President / administration. It’s impossible to objectively analyze policy when your thoughts are tainted with irrational, opinionated hatred. You’re far from alone in that predicament, but I wonder if people such as yourself have hated Bush from day one or if your resentment comes from your (false) belief that you were lied to about Iraq. Regardless, it’s very simple to see for those who see clearly that “OBL dead or alive” was a comment made referencing the strategy of the time, namely, cut the head off the snake and the snake dies. Down the road, it became apparent that operations in Afghanistan, coordinated with steps to restrict AQ’s finances, had effectively accomplished the same objective and rendered the caputuring of bin Laden, himself, a largely symbolic and unnecessary gesture. Strategically it accomplishes nothing. So continuing to obsess over one ineffectual man hiding in a cave unnecessarily funnels resources down a bottomless pit while giving the enemy a recruiting tool for as long as he remains at large. A rational man would applaud Bush for recognizing that fact and adjusting policy. Unfortunately, you’ve rendered yourself incapable of sound judgment when it comes to analyzing our President.

  121. Jack,

    So I must take issue with your using the phrase “a lot more” to describe the difference between “1” and “0 to 2″. It begs the question, are you an ignorant fool, or are you hoping you’re addressing an audience of ignorant fools?

    The Brookings Report has an average of over one multiple-fatality bombing a day. There aren’t even statistics (that I can find) on bombs that kill two or fewer, or are defused. Last month 549 people died just in these multiple-fatality bombings. December 2006 was the deadliest month yet for IED attacks, whose numbers grow (and are separate from the Brookings “bombing” numbers AFAICT). Laura Bush’s remarks go in the long list of “last throes” over-confidence that distinguished this Administration.

    As far as the Dead or Alive part of it, that’a a nice excuse slash talking point for our failure to capture bin Laden. Once Bush made that dead-or-alive remark, stupid as it might have been, we should have realized that failing to catch bin Laden also had symbolic value: namely that George Bush is talks wolf.

  122. AJL,

    How is an average of over one bombing per day NOT between 0 and 2? Furthermore, why are you now attempting to change the focus of your argument from disputing the number of bombs per day to the number of fatalities per day? It’s because you’re wrong, and now you want to cloud the discussion with a pathetic attempt to hide from your original statement. Why should we include bombs that are defused in the discussion? If five bombs a day were being diffused and none were going off, would you call Laura Bush ignorant for saying there aren’t any bombs going off? Oh wait, that must be more hocus pocus to distract from how wrong you are.

    namely that George Bush is talks wolf.

    Holy shit. You are the guy questioning the intelligence of others, are you not?

  123. So from where came “Western women are sluts”?

    Dinesh is right and wrong. I am surprised by this Armed Liberal reaction.

    The thing that most irritates Islamics is that: Western Culture. Not the US Gov. , Bush, Republicans, Democrats, Bill Clinton… Since Media fancy expose the most outrageous beahvior :Feminism; Divorce etc it makes the things even more scarier for any pious Islamic, since is with that preception they build.
    Where Dinesh is wrong is that we somehow need to change all of that because we are offending Islam.

  124. Andrew J. Lazarus, what is the connection between the Iraq attacks and “Goodbye to Girlhood”? However.. you are right ..
    Bush should stop with the war non-sense..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>