Chernobyl: Incredible, Heartbreaking, Humane

Go click here immediately to see the website of a Russian motorcyclist who regularly travels through and photographs the Chernobyl ‘Dead Zone’.

Her writing is first-rate (I’ll excuse her English) and her photographs have so much emotional impact that I’m going to spend the rest of the week thinking about them.

Note that this isn’t some ‘Soviets Bad’ or Atomic Energy Bad’ site; she’s just sifting through the detritus of a tragedy, and because so few can (I assume she has some kind of special access from her comments) it is preserved. She makes the analogy to Pompeii, and it’s a good one.

39 thoughts on “Chernobyl: Incredible, Heartbreaking, Humane”

  1. She is one way cool lady: smart, humane, brave – and she photographs well too.

    I imagine that a few of the folks in your bike club will be entertaining “beautiful Russian scientist on a Kawasaki Ninja” fantasies shortly…

  2. Extremely powerful presentation. I hope this gets a good look from a lot of people. Do you an email for her??

  3. Her site has been up for 6 months or so. The first version was a bit shorter. The new one is even more heartrending.

    Somewhere about the middle, she writes, under a photo of the ruins of an amusement park near the reactor:

    it is last day of Pompei sort of place.

    It would make a great documentary. Just use the still images, pan around them, go through the abandoned houses, the kindergarten, the leftovers of Communist slogans, the mail never picked up….

    Get Elena to narrate, or somebody with a good Russian accent.

  4. What a journey. I read a number of post-disaster SF novels when I was younger. Earth Abides by Stewart comes to mind. As does Wasteland (the PC game). I’ve only seen such images in my mind before. Thanks so much for the link.

  5. Deneris,

    That’s why she carries the dosimeter, to measure the level of radiation wherever she goes. Monitoring those levels over time is useful scientific data, and the accompanying photos make for great historical data.

  6. Reading the last couple entries combined with this one has put a horrible preminition in my head. Is there any real hope that a nuclear weapon isnt going to be detonated in an American or European city at some point in the vague future? Seriously, what are the odds? At what will the response be? Even a president Dean or Kerry surely couldnt stand by for such a thing. Would the response be the ‘grand tour’ that a lot of people speculate? The wiping out of every unfriendly or even marginally unfriendly regime? Even the entire Muslim world? Or would the ‘lesser response’ of just wiping out Tehran and Islamabad be enough? Seeing these pictures just really drove it home for me. Have we dodged certain ruin in the cold war just to see a slightly lesser nightmare overtake us in this century?

  7. Mark – Somber thoughts.

    I have hope that there won’t be another city annihilated by a nuclear weapon, at least not for a generation or so.

    Sadly, we’re on a slippery slope and the existing policy of nonproliferation simply won’t hold up much longer than that. We’re talking about a technology that the most advanced nations mastered in the 1940’s and perfected in the 1980’s.

    Right now, pretty much any nation could, with enough money, build weapons equivalent to those of 1950: the techniques are well published and the equipment isn’t too complex. Advanced nations can put miniature weapons in artillery shells.

    Given that technological advancement shows no signs of slowing, it’s only a matter of time before every nation on the planet has the ability to produce nuclear weapons at whim. I would guess that at least 40 nations will have nukes by 2020, everyone by 2050.

    It’s time, NOW, to abandon the fiction of “nonproliferation” and start developing policy to deal with a world where nuclear weapons are commonplace. If we wait until the problem is imminent, it will be way too late, because this is a policy question of significant complexity.

  8. 1. If the terrorists get a weapon they we use it.

    2. They will get a weapon.

    therefore,
    3. Weapon will be used.

    This is the main reason for the preemption policy. Some people think it’s worth it to trade Manhattan for the niceties of 17th century rules of warfare. I don’t.

  9. It is instructive to note that Hiroshima and Nagasaki are now rebuilt and full of life, whereas this land is unihabitable for 900 years.

    I guess this just goes to show how much more effective a dirty bomb would be than simply a nuclear bomb for the purpose of terrorism.

    Something to think about.

    Joel

  10. therefore, 3. Weapon will be used.
    This is the main reason for the preemption policy.

    The assumption connection here is IMHO deeply fallacious and I’m extremely tired of hawks simply dismissing challenges to it. I’m sorry if this is leading OT.

    Agreeing with lurker’s point 3, It seems our goals should be to (A) make it difficult for terrorists to use those weapons, i.e. security and (B) reduce the numbers and/or motivation of terrorists.

    The disagreement is whether “preemption” will in fact successfully accomplish goal (B). I believe it will ultimately make the situation worse and I think historical evidence and simple human nature (the desire to “strike back”) supports my position.

    If I’m proven wrong by a reduction of terrorist recruiting in the post-Iraq mideast three or five years from now I’ll admit it. If Islamist blood boils and we see an increase in terrorism over the next few years, will the preemption hawks admit the failure of the doctrine? Seems unlikely.

    Another irresistable force within of human nature is the ability to rationalize one’s emotional responses.

    Some people think it’s worth it to trade Manhattan for the niceties of 17th century rules of warfare.

    If you think I or any liberal is willing to trade New York for some arbitrary set of rules you’re an idiot. I oppose preemptive war precisely because history shows that rationalized neanderthalism masquerading as a “preemptive war strategy” will get New York nuked sooner rather than later.

    The general failure of retributional or preemptive (as opposed to defensive) warfare to achieve its goals has been discussed and written about for millennia and is more than relevant today. If you stop short of total subjugation of your enemy you generally get a cycle of violence instead. Ask the Israelis and Palestinians.

    Israel killed (comparatively) moderate Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin last week and got ultra-violent hardliner Abdelaziz Rantissi as a replacement. Good one. I’m sure things will be better now.

    You want more examples? History provides a thousand. Point: Al-Qaeda activity in Iraq is now at least an order of magnitude greater than pre-war.

    Of course, these lessons don’t apply to the mighty USA. Because of course we’re right. The Palestinians may be rationalizing their desire to strike back, but never us.

    In over a year of debating this issue on blogs, I have yet to see a single pro-preemption hawk give an argument with historical evidence contradicting the cycle of violence theory. There’s just this grand assumption that “we must get them before they get us” with barely a scrap of debate as to whether this will actually help.

    Given the inevitability of weapons, I’d argue we have to start actually looking at the reasons and causes behind anti-American sentiment and the rise of Islamist fascism and terrorism and addressing those. Otherwise, New York is doomed.

  11. IdahoEv,

    Historic examples of the end to the cycle of violence:
    U.S. vs. Great Britian, American Revolution
    U.S. vs. Mexico, Mexican War
    U.S. vs. CSA, U.S. Civil War
    U.S. vs. Japan, WW2.
    U.S. vs. Germany WW2.
    U.S. vs. N. Korea, Korean War (see far so good)

    Falicies in your argument:
    1. It’s only your oponents who get emotional.

    2. The terrorists in Iraq are newly created instead of being reassigned from other Jihadi activities.

    3. We can’t fight back against terrorists, because it will just make them mad.

    4. We can’t fight back against terrorist, because it will just make more terrorists.

    5. The cycle of violence can only be broken by total subjugation. Please list which of the above coutries is being subjugated be the US.

    and the grand finale,

    6. It’s always America’s fault. Terrorists have no free will or morals and just react to what we do, like a baseball through a window. Gosh! If that Uncle Sam were only a better pitcher, his window wouldn’t be broken! To bad for him. I told him I was going to hit that ball. Sure hope he learnt his lesson. He should take his ball and stay home.

  12. “Israel killed (comparatively) moderate Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin last week”

    (comparatively) moderate ?

    You just lost all your credibility. I didn’t read the rest.

  13. “In over a year of debating this issue on blogs, I have yet to see a single pro-preemption hawk give an argument with historical evidence contradicting the cycle of violence theory”

    To the contrary, ive seen precious little evidence for the cycle of violence theory that didnt contradict itself, vis a vis the Israeli-Palestinian situation. That situation exists precisely because Israel has refused to decisively act against the terrorists. I quick clean, brutal war is almost always less painful and bloody than a drawn out stalemate of negotiate. See the Korean War. A decisive victory generally placates an enemy, it is hope that keeps battles alive. You must wrest hope from your enemy above all. Along that line, weakness and perceived weakness does the same thing. Our weak reactions to the embassy bombings, the Cole, and Somalia undoubtedly, indeed demonstrably, led to 911. Had we reacted decisively and waged a more proactive military campaign against Al Qaeda at any of those junctures, would you argue we would be creating more terrorist enemies? Are there more or less enemies in Afghanistan now than in 2000? I think there is ample evidence that allowing your enemy the space, time, and resources to grow strong and choose his moment to strike is an order of magnitude more dangerous and foolhardy than challenging him while you are strong and prepared to crush him.

  14. Idaho:

    At least you try and present the liberal view with a seemingly reasonable argument and I applaud your effort. Thank goodness you just didn’t descend into “Bush is evil” diatribe. However I do disagree with you and will cite the above post countering your positions so I will not rehash his counterpoints as I find them a good start.

    But I will add that the stakes are simply too high now. If a terrorist organization obtains 1-2 or (God forbid) 9-10 dirty nukes, you can kiss most (or part – either way its not an option yes?) of inhabitable America goodbye. Even you can see this.

    If they have nukes, they will use them and WITHOUT THINKING. Do not take my word for it, research it for yourself and listen to the Islamic militant message: They do not want negotiations, they want us eliminated as a culture.

    Once you understand this revelation, you will understand our stances on the subject. It is you that must come to terms with what is happening in this world as far as Islam is concerned.

    The mistake the liberal left is making with (Islamic) terrorism is that you all think in terms of “classic” terrorism i.e – IRA, etc. You think they can be dealt with politically.

    Is it any wonder that the “classic” terrorists have been in a STANDDOWN mode since 9/11??

    Think about that one. The answer is simple: They will not have any political effectiveness at all in this new age of terrorism. The ironic thing about 9/11 is that it put most home-grown political terrorists out of business.

    Well let me just end this by saying the Islamic militants would like nothing better than for you to THINK that they have political goals in mind. For if it makes it easier for them to subvert and divide us and ultimately strike us, well than that is ok by them.

    In fact is a major bonus for them.

    So before you spread more of your 20th century diatribe, chew on that thought for a while and do some serious research on the subject(s) before your come in here with your broken-record arguments of appeasement and unsupportive main-stream linberal theories.

    Peace through strength is the only “win-win” in this war. You need to go back to school. No, wait. Actually that is where you probably learned your old time dangerous liberal thinking.

    May the blogoshere set you free. When you actually READ the blogosphere, please do learn to OPEN YOUR MIND and at least put yourself in the “other shoe” on the issues. There is no danger in that. If then you still come to your ill-begotten conclusions, at least try and back up your stances with better facts for the sake of .

  15. Idaho:

    Another thing:

    Militant Islam is akin to a DEATH CULT. These people have ABSOLUTELY no fear of dying.

    If you can agree to that, then you can see the simple logic that DETERRENCE only works when the other side is afraid of death. There is no point of negotioations. Look at the state of Hamas. Read this instructive piece:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/rose/rose200403290903.asp

    That piece answers many of your questions/positions/arguments from our point of view.

    Read it and if you think it is TOTAL BUNK then I challenge you to come back and explain exactly WHY its total bunk using SUPPORTIVE FACTS and not emotional arguments.

  16. Idaho-

    You’ve picked a tough audience to sell that message to.

    I agree with much of what you have said. I have no problem with preemptive strikes (eg Israel in 1967) but the problems with preventive strikes (ie those that strike targets that ‘might’ become a threat) are obvious.

    If military force is the only tool in the box, or if the other tools are used too little, the conflict will be more dangerous and more prolonged than it need be.

    The odds of you or I convincing Dan et. al. that more than retribution is required is about the same as Dan convincing us that peace through strength is _the_ answer.

    No one, I suspect, seriously supports a Carthaginian solution – at least not with the mask of internet anonymity removed. Not even Lurker.

  17. Well, at least I’ve got someone engaged in debate on the point.

    Let’s look at your examples. Not for a minute have I ever claimed that all military action fails to produce the desired result … my argument is against preventative action. That in mind, let’s look at your examples:

    U.S. vs. Japan, WW2. U.S. vs. Germany WW2.
    U.S. vs. N. Korea, Korean War U.S. vs. Mexico, Mexican War

    The US and allies were defending themselves against an aggressor bent on actually conquering (as in territoral subjugation) one or more of the allies. (The legally independant Republic of Texas voted democratically to join the U.S. When the US consented several years later, Mexico declared war and invaded the US on several fronts.) They do not apply. You have an army breathing down your neck or rolling over border (or an ally’s), you defend yourself, hence my caveat about defensive action in the original post. You might be surprised to learn that I did and do support the action taken in Gulf War I.

    The Mexico situation is sketchier in terms of “defense” than the others, but still totally nonapplicable to “preemptive doctrine”.

    U.S. vs. Great Britian, American Revolution

    I should have included a caveat for wars of independence, which are frequently successful because the parent state comes to the conclusion that the cost of keeping the independence-minded region exceeds the benefit of controlling it. Again, not particularly applicable to preemption doctrine.

    U.S. vs. CSA, U.S. Civil War

    Again, I don’t see how it’s applicable; the other side of the war of independence, in a sense. But, interestingly … suppose the US had simply allowed the CSA secede without attacking. Would there necessarily have been any violence at all?

    It’s only your oponents who get emotional.

    On the contrary! When I or a loved one gets hurt or killed, I get defensive and am perfectly capable of doing irrational, instinctive things that aren’t actually in my best interest. Recognizing this in myself is the fundamental insight; it gives me some sympathy for the other side. Humans get defensive and irrational, and that includes me. This is exactly why we develop the rule of law.

    The terrorists in Iraq are newly created instead of being reassigned from other Jihadi activities.

    They may well be reassigned. But now they have a strong presence in Iraq from which to recruit disillusioned Iraqi youth.

    Are you prepared to argue that none of the Islamist warriors in Iraq right now are new recruits?

    Even the ex-Iraqi military types purportedly spearheading the convoy bombings, etc. … Just how many Americans were they killing before the war?

    We can’t fight back against terrorists, because it will just make them mad.

    Bogeyman. Your premise here is just a repetition of the original fallacy, that “fight back” = preemptive war, and that “respond to terrorism” necessarily equals “fight back”.

    The fact that your only thought is to fight simply emphasizes your retreat to instinct.

    But a thought experiment: assume that “fighting back” does implicily mean preemption. We can either invade, or keep the status quo. If invading ultimately makes terrorism worse, i.e. gets more Americans killed, isn’t the status quo our better option?

    As the proponent of preemptive doctrine, it’s your job to prove that preemption will reduce terrorism. If you can’t, the status quo is better despite your belligerent instinct.

    We can’t fight back against terrorist, because it will just make more terrorists.

    Repeat bogeyman, see previous argument.

    The cycle of violence can only be broken by total subjugation. Please list which of the above coutries is being subjugated be the US.

    Absolutely. Loosely, all listed examples but N. Korea surrendered militarily and accepted the legal terms of the U.S. Strictly, Japan and Germany were occupied and demilitarized for several decades until time and diplomacy effectively re-won their right to function as independent states again, and the CSA is effectively still subjugated, for over a century now. I’m not arguing that subjugation was wrong in these cases, only that it was in fact the way these wars ended.

    Under what circumstances do you see “terrorists” or “Islamic Jihadis” surrendering and accepting imposed laws? Do you actually support preemptively conquering the entire Islamic world, forcing a surrender, and imposing an occupation and code of laws?

    As for Korea, war forced a detente, but the totalitarian communist regime is still in control of half the country and population and technically the Koreas are still at war. I won’t consider it “successful” until the N. Korean government falls and stops abusing its people. I hope this will happen through diplomatic and (mostly) economic forces, not military.

    It’s always America’s fault. Terrorists have no free will…

    Zzzzzz.

    Of course the primary blame for terrorist actions falls upon the terrorists. Never have I or any other liberal said anything different, and I’m getting sick of those ludicrous words being put in my mouth.

    Suppose we had two possible courses of action. If action A reduces terrorist sentiment and action B increases it, are we really 100% blameless if we choose action B?

    Your baseball analogy is not really analogous, but I do like it. Try this: if there are windows nearby, neither of you should be playing baseball! If you’re both blaming the other one, something’s wrong.

    Rome vs. Carthage, 3rd Punic War.

    Hahahaha. Great example, Lurker…

    If you’re using Carthage as an example supporting the success of military preemption, then maybe the Islamists are right, for chrissake… We said “without subjugation”, remember??

  18. Yehudit sez:

    “Israel killed (comparatively) moderate Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin last week”

    (comparatively) moderate ?

    You just lost all your credibility. I didn’t read the rest.

    Then go back and read the rest. Ahmed Yassin is a terrorist and an evil man, but he nonetheless was the driving factor in suppressing the even harder-line elements within Hamas every time said organization agreed to a cease-fire. Look it up.

    The world isn’t black and white, Yehudit. Please explain to me how Israel is better off with Rantissi in change of Hamas than Yassin.

    Or do you consider the cease-fires a bad thing?

  19. Dan said:

    If they have nukes, they will use them and WITHOUT THINKING. Do not take my word for it, research it for yourself and listen to the Islamic militant message: They do not want negotiations, they want us eliminated as a culture.

    Repeat: this is exactly what I understand. Islamic militants + inevitable nukes = bad shit for the U.S. of A., very very many dead people. Certainly resulting in the subsequent death of even more Islamic people. No kidding.

    Which is why I support policies that I believe will reduce and preferably lead to the ultimate elimination of Islamist militancy or any other form of terrorism.

    What you’ve done is made a lot of arguments about how scary Al-Qaeda is. I grant you every one of those statements, because I agree with them. Please take the next step of convincing me that preemptive war is the most effective of all possible responses in terms of

    Once you understand this revelation, you will understand our stances on the subject.

    Not at all, because you have yet to make an argument in favor of the efficacy of your strategy. I more than understand the necessity of a response. I challenge you to explain, specifically, why this response (preemptive war) is the best one.

    When you actually READ the blogosphere, please do learn to OPEN YOUR MIND and at least put yourself in the “other shoe” on the issues.

    Please. I read, almost every day, the following blogs: Asymmetrical Information, OxBlog, Drezner, RealClear Politics, Tacitus, Volokh Conspiracy, Winds of Change, (skimming Free Republic occasionally) as well as a similar number of liberal sources, plus dozens of newspapers both US and global. On the blogs, I read as many of the comments as I can afford the time for. I read everything with a serious attempt at an open mind, and have in fact changed opinion on some issues by good argumentation and evidence on both sides. I don’t thoughtlessly toe ideological lines, and I carp just as loudly at liberals who haven’t supported their thoughts with sound argumentation.

    The fact that I don’t agree with you does not necessarily make me closed-minded.

  20. Kevin,

    No one, I suspect, seriously supports a Carthaginian solution – at least not with the mask of internet anonymity removed. Not even Lurker.

    Sure, no one does now. But let a few nukes go off in the US or Europe or, heck, even France, and see how fast that would change.

  21. IdahoEv,
    You are the one that brought emotion into this argument with this statement:
    Another irresistible force within of human nature is the ability to rationalize one’s emotional responses.

    I then made this statement:
    1. It’s only your opponents who get emotional.” to point out this ad hominem attack. My emotional state, one way or another, doesn’t affect my argument. Please refute my points with logic or facts, thank you.

    You said:
    Of course the primary blame for terrorist actions falls upon the terrorists. Never have I or any other liberal said anything different, and I’m getting sick of those ludicrous words being put in my mouth.

    And before you said:
    I’d argue we have to start actually looking at the reasons and causes behind anti-American sentiment and the rise of Islamist fascism and terrorism and addressing those.

    Looks like a possible contradiction. What exactly are the root causes of this anti-American terrorism? And how can we make them go away? Do we have to atone for our sins of colonial exploitation an emiseration? Do our women have to never leave the country? What exactly are we supposed to do to appease the terrorists? And who do we bargain with that can enforce any deal on their side?

    Thanks. You have correctly pointed out that most of the examples of the wars that I listed did involve complete subjugation, and I think you have agreed that they are no longer subjugated, and on the most part, live happy prosperous lives. Now, can you please explain why subjugation should be avoided in the war on terror? It seems like it has a proven track record.

    BTW, I mentioned the Third Punic War thing to get an idea of what could happen. It took the Romans three wars to decide on the ‘ultimate’ solution. Can’t we all agree that we do not want to use its 21st century version? The first two Punic wars were half measures. Look where it lead. This is serious. Total subjugation doesn’t look too bad when compared to total annihilation. And yes, the stakes ARE that high.

    And you are wrong if you think that Bush’s policies are all about war. Where have you been hiding. Did we have to invade Libya? Why is Syria now talking to the Australians? Iran can decide to REALLY come clean any time they want. Is rebuilding Iraq and helping to stabilize Afghanistan about military conquest? Do you really think so? At least this plan has components with some history of success, see WW2 and Civil war info above.

    But Dude, your policies seem to amount to nothing but wishful thinking. Several historical examples have been given to buttress my arguments. How many have you presented? Hmmm, zero. Please come back when you have more ammo. Bring your friends….

    BTW, al qaeda picked the baseball field. It’s called New York City. I wouldn’t have chosen to play there, that’s why we’re playing on the road now.


  22. I then made this statement:
    “1. It’s only your opponents who get emotional.” to point out this ad hominem attack.

    It’s not an ad hominem attack, which would attacking you in a way unrelated to your argument; i.e. if I slandered your ancestry or personal history as a way of undermining your political stance.

    On the contrary, my statement is about humanity as a whole, including me. I’m claiming that human beings in general have a desire to hit back when struck. I am further arguing that this normal human emotion is primarily behind the desire to engage in preemptive war as foreign policy.

    It’s up to you to prove me wrong by giving me a single logical argument in favor of the efficacy of preemptive war.

    In this entire thread neither you nor anyone else has actually made a single argument – not one! – explaining how preemptive war will be effective in reducing terrorism. This has been my entire complaint from the very first.

    You haven’t even made the rather obvious but weak “ripple” argument that forcibly establishing one or two democracies in the Middle East will spread peace love and prosperity throughout the region, thereby reducing terrorism. I can’t believe I’m forced to make your argument for you. Do you have any others?

    Thanks. …the examples of the wars that I listed did involve complete subjugation… Now, can you please explain why subjugation should be avoided in the war on terror? It seems like it has a proven track record.

    Your original argument seemed to be that they didn’t involve subjugation. But now that you have accepted that they do, I’ll happily answer your question.

    Subjugation of Islamist terrorism could in fact work – I have already admitted this. But given that Islamic groups seem to rally together when other Muslims are under attack, the successful subjugation of Islamism would require conquering the entire Islamic world: some 15 nations and two billion people.

    If you are prepared to argue in favor of the ethics and costs of conquering 1/3 of humanity, I’m prepared to hear your argument. Or, if you think we can actually stamp out Islamist terrorism via invasion without actually conquering the whole Islamic world, I’m prepared to hear that argument, too.

    But Dude, your policies seem to amount to nothing but wishful thinking.

    Which policies would those be? Do you have any idea what my policies are? Or are you just assuming?

    I haven’t argued in favor of any specific policy. All I’ve asked you to do is defend the policy of preemption. You haven’t even tried yet. Not one word in this entire thread arguing how preemption will reduce terrorism.

    Several historical examples have been given to buttress my arguments

    All of which 1) weren’t “preemptive” and 2) (except Korea) required subjugation. You’ve even admitted (2) now, so your examples support my argument nicely, thank you.

    How many have you presented? Hmmm, zero.

    My first post began with the Israel/Palestine conflict, wherein preemptive military action has always sparked reprisals, and Iraq War II, which though not yet fully played out has so far resulted in an increase of terrorist activity in the country. Two examples. Math lesson: two does not equal zero.

    Add your six examples, which fail to prove the success of preemption with or without subjugation as an end, and we’re at eight examples for me.

    But if you’d like more, try the USSR invasion of Afghanistan, the German invasion of Poland (WWII), Austrian invasion of Serbia to preempt “serbian terrorism” (WWI), the Crusades (fifteen of them)… how many examples do you want? Countries have been going to war arguing “we’re at risk of attack” for centuries, the results are usually bad and the reasons usually false.

    I’ll clue you in: a few preemptive strikes actually were successful, i.e. Frederick the Great’s campaigns. But their ultimate result was to make the entire nation of Germany believe they were God-blessed and invincible, giving them the boldness to keep trying it (sounds familiar), and ultimately resulting in a pair of global wars. Thus, they might be the greatest failures of all.

    You’re convinced preemption will produce the desired result this time. That preemptively invading Middle Eastern countries will reduce terrorism.

    But you’ve never explained how…

    But you’ve never explained how…

    But you’ve never explained how…

    But you’ve never explained how…

  23. IdahoEv,
    Why is the burden of proof on me? After 9-11 the burden of proof should be on you to prove that continuing the existing (failed!) policies would have somehow started working.

    You do know that the preemption policy is not universal, right? It will be considered on a case by case basis. Only one of the factors considered will be its net effect on terrorism. I submit that the main factors are 1) prevention of the confluence or terrorists and WMD’s, and 2) to strike at terrorists protected by uncooperative states.

    It’s very easy for you to sit back and take pot shots at a president that’s trying to protect us. He has no choice but to have policies. So, put up or shut up. What were your ideas on how to address the above two situations. Afghanistan could be considered a case 2 and Iraq could be considered a case 1. We’ll probably agree on Afghanistan, but you must admit that even it is a preemptive war based on traditional standards.

    Iraq is obviously where we disagree. You claim that the war in Iraq has increased the number of terrorists. Obviously, there’s no way to objectively prove that now, one way or the other. I can point to the fact that the status quo in Iraq was being used to recruit new terrorists, i.e. America is starving the Iraqi babies. Obviously they are using the current situation to recruit as well. Which one is creating more terrorists? It’s probably a wash. Your standard of proof is a recipe for inaction, which is the attitude that allowed the threat to grow in the first place.

    Let’s look into the future. Consider Iran. there’s another country that is pursuing Nuclear arms, and by many accounts, is continuing to harbor Al Qaeda terrorists. There’s a nice mix, Al Qaeda and nuclear bombs. What is your plan for taking care of this? So, what to do? Ask nicely for them to stop? And if they don’t, then what do we do?

    Wrestle with this problem for awhile and take a stand. Don’t just be a member of the peanut gallery. Be for something instead of always being against something. Propose a solution that has a chance of working. I’d be glad to consider it. One thing though, we are in a declared war. Our enemies will not go away if we do nothing.

    Oh yeah WRT to subjugation…. Where are all these other Muslim countries rushing to the aid of Iraq? Syria? Libya? Indonesia? Thailand? Iran? Egypt? Where are they? Which ones rushed to the aid of Afghanistan? Is this just a restating of the cliched ‘rising of the Arab street’ myth?

    So, just considering Iraq for the moment, it seems that we have agreed that subjugation has a chance of working there, right?

  24. Hi.

    This is a very powerful and moving photo essay.

    I’m surprised people aren’t focusing on it. It made me ponder about what matters, ultimately.

  25. I can’t imagine any practice of preemption other than killing every single human being on the planet that will enforce nuclear non-proliferation to terrorists. (And if we did that, wouldn’t that make us terrorists??)

    OK, Saddam isn’t giving any of the nukes he didn’t have to Al Qaeda now. But are we prepared to occupy, I dunno, 20 or 30 countries to enforce this? Presumably terrorists will learn to work with someone who has more bite and much less bark than the Butcher of Baghdad.

    And, frankly, if we decided to take over 20 or 30 countries, I wouldn’t bet that countries already possessing nuclear capabilities wouldn’t decide to take us down a little.

  26. Gosh Andrew, you are right. It is inevitible that terrorists will get a nuke. What are we supposed to do to keep from getting on the short end of it?

    What is your plan?

  27. Here’s my plan. Make it common knowledge that if a US city or interest is ever attacked by a nuclear weapon, our response will immediatly be the instant destruction of every unfriendly nation we suspect of having nuclear arms that refuses thorough inspection and disarmament. If NK insists on keeping its arsenal, fine. But they are then tied to the whims of any terrorist in the world that might aquire a bomb. We wont even bother to find out where the attack came from. Iran and NK, to name two, will get leveled. Libya will survive, because they played ball. Now that is an incentive, i cant imagine any country wanting to tie their existance to whatever terrorist organization or state is the _least_ stable.

  28. IdahoEv,
    Why is the burden of proof on me?

    Because you support a specific policy, and I’m asking what your reasons are for believing it will be effective. Period. No more, no less.

    It’s very easy for you to sit back and take pot shots at a president that’s trying to protect us.

    I haven’t mentioned Bush even once in this thread, and I am not taking potshots at him. I’m asking you for your reasons. Your first post said “therefore 3) weapon will be used. This is the main reason for preemption policy”.

    I’m asking you to connect the dots. Why do you believe preemption policy will prevent a weapon from being used on the US.

    I’ve given my reason – cycle of violence theory and backlashes against historical preemptive actions – why I think it may accelerate the use of a weapon against us.

    Is it so wrong to ask you for a sound argument why you believe preemption will be effective?

    WRT to Afghanistan, the ruling power explicitly and financially supported an agency (Al-Qaeda) which had recently killed 3000+ Americans and publicly declared its intention to continue attacking us. That’s a pretty clear case for defensive action.

    I think in your last post you were getting closer to a positive reason in favor of preemption in Iraq. I don’t have time to write more about this today, but I’ll check back tonight.

  29. IdahoEV,
    OK. Fair enough. I think I may have misunderstood you original post when you were taking about emotion responses etc. Further, if I seem a little testy, it may be because I get tired of defending positions against people that refuse to suggest alternatives.

    How about some back-story? I am not a hawk. In fact I am a registered Democrat that has never, ever voted for a Republican for president. Leiberman would have been my candidate of choice, and McCain would also be acceptable. This likely isn’t the image that you had built of me.

    I thought Bush-I made the right call after GW1 not to invade Iraq. Who wants to rule over a resistant population, right? And it didn’t have anything to do with terrorists, right? The only thing that threw me a little was when Saddam got caught hatching an assassination plot against Bush-I. Remember that? I think he got off easy for that one. What was it? A few air strikes or something?

    Up until 9-11, I may have thought from time-to-time, “When is this Iraq thing going to get over with”, but i didn’t worry about it much. And I never really connected the dots with all of the Al Qaeda attacks over that period. But then the world changed.

    If you can’t see that 9-11 changed the calculus for everything, then I’m sorry, but this conversation is over. There’s NOTHING that I could ever say, no argument that I could every make, and no data that I could ever present that would ever convince you that the policies that I support are correct. If you agree that the world changed that day then read on; otherwise, be gone and never darken my door again!

    Post 9-11 all of the Al Qaeda attacks took on a different light. It turns out that this had been building for 12 years, and we just hadn’t seen it. Why hadn’t we taken Bin Laden at his word when he said we were at war? It’s obvious (now!) he believes it! Let me tell, if somebody now says they’re at war with us, I believe them!

    What about Iraq? Well let’s see, here are some reasons I thought up all by myself:
    1) another avowed enemy of the US (can’t we start taking these guys at their word?,

    2) never met the terms of the GW1 cease fire (making this a resumption of hostilities, NOT technically preemption),

    3) supports terrorism, including Al Qaeda (demonstrated support of Palestinian terrorists, some evidence of Al Qaeda ties, which after 9-11 tells us to expect the worse)

    4) attempt to assassinate a US president (immediately after a cease fire was signed),

    5) 12 years of enforcing the no fly zones gave Al Qaeda recruiting material (starving the Iraqi babies),

    6) Saddam’s use of and continued desire to obtain WMD’s (remember this is BEFORE the invasions, so NO “where are the WMD’s” arguments please),

    7) Free the Iraqi people from an oppressive tyrant,

    8) Saddam just posed to big of a threat, when considered post 9-11.

    And here are some reasons that other’s have thought up that I agree with:
    a) The terrorist flypaper strategy. (this seems to be working)

    b) Impose democracy on Iraq to make a model for the Middle East (ambitious but in our best Liberal traditions)

    c) Puts our forces in the heart of the enemy’s territory where they can’t be ignored (take the war to the enemy and take the initiative)

    d) The implicit military threat on other states that support terrorism as a demonstration that their actions (finally!!) have consequences (Libya has already come around, looks like Syria may be next)

    As a prelude to considering the preemption policy, let me share some related thoughts. Preemption relates to the whole international structure of nation states and the concept of national sovereignty, a fairly resent concept 300 or 400 years old. My take starts with human rights, which I hold are of a higher order than national rights, or collective rights. An argument against the invasion of Iraq was that it would violate its national sovereignty. Am I really supposed to accept that the national sovereignty of Iraq as embodied in the person of Saddam Hussein really trumps the natural rights of all the Iraqi people? Really?

    Sorry, I really believe that sovereignty resides in the people. So, I’m not going to worry about some dictator getting nervous about our preemption policy. In fact I want him to be nervous. That’s the point. The time of dictators hiding behind national sovereignty while committing atrocities on their people is done, and damn well gone. The whole UN structure that gave Saddam Hussein EQUAL standing with India, for example, is just ludicrous. Defending this crap as noble is the worst kind doublethink. So much so, that it’s a genuine wonder how the heads of people that do so just don’t explode with an overload of cognitive dissonance.

    Let’s consider preemption now. First of all, not everybody has to be worried. The only ones worried are those that support or harbor terrorists, that are seeking to join the nuclear club, or both. If you don’t think these are the only ones that should be worried, then who else? Does France really have to worry? About the only thing I have against the preemption policy is how Bush articulated it. Of course, I don’t like how he articulates a lot of things.

    Now, some believe that preemption might well create more terrorists. This is a variation of the “We can’t fight back because it will make them mad” theory or the “The Arab street will rise” theory. Whatever you call it, it is bogus. How can it ever be better to leave our enemy unmolested and unharassed while plotting our destruction? Maybe a better name would be the “Grin and bare it” or maybe the “Bend over” theory. I don’t think following that philosophy will work long term.

    So, if preemption causes some short-term instability but over the long term reduces the terrorists’ ability to carry the war to our shores then so be it. It really doesn’t matter if more terrorists are created, as long they’re fighting in their homes inside of ours. If we can do this, we will win in the end.

    Interdicting WMD’s whenever and wherever they are is of paramount importance. There is NOTHING more important. Nuclear weapons in the hands of a dictator are bad, but sane dictators can be deterred. Nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists are the apocalypse. They only want to destroy us, and they very likely cannot be deterred. What do you do with a nuclear-armed terrorist?

    We must, MUST do whatever it takes to keep this from happening. This 100% absolutely, is the number A-1 priority of the preemption policy. Think of 9-11 x100, or x1000. Here lies damnation for us all.

    That’s why there is NO choice but to have a preemption policy. Like I said at the beginning, I will NOT risk Manhattan just to observe the niceties of national sovereignty. I will NOT risk Manhattan for fear of inciting a few more terrorists here or there. I will NOT risk Manhattan over the sensibilities of the Arab street.

    This is not an emotional response. Look the beast in the eye and you will know it. For what happens afterwards?

  30. Lurker,

    Okay, I think you’re getting closer, and I really appreciate the attempt. Even if we disagree, I’m glad we’re coming towards a respectful debate – Dem, GOP, or otherwise, I think it’s one of the most dangerous things missing in our country these days.

    You’ve given a number of reasons about Iraq in general. You might be surprised that I agree with some of them, like human rights taking priority over national sovereignty (at least in some cases, I do agree with that.) If you argued for invading Iraq based on #7 – freeing the people from a Tyrant – I’d be much more inclined to agree with you, as that’s a solid and supportable cause. Though I would point to about a dozen populations that needed the help even more than did the Iraqis.

    Anyway, there are a billion tangents about Iraq we could get onto – some we might agree on, and some not. But for the moment I prefer to stick with the original core issue – the argument that preemption will help protect us from terrorist attack. A few of your statements really are directly directly related to that issue, now, so if you don’t mind I’m going to only answer those and leave the rest for another day.

    3) supports terrorism, including Al Qaeda …

    This one I’d prefer to see some evidence for. As I understand it, pretty much nobody has claimed that Saddam Hussein supported Al Qaeda except a few in the administration. Unlike the confusion over WMD there was never any support for this out of the intelligence services. The few early european claims of AQ meetings in Baghdad were rapidly retracted when it turned out the evidence just wasn’t there.

    6) Saddam’s use of and continued desire to obtain WMD’s (remember this is BEFORE the invasions, so NO “where are the WMD’s” arguments…

    I personally felt the evidence was against him building new WMDs well before the invasion, but let’s go ahead, for your sake, and assume he was. The fact that he had them doesn’t necessarily imply that they would have ended up in Al-Qaeda hands. In fact, frequent analysis available well before the war said, among other things, that:

    1) SH and AQ were sworn enemies, OBL calling SH an “infidel” because his government was secular.

    2) SH was a megalomaniac seeking power and control. The last thing he would have done was let his weapons fall into the hands of a group he couldn’t control.

    3) SH had nothing to gain from a terrorist attack on the US, because he’d get invaded and removed. AQ has everything to gain, because it wants to start a West vs. Islam war.

    4) The weapons were more likely to be used if Iraq was invaded than under any other circumstances.

    5) The risk of weapons falling into terrorist hands would become much higher during the chaos following an invasion.

    I’m not making those up – all of those were conclusions of the CIA, State Dept., Pentagon, or Army War College. All were available before the invasion.

    8) Saddam just posed to big of a threat, when considered post 9-11.

    I’m afraid you may have to spell this one out for me. How did 9/11 tell us anything about Saddam? 9/11 involved no Iraqi citizens in planning or execution, no Iraqi money, no WMDs Iraqi or otherwise … nothing to do with Iraq at all. If anything, I think 9/11 proved conclusively that our obsession with Iraq (and attacks by rogue states in general) was utterly misplaced, that we needed to be paying more attention to shadowy nonstate entities like AQ.

    a) The terrorist flypaper strategy. (this seems to be working)

    You’re concluding that the insurgency in Iraq proves that there are fewer terrorists elsewhere, which is an extremely dangerous conclusion unless you have some very strong evidence to support it. You need to read about what’s going on in Islamic Madrassas across the entire region since the war.

    b) Impose democracy on Iraq to make a model for the Middle East (ambitious but in our best Liberal traditions)

    This is your best argument, at least for the long run IMHO, and it’s the one I’m most willing to concede I may be wrong about. Just to challenge you, though, consider these questions:

    1) What evidence did we have, before the war, that we would successfully be able to build a democratic Iraq? History has not been kind towards attempts to impose democracy from the outside – only a few have been successful.

    2) If it worked, what evidence or reasons do we have to believe that a Democratic Iraq will trigger changes in other mideast countries?

    c) Puts our forces in the heart of the enemy’s territory where they can’t be ignored

    I think this is a very, very bad thing. The primary recruiting tool of Al-Qaeda was “Crusader boots on holy soil”, i.e. US troops in Saudi Arabia.

    In fact, I think getting our bases out of Saudi Arabia was probably the single best thing to come out of the Iraq war.

    d) The implicit military threat on other states … Libya has already come around

    Libya started coming to us wanting to resolve Lockerbie by giving up its WMD program in 1997. It took a long time for talks to even start, and a five-year series of diplomatic talks began which ended last year. This had little to do with Iraq or 9/11.

    To whatever extent it did, other states have gone the other way. N. Korea has dug in its heels and intensified its’ nuke program, claiming that Iraq just proved that nations can’t defend themselves against the US without WMDs, and that the US will attack if it wants to whether or not they exist. As annoying as that is, their argument does fit the facts as we know them, which makes in very appealing to anyone who hates the US.

    Now, some believe that preemption might well create more terrorists. This is a variation of … the “The Arab street will rise” theory. Whatever you call it, it is bogus. How can it ever be better to leave our enemy unmolested and unharassed while plotting our destruction?

    I think this is your most dangerous and fallacious argument, and sadly it gets back to my original point about assumptions. You’ve made at least three clear logical fallacies in the space of three sentences.

    Fallacy 1: All Muslims/Iraqis/Arabs are terrorists. I’m sure you think you haven’t said that, but in fact you have. Because an invasion effects everyone in the region you invade, whether they are terrorists or not. Regardless of your intentions, an invasion “harasses” the entire population.

    Fallacy 2: The only possible “action” is preemptive invasion. Are you so uncreative as to believe there are no other possible strategies?

    Fallacy 3: Any action is better than no action. The answer to your question “How can it be better to take no action” is very straight forward: because if your action makes it worse, no action is better.

    It may not be emotionally satisfying to take no action (and it’s not what I would propose, anyway), but an action that makes it worse is not a good idea.

    There are two billion Muslims. They may not like the US, but that doesn’t make them active terrorists. There are maybe five thousand members of Al-Qaeda. Even if it’s ten times higher than that, we’re talking 0.005% of the Muslim population.

    If your invasion pisses off 10% of the non-terrorist Muslims, that’s 100 million pissed off people. If only one in 10000 of those is angry enough to join Al-Qaeda, you’ve just TRIPLED the size of Al-Qaeda.

    If your action triples the size of your enemy, then that action is unadvisable. Attacking a Muslim nation and the inevitable death of civilians is like handing wads of cash to Al-Qaeda, even if it makes you feel good that we’re “not sitting around doing nothing”.

    Before 9/11, a small minority of Americans supported invading Iraq and almost nobody would have supported invading afghanistan. After 9/11, a huge majority supported invading both, even though Iraq was not involved.

    The Iraq war killed at least 6,000 innocent Iraqi civilians. Why is it so hard for you to imagine that the Muslim world might react to that the same way we reacted to the death of 3,000 US citizens?

    It is possible to make a situation worse by reacting, if you do it the wrong way. Action for the sake of action is stupid.

    I’m most interested in your answer to “Fallacy #2″. Why do you assume that “not invading” means “not doing anything”. Or, equivalently, why do you believe preemptive invasion is the only possible response??

    Ev

  31. I can only address a few thing here. This is starting to wear me out…

    Fallacy 1: All Muslims/Iraqis/Arabs are terrorists. I’m sure you think you haven’t said that, but in fact you have. Because an invasion effects everyone in the region you invade, whether they are terrorists or not. Regardless of your intentions, an invasion “harasses” the entire population.

    I don’t think I get your meaning here. I can’t figure how any of my arguments could be twisted to imply that I advocate intentially harmed innocent people. Are you saying that we can never invade a country if it has civilians? Because we might accidently hurt them?

    Fallacy 2: The only possible “action” is preemptive invasion. Are you so uncreative as to believe there are no other possible strategies?

    This is not what I’ve been advocating. My arguments are in support of prememptive action in general, invasions, surgical strikes, whatever. I never said that invasion was the only thing, in fact it should be one of the last options. With Iraq, we got to the end of the list. Your argument is that preemption can’t be justified.

    I’m saying that we can’t rule it out because of national sovereignty, yada, yada, yada, etc. etc. etc. Some of Clintons cruise missle attacts could be considered preemptive.

    Fallacy 3: Any action is better than no action. The answer to your question “How can it be better to take no action” is very straight forward: because if your action makes it worse, no action is better.

    This is not my argument at all. I completely agree with the “If it an;t broke, don’t fix it” plan. Our problem seems to be that we are putting different weights on the events that have trasnpired. it seems that we can both apply logic well, but we are not in agreemtn on the premises.

    To whatever extent it did, other states have gone the other way. N. Korea has dug in its heels
    Yes this is a risk. Nations that are to far away from the goal line will give up like Libya. Others that are near the goal line will redouble there efforts, like Iran am affraid (look for something to happen soon there). North Korea really isn’t a good example for you, since they were likely already across the goal line.

    The question is how many countries could be induced to speed up there development to but us to the punch. I’m assuming that we’ve got a good handle on who these folks are. The one’s that we don’t know about probably don’t have anything to worry about from us anyway. They’ll just come out of the closet, and say “ta da”.

    The one’s that are just starting, or thinking about starting, have got to be worried about us finding out now. The preemption doctrine states this preety clearly. Considering the expense and the amount of time that it takes, it is very likely that many regimes we be deterred. from even trying. That’s a net improvement.

    The fact that he had them doesn’t necessarily imply that they would have ended up in Al-Qaeda hands
    What about for use agaist Israel? What if Israel decided on a preemptive stike of their own? There’s probably a million other reasons why a nuclear armed Saddam would be a disaster. Does this really need to be explained?

    How did 9/11 tell us anything about Saddam? 9/11 involved no Iraqi citizens in planning or execution, no Iraqi money, no WMDs Iraqi or otherwise Iraq has been a latent threat since the end of GW1. This level of threat in the post GW1 framework seemed acceptable. 9-11 shattered this framework. When all the pieces were put together with the new pieces from Al Qaeda and the Taliban, the threat from Saddam looms much greater. It wasn’t Saddam that changed. It was the paradigm. That’s the some reason that Iran nad Syria are getting close looks too. Is there something illogical about this?

    re flypaper, You’re concluding that the insurgency in Iraq proves that there are fewer terrorists elsewhere

    I really don’t care if the terrorists get more foot soldiers. I’m more worried about the ones that can assimilate in our country well enough to carry of am attack here. If more people suseptable to terrorist propaganda, go to Iraq where they can be interdicted and killed, the more the better. You also have to consider the otherside of this coin, how many potential terrorists are deterred, be watching Iraq and Saddam get plowed under. The Iraq stategy addresses both sides. Wait there’s more… terrorist leaders have to now spend effort and resources to attack us in Iraq. It’s like throwing down the gaunlet. They can’t look all powerful, while we’re setting in Iraq.

    1) What evidence did we have, before the war, that we would successfully be able to build a democratic Iraq? History has not been kind towards attempts to impose democracy from the outside – only a few have been successful.

    2) If it worked, what evidence or reasons do we have to believe that a Democratic Iraq will trigger changes in other mideast countri

    There’s always the previous examples of Japan and Germany. Iraq should be easier, since Saddam did not enjoy much popular support outside the crony classes.

    As far as spontaneous erruptions of democracy? It proably won’t happen. But it can make things more difficult on the dictators by encouraging opressed minorities to start agitating and protesting, like the Kurds in Syria or the recent demonstartions in Iran for example. All of this helps our cause and helps us look better. This cracks the myth of Arab unity even more. Besides, a free Iraq would be it’s own justification.

    Gotta go. Check out the guest post thread today. (4/1)

  32. yeah a friend showed me the site a while ago, randomly. i was devastated and chilled. my aunt back home in the ukraine is sick now because of the accident…
    it’s a real wasteland

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