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May 24, 2003

TERRORISM....Matt Yglesias pretty much sums up my view of foreign policy these days:

Obviously, the threat of terrorism is a serious problem. I believe that today, I believed it eighteen months ago, and I believed it before 9/11. Indeed, the fact that the Democratic Party was oriented toward problems like terrorism and counterproliferation while the GOP was stuck bitching about "soldiers doing social work" and dreaming of missile defense was, I thought, one of many reasons to be a Democrat rather than a Republican.

....But still, outside of the need to fight a war in Afghanistan, combatting terrorism is basically a lot of slow, patient, boring work. Keeping up various law enforcement and diplomatic efforts. Doing peacekeeping in anarchic portions of the world. Working with the Russian government on nuclear security issues. Tightening security around likely targets at home and abroad. Building a better public health infrastructure.

....In fact, when you consider that all the necessary programs are going to cost money, you might start to wonder whether it isn't the Bush administration that's not serious about these national security concerns....

Yes, you might start to wonder indeed.

I'm truly bewildered by the blinkered view of the right when it comes to terrorism. It's patently obvious that we won't win the war on terrorism via conventional war, but rather through persistent, patient cooperation with our allies combined with a foreign policy that truly refuses to countenance repressive dictatorships even if they happen to be convenient to us.

But if there's anything that George Bush is obviously bad at, it's persistent, patient cooperation with our allies. What's more, despite all the talk about transforming the military, his only goal seems to be to transform it to fight better wars against conventional nation states and to build missile defense systems that don't work in order to protect us against ICBM wielding enemies who don't exist. Terrorists? Peacekeeping? Nation building? Port security? You'd hardly know they were even issues.

Invading Iraq may be an eventual blessing for the Iraqi people, but it hasn't made us any safer against terrorism. When is the Bush administration going to get serious about actual terrorists, instead of the bogeymen they've been scaring the American public with for the past year?

Posted by Kevin Drum at May 24, 2003 09:24 PM | TrackBack


Comments

I'm truly bewildered by the blinkered view of the right when it comes to terrorism. It's patently obvious that we won't win the war on terrorism via conventional war, but rather through persistent, patient cooperation with our allies combined with a foreign policy that truly refuses to countenance repressive dictatorships even if they happen to be convenient to us.

"Blinkered" is, I think, the correct word, and it's something I've been saying for a while now. Their perceptions are so warped by ideologically-based predispositions that they really don't see what is clear and obvious to even a semi-objective observer. I think this is a major factor in the Bush administration's shows of incompetence, such as the non-diplomacy of the run-up to the war, the failure to adequately plan and prepare for the post-war stabilization of Iraq before the rebuilding they're supposedly committed to can begin, the commitment to tax-cuts as a cure-all for any and every economic ailment, and so on.

Basically, they're ideologues (incompetent ones at that) who are beholden to their dogma, but even if they were committed to responding empirically to the evidence presented by the situation in reality, they cannot accurately see it because they are blinkered by their political and philosophical stance.

This is why liberalism is superior, because it is, as my good friend Roger Keeling is fond of saying, essentially the scientific method turned to the social and political world. It's not driven by dogma, but by reason mediated by empathy and compassion, and that is it's greatest strength.

Posted by: Ed Fitzgerald at May 24, 2003 11:31 PM | PERMALINK

Beautiful, Ed.

And, yeah, the very nature of terrorism requires different tools. Conventional war is like using hammer where a screwdriver is needed.

And the pissing off of the allies: not good. For some reason I flashed to the clementine embargo of 2001. Clementines are tiny, delicious little oranges that AFAIK are grown only in Spain, and only available for a couple of months in the winter.

Spain captured a couple of al Queda suspects in fall 2001, and refused to extradite them because of the utter lack of basic civil liberties for suspected terrorists in the US. It was rather amusing for us to be chided by the home of the Inquisition.

But anyway, soon after, clementines were banned because the USDA (or whatever inspection body) had found some bug or disease, so there were no clementines available that year. I look forward to clementine season, so I was very suspicious of the claim.

And I can't imagine Aznar pissed away his whole political career for the benefit of clementine growers, but still.

Posted by: hamletta at May 25, 2003 12:10 AM | PERMALINK

What could be more terrifying than to have the world's most powerful military, led by an evil fool, show up on your borders, in your skies, and over your land in space?

Posted by: pessimist at May 25, 2003 12:35 AM | PERMALINK

What's more, despite all the talk about transforming the military, his only goal seems to be . . . to build missile defense systems that don't work in order to protect us against ICBM wielding enemies who don't exist.

Two points in response:

First, missile defense is an embryonic technology, and it needs time to be proven. People who mistake "Star Wars" (SDI) for NMD -- and then attest that we've spent "billions on missile defense" -- simply don't understand the development phases of the technology. SDI was posited as a workaround to ABM limits, and because it was literally a pie-in-the-sky program, it produced few technical successes (though the THEL and ABL projects are very promising third- generation technologies).

Missile defense, conversely, had already proceeded through multiple generations before SDI reached the drawing board, and resulted in the AEGIS and Patriot missile systems, which are operationally successful, but have some glaring shortcomings. By the early 1990s, the THAAD project and other missile defense technologies had reached the ABM barrier -- that is, they could no longer be improved upon legally within the ABM treaty. In fact, according to the terms of the ABM treaty, it was illegal to test more advanced technology to even see if it work. (Hence, the "it doesn't work, so don't abrogate the treaty" argument advanced by the left was a Catch-22.)

The technology is progressing, however, and while we will never have a missile defense shield capable of blocking the entire Russian arsenal, or even the Chinese arsenal, we will have the ability to stop a handful of missiles -- even missiles with decoys. Frankly, if Bush chooses to tout missile defense as a foreign policy point in 2004, Democrats will find it difficult to come out against it. After all, no less a Democrat than one Kevin Drum has written that "Unlike some critics, I'm in favor of developing missile defense systems because, you know, if they worked they'd prevent people from firing nuclear missiles at our cities." But who, pray tell, did the Kevin of February 2003 believe would target our cities? Kevin of May 2003 sees no threat.

This brings me to the second point. In the Nodong and Taepodong-1 missiles, which are nuclear-capable, North Korea currently possesses weapons capable of striking all of Japan, South Korea, and the outlying islands of Alaska. The Taepodong-2, whose development is being assisted by Iran, will be a true ICBM capable of striking Hawaii and half of Alaska, as well as parts of Europe and nearly all of the Middle East.

The ENTIRE reason why North Korea is a problem that Democrats and Republicans alike have been concerned about is that, within a decade, the madman in Pyongyang WILL obtain the ability to mount nuclear warheads on his missiles and target the US' allies in the region, and eventually the US proper. I submit that for someone to argue that the US has no reason to develop missile defense, he/she must also believe the North Korean threat to be nonexistent. Furthermore, one must also discount the interest the US has in preventing nuclear blackmail of Japan by North Korea, for even before North Korea can field an operational Taepodong-2, it will have the ability to target Japan with nuclear weapons.

The alternative to further development of missile defense technology is to usher in an era of a nuclear-armed Japan, nuclear-armed South Korea, and possibly a nuclear-armed Taiwan. Our nuclear umbrella is slowly closing with the drawdown of our own arsenal, and psychologically speaking, Japan may not want to wager its safety on an oft-feckless United States. How many Democrats in Congress would support the president nuking North Korea in response to a nuclear attack on Japan? That's the security pledge all Democrats who oppose missile defense will have to make in the coming years. Are they up to it?

Posted by: Matthew at May 25, 2003 02:34 AM | PERMALINK

I basically got my butt handed to me on a platter about this very issue a few months back. Someone who was a lot more in touch with the technical details, like Matthew seems he might be, pointed out some 'holes' in my reasoning. Therefore, I'm hesitant to say too much.

However (and you knew that was coming), Matthew raises a couple of debatable points. First, ". . . within a decade, the madman in Pyongyang WILL obtain the ability to mount nuclear warheads on his missiles and target the US' allies in the region, and eventually the US proper." Doesn't this reasoning somehow preclude that a decade's worth of future diplomatic efforts might solve the problem, particularly with the spectre looming of an already nuclear NK adding urgency to the situation ?

Second, Matthew writes, ". . . missile defense is an embryonic technology, and it needs time to be proven . . . (and has) already proceeded through multiple generations before SDI reached the drawing board." That places missile defense development pretty far back on the time line, a couple of decades at least, with no system yet in place. If there's going to be a threat from NK within the next decade, hadn't we better defuse the threat diplomatically since a missile defense system won't be ready in time (if we can go by the historical evidence) ?

Last, Matthew noted that "North Korea currently possesses weapons capable of striking all of Japan, South Korea, and the outlying islands of Alaska. The Taepodong-2 . . . will be . . . capable of striking Hawaii and half of Alaska, as well as parts of Europe and nearly all of the Middle East." Even with my technological impairments, I understand this to be a pretty large geographical area. I don't recall whether the proposed US strategy is to cover all our allies with the defense umbrella (I don't think it is, in fact), but if we do intend to cover everyone, doesn't that add another chunk of time to the development timeline - time during which NK will be able to threaten our friends and allies ? And if we don't intend to cover everyone, then the threat to them remains.

I'm not necessarily against the concept of nuclear missile defense, and I realize the concept is broader than the threat from North Korea. However, when the case that's being made has some major technological, strategic, diplomatic and financial holes in it, I think I'll remain skeptical for the time being.

Cheers,

Posted by: Rofe at May 25, 2003 04:05 AM | PERMALINK

I can't find the article (the NYT's search function isn't very good), but within the past couple of days, there was an article about the testing of anti-missiles being deployed against the NK threat. IIRC, several months ago the Bush administration decided to move up deployment, before the testing was completed. They said that they'd complete the testing, and make upgrades as needed.

In this recent article, it was announced that that set of tests wouldn't be done, after all.

Now if *I* were serious about such things, and had the power, the testing would definitely be completed.

Posted by: Barry at May 25, 2003 06:14 AM | PERMALINK

As someone who is not on the left, you just gotta love this stuff.

This rapid reversion to the left's endless yearning for another Kumbaya session with 'allies', rather than face the outside world as we now know it to be, is ongoing electoral suicide.

The fundamentalist terrorists are going to keep puncturing this fantasy, and American voters are going to keep showing that they prefer to see us ready and able to fight back.

For the record:

(i) Most countries around the world are not our allies, and never will be. Like the British and the Romans before us, our power means that our only choices are to be feared and respected or feared and an object of contempt. Forget being universally adored. Get over it. Wanting to be hugged and kissed at bedtime every night is appropriate for my toddler but is not a foreign policy for grown-ups.

(ii) The terrorists themselves are not the world's poor and dispossessed. They are, as they have been for more than a century now, typically overeducated and unemployed would-be professionals, frustrated by lack of opportunities in their own countries. As such most of the factors which concern them lie in their own societies and effectively beyond our control. They will be resolved eventually, but not through sending them bags of food and 'experts' of one kind or another (see the UN, Peace Corps, etc) which will not help and may well screw things up even more.

(iii) You can't in the end prevent terrorists murdering hundreds or even thousands of your own citizens year after year on your own soil without becoming a police state, so going after the terrorists' havens overseas is the only way to go.

(iv) The only real choice outside the US is between other governments policing against their own terrorists or the US doing it (which over time would inevitably morph into widespread colonial commitments, a huge mistake), so we have to pressure other governments which are soft on anti-US terror to get serious about suppressing it.

(v) The only thing the worst soft-on-terrorism regimes around the world really care about is perpetuating their sorry existence, so we need to make sure that they understand that if they harbor anti-US terrorists then their own survival is exactly what they are risking.

The US public hasn't seemed to have much trouble understanding all of this, and it's grasp appears to get firmer every time the terrorists strike at us.

What Kevin's post and the comments above show is the left's fixed preference for denial rather than dealing with any of this.

It's a great way to hand the Republicans the next 20 years in government.

Posted by: JK at May 25, 2003 08:08 AM | PERMALINK

re: missile defense

If the sheild works, it will deter people from using ICMBs. What will deter them from assembling the bomb on US soil, shipping it by boat right up the Hudson, or driving it in via a NAFTA-approved truck from Mexico? A sense of fair play?

Posted by: ChrisL at May 25, 2003 08:43 AM | PERMALINK

JK:

I cannot find the words.

Posted by: John Yuda at May 25, 2003 08:45 AM | PERMALINK

(i) Most countries around the world are not our allies, and never will be. Like the British and the Romans before us, our power means that our only choices are to be feared and respected or feared and an object of contempt. Forget being universally adored. Get over it. Wanting to be hugged and kissed at bedtime every night is appropriate for my toddler but is not a foreign policy for grown-ups.

(ii) The terrorists themselves are not the world's poor and dispossessed. They are, as they have been for more than a century now, typically overeducated and unemployed would-be professionals, frustrated by lack of opportunities in their own countries. As such most of the factors which concern them lie in their own societies and effectively beyond our control. They will be resolved eventually, but not through sending them bags of food and 'experts' of one kind or another (see the UN, Peace Corps, etc) which will not help and may well screw things up even more.

(iii) You can't in the end prevent terrorists murdering hundreds or even thousands of your own citizens year after year on your own soil without becoming a police state, so going after the terrorists' havens overseas is the only way to go.

(iv) The only real choice outside the US is between other governments policing against their own terrorists or the US doing it (which over time would inevitably morph into widespread colonial commitments, a huge mistake), so we have to pressure other governments which are soft on anti-US terror to get serious about suppressing it.

(v) The only thing the worst soft-on-terrorism regimes around the world really care about is perpetuating their sorry existence, so we need to make sure that they understand that if they harbor anti-US terrorists then their own survival is exactly what they are risking.

The US public hasn't seemed to have much trouble understanding all of this, and it's grasp appears to get firmer every time the terrorists strike at us.

What Kevin's post and the comments above show is the left's fixed preference for denial rather than dealing with any of this.

It's a great way to hand the Republicans the next 20 years in government.

Posted by: Jim at May 25, 2003 08:54 AM | PERMALINK

JK,
I cannot help but think that the current government has seen a rise in countries that fear the US but hold us in contempt. The fear is a given, only the delusional could help but fear the US and her military and economic might. But it seems like most recent courses of action by the Bush administration have palpably increased the number of states and citizens abroad who hate the US and wish it ill.

Oh yeah, and only the most foolishly hubristic would think that the best course of action is to threaten and coerce every state that threatens the security of the US simultaneously. This "threaten everyone" course of action might play well to a US audience, but it's toxic nonsense. The only ways I can see the US effectively persuading those states are by using our alliances to present a unified front and by tough but non-agressive diplomacy.

And here's another interesting wrinkle to your point of view- if it would require the US to become a police state in order to effectively limit terrorism here, why is it acceptable for us to force other countries to do the same to protect our asses. Or is it so much easier to clamp down on terrorism in other countries?

Posted by: Poop Ruiz at May 25, 2003 09:15 AM | PERMALINK

The Bush administration's pursuit of missile defense has been highly inept and fantastical, as Fred Kaplan at Slate wrote about here and here.

hamletta: Somewhat related to your point above, Aznar is not running for a third term in Spain's 2004 elections. When it came to the Iraq war, he certainly supported it out of principle, as 90% of the people in Spain were against it, but had he been up for re-election next year, one has to wonder whether he would have been able to take such a big risk. Diplomacy matters when electorates in democratic countries are against what we want to do, as we found out with Turkey before the Iraq war.

Posted by: Haggai at May 25, 2003 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Is terrorism only defined as violence against us? I sometimes wonder how many millions of people an American military action would have to kill before the mainstream discussion here would start to consider it a terrorist act. Vietnam, for instance, is typically referred to as a "mistake" that came about because America was bravely trying to "help" the Vietnamese people. Well, we KILLED 2 MILLION of them! That's terrorism to me.

Posted by: rumsfEls at May 25, 2003 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

9/11 was the best thing to happen to Bush's presidency. Where would his approval ratings be without it? In the toilet, I suspect. He therefore has everything to gain by implementing a foreign policy that spawns more terrorism, and "compels" the use of force, in perpetuity. Think about it - another terror attack on home soil would be the one thing that could trump any and all other policy failures between now and the 2004 elections.

Posted by: Paul at May 25, 2003 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

"The technology is progressing, however, and while we will never have a missile defense shield capable of blocking the entire Russian arsenal, or even the Chinese arsenal, we will have the ability to stop a handful of missiles -- even missiles with decoys."

There is no evidence that this is the case. There is a lot of opinion by experts not funded by the program who think it is infeasible for decades at least. You can start by looking into what the American Physical Society thinks. They think NMD is bull excrement.

The whole NMD program is defense industry welfare, driven by the paranoid fantasies of technologically illiterate wingnuts searching for yet another techno-condom to protect against all those axes of evil and their WMD.

In the meantime, as others have noted, as long as we deign to trade with other countries, there's a lot cheaper and simpler ways of transporting your basic bomb fixings into the country. Oh I suppose the success of the War on Drugs demonstrates I am wrong about that, eh?

Posted by: Russell L. Carter at May 25, 2003 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, we need to work on our anti-terror infrastructure at home. Yes, it would be better to work with our "allies" around the world, to the extent that our allies will want to work with us.

But you don't solve the terrorism problem until you kill the terrorists.

That's a harsh statement but unfortunately true. Jim is correct: most terrorist leaders are NOT the world's dispossessed. Osama bin Laden grew up with more wealth than 99% of the world. His key henchmen grew up in upper class / upper-middle class surroundings. The Shining Path terrorists in Peru were led by the sons and daughters of the rich and near-rich. The European terrorist gangs of the 1970s and 1980s were likewise led by bored, well to do young adults.

One doesn't reason or bargain with these folks, because they want the one thing none of us (liberal or conservative) is willing to give up: our lives and our way of life.

To Ed: I admire the blinkers you've donned whilst you lampoon the right and its set of blinkers. Yours are very fashionable; but then, the left is always fashionable.

To Kevin: be careful what you wish for. Do you REALLY want an effective anti-terror state at home, given what that could eventually do to your civil liberties?

Posted by: Steve White at May 25, 2003 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

Poop,

It's a bit unsophisticated to treat 'the rest of the world' as if it were one undifferentiated lump.

(i) It's not most countries we have to be worried about, only a relatively small subset. Contempt from European elites for example is not a concern, because they are totally committed to enjoying their affluent 'ivory tower' to ever want to assault anyone else.

(ii) Be careful with your 'buzz-word generator' approach to building an argument, just stringing together a bunch of nice-sounding words; all it does is take us back to my toddler's level. Neither you nor anyone else has any idea what "tough but non-aggressive diplomacy" means. Many governments respond to incentives other than force and we can deal with them on a different basis. Some don't, and we have to get rough. Refuse to recognize this and you just define yourself as leftist who prefers dreaming to defending the country.

(iii) Asking about whether it can be right to expect other countries to make the difficult tradeoffs necessary to control terrorism locally while preserving civil liberties is a better question. It still has answers though. We don't harbor and encourage terrorist attacks launched by fundamentalist groups from the US, so we have controlled and visibly are doing more to control our own end of that problem. Further, the way these other countries are governed is in the end inescapably their own issue, unless we revert to colonialism. We require very little of these regimes, and what we require is legitimate, which is that they keep their local crazies off our soil.

Posted by: JK at May 25, 2003 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

JK: please explain how conventional military force will solve the problem of terrorism.

Thank you.

Posted by: Kevin Drum at May 25, 2003 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

It is pointless to argue with someone such as JK who believes our choices are (a) the Bush administration's policy choices or (b) abject appeasement. But it's hard not to.

(i) Most countries around the world were our allies for decades, and most still are. The U.S. is not the Roman Empire, and fear and awe are not the only tools it has at its disposal to encourage cooperation. The word "allies" does not, nor should, equate to grateful servility. Treating other nations as if they are towheaded children - other nations which, after all, in some cases have decades more experience fighting terrorism than we do - is a truly childish foreign policy.

(ii) Non sequiturs are not an argument. Incidentally, if you have a better idea for how to encourage development than what the UN, et al., currently do, I have Stockholm on the other line with your Nobel.

(iii) Most people I think would say that the Bush administration's policy has been bits of both - a little police state, a little overseas haven. You won't get argument from very many people that "overseas havens" need to be uprooted. But...Iraq was not on the top twenty list of such "overseas havens." Saudi Arabia is. Yemen is. Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan. Morocco. Algeria. The only portion of Iraq that was a "terrorist haven" was a portion under de facto U.S. control, in the north. Bonus question: now that there is barely any control in Iraq whatsoever, will its place on the list go up or down?

(iv) Agreed. But will they want to cooperate with us when we have done so much damage to hard-on-terror governments (Spain, UK, France - yes, that's not a misprint) over a nothing like Iraq? Cooperation with the US has gotten Tony Blair thumped, Jose Maria Aznar crippled, Morocco bombed? Of course, it's been fabulous for Pervez Musharraf and Islam Karimov, but I thought these were the sort of regimes we were supposed to be opposing.

(v) Agreed. The problem is that the administration's petulance and bull-headedness has made it more risky for our "coalition of the willing" members than for our opponents. Chirac is loved for standing up to us. Schroeder is reviled, but for other reasons, and Joschka Fischer, who stood with him against us, is perhaps the most popular politician in Germany. Anybody know how John Howard's doing in Australia? Tony Blair will never be the same. Aznar is retiring, but the thumping the PP is likely to take in local elections today will prevent him from controlling the succession, and the PP is all set to lose national elections for the first time in almost 15 years.

If it comes to pass that our opponents get credit for standing up to us, no amount of threats will get us what we want. How's that for being grown up?

Posted by: Mark S. at May 25, 2003 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Okay, I'll admit it, I'm unsophisticated. And I can't pin down specifically what tough but non-aggressive diplomacy means. But I think it's fairly clear that the current US government could use a lighter touch. I think you get a better response from potentially threatening countries when you don't label them members of an axis of evil, when you don't publicly call their leaders loathsome pygmies, when you don't threaten them with regime change for trumped up reasons, and when you don't treat the UN and international treaties with contempt.

And again, I don't think there are too many governments who harbor and fund terrorist groups that threaten America directly. In the circumstance of Iran, whom we've cut off contact with, they may sponsor anti-israeli terrorism, but they do not sponsor al qaeda, and it is the presence of about a half dozen al qaeda in the far northeast corner of iran that is cause for this non-communication.

Apparently the US is planning to foment a counterrevolution in Iran, and is considering using a terrorist Mujaheddin group as the ground force in a march on Tehran. This is certainly "getting rough," but it's not the kind of getting rough that I think is wise.

And i think that contempt from European elites is a concern. Effecting regime change, and instituting democratic institutions, in countries that threaten American interests is difficult and expensive, and it would be a lot easier for the US to do if it had wealthy industrialized nations, ie. Europe and Japan, footing part of the bill.

Posted by: Poop Ruiz at May 25, 2003 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

JK’s rant is such a target rich screed I don’t even know where to begin. Considering that anything I could say would be waaay past his narrow ability to grasp any reality past the end of the barrel of his gun, I don’t know that I even want to waste the time. I will however point out that I find it comical that, typical of an adolescent bully, JK is an anonymous coward (nn @ nnnn?) simply projecting all of his out of control fears onto the world stage and hiding behind condescending characterizations (“the left's endless yearning for another Kumbaya session”) and mindless bluster (“our power means that our only choices are to be feared and respected or feared and an object of contempt”). Where JK finds amusement (“As someone who is not on the left, you just gotta love this stuff.”) I actually find JK’s line of reasoning (i) the only way to be safe and secure is to be the biggest bully on the block, (ii) that our actions have nothing to do with others response to us, so lets not bother to try and help anyone and (iii) our actions have everything to do with others response to us, so lets show we can kick some ass, sad in a pitiful way.

And in that same vein of sad, pitiful fear driving us to ridiculous, useless and costly security measures, this whole Missile Defense Shield is nothing more than corporate military industrial make work welfare. ChrisL is right on the mark that a MDS is only effective (and that’s yet to be proven) against ONE delivery system. Should we ever get such a workable system in place, after however many hundreds of billions of dollars it takes, you can expect any tyrant or martyr with a nuke to simply change delivery method. Would a tyrant/terrorist’s blackmail be any less potent if they declared a nuke was currently sitting in one or two of our harbors? Even if we didn’t have a usable MDS would anyone wanting to strike the US with a nuke want to leave the kind of return address a missile leaves? Considering that a terrorist group would be lucky to get their hands on one or two nukes would they even risk missing their target by shooting it at us or would they sooner hand-deliver it to the designated target? If we can’t stop 100 tons of drugs from entering the US every year how are we to stop a smuggled nuke?

Oh hell, lets just keep beating up on them. It feels good and they’re going to grow up hating us anyway. Right?

Posted by: Thumb at May 25, 2003 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

One doesn't reason or bargain with these folks, because they want the one thing none of us (liberal or conservative) is willing to give up: our lives and our way of life.

Such a bright guy, such a dumb statement. Osama was quite up-front about what he wanted; the US out of the Middle East. Let's not forget that he was one of ours fighting the Russians in Afghanistan. He was set off because our army stuck around, occupying Muslim Holy land after the Russians were expelled. I don't have the link in front of me but Osama did make a list of demands in 1996 when he declared war on the US (it would have made the news but Monica was too big of a story to preempt with something so mundane as a declaration of war against the US). Our lives and way of life wasn't on it. Their lives, lands and way of life was. Ironically, under Bush, several of Osama’s demands are now being met.

In old days doctors believed that you could cure yourself of many diseases by bloodletting. Now they know enough to understand the science of pathology and prevention. Oh that our foreign policy could be as enlightened.

Posted by: Thumb at May 25, 2003 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Wow! Real arguments. This is why I read Kevin, and hats off to his as unfailing courtesy for setting the tone and creating a constructive blog environment - don't give up!

Kevin:

"please explain how conventional military force will solve the problem of terrorism"

It is a fact that most states around the world, totalitarian, democracies and others, demonstrate every day that they can contain the export of terrorism. The only ones that don't haven't been trying. Faced with the certainty of a visit from the US military they will now try harder, and find they can succeed. This is not rocket science, it is deterrence Mark II. It is in fact a form of deterrence which is not based on mutual assured destruction, something the left used to dream about being able to invent.

Mark S.:

(i) Treating our 'allies' as people who are not interested in enhancing our security is not treating them as children, it is dealing with the world as it is. A someone pointed out in an interesting article recently, these roles have been reversed in the past. When the US was weak internationally in the 1800's our foreign policy derided European 'great power' politics and stressed the morality of international agreements. European foreign policy today consists of all the things militarily weak states say to try and contain stronger ones. If we were as weak as they are, and determined not to get stronger, we would be saying the same things. But we are not (and few voters want us to surrender either).

(ii) "...if you have a better idea for how to encourage development than what the UN, et al., currently do, I have Stockholm on the other line with your Nobel." You assume the UN has a net positive impact. I believe the legal term for this is 'assuming a fact not in evidence'. People who have seen the various UN activities in action on the ground frequently come to believe otherwise.

(iii) "Iraq was not on the top twenty list of such "overseas havens"..." Maybe not your list, but the point is irrelevant. There is no harm in the others knowing that we will get to them when it suits us and not them. The point of deterrence is the demonstration effect. The human rights benefits of eliminating the Iraqi regime were a bonus for the Iraqis, and they are welcome to make of it what they will.

(iv) Your point is I guess the '1,000 Bin Ladens'. I agree more with those who believe that the latest attacks in muslim countries will turn out to have been a grave error for the terrorists and a big help to us.

(v) You worry about European opinion if you like; I explained why I believe it is irrelevant to our security, which is what our voters quite legitimately seem concerned about.

And finally Poop:

"I think you get a better response from potentially threatening countries when you don't label them members of an axis of evil..." Where we have any chance of saving US soldiers' lives by scaring other governments into compliance before we have to go in and destroy them I think it is worth a try. Talking nice has been shown to be unlikely to work in these cases.

You may know how many Al Qaeda there are in Iran, I don't claim to.

You apparently feel you know what the US government plans to do in Iran. I don't. It seems a bit premature to criticise them for your version of what they plan to do.

"Effecting regime change, and instituting democratic institutions, in countries that threaten American interests is difficult and expensive, and it would be a lot easier for the US to do if it had wealthy industrialized nations, ie. Europe and Japan, footing part of the bill." Agreed so far as your statement goes, but it's just another dream. The Europeans aren't going to contribute unless and until until the terrorists are stupid enough to attack them directly (don't rule this out just because it would be stupid).

The bottom line is the same - accept the facts and get on with defending the country or wave goodbye to the voters, who aren't following down your primrose path.

Posted by: JK at May 25, 2003 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

(iii) "Iraq was not on the top twenty list of such "overseas havens"..." Maybe not your list, but the point is irrelevant. There is no harm in the others knowing that we will get to them when it suits us and not them. The point of deterrence is the demonstration effect.

Of course for this to really have any effect wouldn't it have been important to, oh, I don't know . . . maybe deal with the country that gave us the terrorists? When Bin Laden, a Saudi, sends groups of Saudis, financed by a Saudi prince to attack the US, well, wouldn't we have to show a willingness to deal with the Saudis for there to be any real deterrent effect?

If my family was attacked by someone, and I retaliated by attacking his neighbor down the block - who my attacker also fought with - what exactly is the lesson? That I'm a bad ass and will strike out at the easiest unrelated target if provoked?

And how exactly does one deter a martyr?

Posted by: Thumb at May 25, 2003 01:35 PM | PERMALINK

JK

If you go around picking fights long enough you will eventually find someone willing enough to fight back.

It is entirely true that other countries put their own interests first, and US security comes way down on the list. The corollary to this is that if they perceive that the US is becoming a danger to their own security they will do something about it.

If you think terrorism is the greatest threat to American lives and security ever, then I think you are too young to have experienced and remembered the great Wars, hot and Cold, of the 20th century. Believe me, when we finally get into a hot war with powers stronger and technologically more advanced than the couple of third-world ragbins we have fought the last ten years or so, you will yearn for the days our greatest worries were that an office block might get blown up.

You might think other nations wouldn't dare; after all we "outspend the next 15 on the list" and lot of people stil have hard-ons from the last Gulf war.

But if that's the only choice they have, they will. If you think it's neccessary for the US to get tough with the rest of the world in order to keep us safe from terrorists, then at some point in time there will be a Russian just like you, who thinks it's time to get tough with the US in order to keep Russian interests safe from US guns. A German, who thinks his country's obsession with pacifism is nuts and that it's time for a new German army, time for German nukes, time to place the US on the "Aggressors To Watch" list.

Tough shit, you say. We can handle 'em. We can outspend the world on defense. We can whup their asses. Bring it on!

And I say, I don't give a shit when testosterone-hopped teenagers on the Internet blog such sentiments, but if anyone, anyone in power in any US administration thinks that permanent conflict with the rest of the world is neccessary to protect me and my family from "terrorism", then he/she deserves more than the metaphorical bullet in the head when the revolution comes.

Posted by: In Filling at May 25, 2003 01:44 PM | PERMALINK

(iii) "Iraq was not on the top twenty list of such "overseas havens"..." Maybe not your list, but the point is irrelevant. There is no harm in the others knowing that we will get to them when it suits us and not them. The point of deterrence is the demonstration effect. The human rights benefits of eliminating the Iraqi regime were a bonus for the Iraqis, and they are welcome to make of it what they will.

This is a brilliant point, but wouldn't it make an even bigger impression if we randomly pick some country for a demonstration invasion and regime change? It would certainly keep all the other countries on their toes. Sort of a "mommy dearest" or dry alcoholic approach to international relations. If we could be as irritable and unpredictable as the Dear Leader in NK, perfect international order and harmony would be inevitable.

Posted by: Roger Bigod at May 25, 2003 03:04 PM | PERMALINK

"It is a fact that most states around the world, totalitarian, democracies and others, demonstrate every day that they can contain the export of terrorism. The only ones that don't haven't been trying. Faced with the certainty of a visit from the US military they will now try harder, and find they can succeed. This is not rocket science, it is deterrence Mark II. It is in fact a form of deterrence which is not based on mutual assured destruction, something the left used to dream about being able to invent."

You know what? I agree, this should work in theory. However we live in the real world, where the Cheneys and Rumsfelds decide the targets. And I'm still scratching my head about how Iraq helps the cause here. The claim was, straight from Bush's lips, that Iraq was Al Qaida and WMD combined. He either lied, or the the intelligence services produced a collosal failure in the war on terrorism. Next up? The next collosal failure. It's like a rule of nature.

You should listen to libertarians here. Just like with social issues, the federal government hasn't the slightest clue when it comes to intelligent pursuit of policy.

Ah I see another approach in a followup post. It makes a lot of sense! Just pick countries at random, it really doesn't make a difference which one. So what if it turns out to be Canada. Blame it on them.

Posted by: Russell L. Carter at May 25, 2003 04:14 PM | PERMALINK

I don't get this 'attack countries at random' approach, referred to twice above.

The logic of deterrence is, if you are a government harboring or supporting terrorists who target the US then you have to recognize that in so doing you take on the risk of an attack from the US, at a time of our choosing. How hard is this logic to follow?

Contrary to what is suggested above, it makes no sense following this policy to attack a country like Canada.

Nor does the rest of the world have to feel threatened by this approach, and the fact is that (despite the hysterical rhetoric in a few mostly European countries) they don't. Many countries feel their security is enhanced by our taking a tough line against fundamentalist terrorists.

Thumb:

You pose a good question: "how exactly does one deter a martyr?"

There have been a number of fanatical, violent terrorist movements in Europe (where I grew up) during the past century. None of them have achieved their objectives, and they were all defeated eventually.

Generally the original crazies could not be deterred and had to be captured or killed, but as they grew old the ones that remained at large were embittered, had visibly not led successful lives and became less attractive role models for younger followers.

Ironically this is the 'European experience' we should be learning from.

Also, you can take this martyrdom thing too seriously. There is something in this life which these 'martyrs' do in fact seek: the adulation of friends and family around them.

Even among the Palestinians for example, absent payments to one's family from foreign states (leading example Saddam himself) or the proceeds of drug or other rackets (the IRA), terrorism will eventually come to be seen as a dumb career choice.

Trucking off to blow up yourself and a few Israelis when everyone around you thinks you're a dork for doing it is not in the end going to be popular.

Posted by: JK at May 25, 2003 05:12 PM | PERMALINK

I don't get this 'attack countries at random' approach, referred to twice above.

Then you haven't been paying very close attention. You see, Al Qeada is headed by Osama Bin Laden, a Saudi. He's pissed that the US has armys stationed in Saudi Arabia on what he considers holy land. Of the 19 hijackers who flew those jets into the Pentagon and the World Trade Towers, 15 were Saudi. From what little investigation that hasn't been stonewalled by this administration it had been found that a Saudi prince had given large sums of money to at least some of the hijackers.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

The logic of deterrence is, if you are a government harboring or supporting terrorists who target the US then you have to recognize that in so doing you take on the risk of an attack from the US, at a time of our choosing. How hard is this logic to follow?

How hard indeed. So what exactly have we taught these terrorists?

Posted by: Thumb at May 25, 2003 06:55 PM | PERMALINK

I don't get this 'attack countries at random' approach, referred to twice above.

The logic of deterrence is, if you are a government harboring or supporting terrorists who target the US then you have to recognize that in so doing you take on the risk of an attack from the US, at a time of our choosing. How hard is this logic to follow?

Using the term "deterrence" correctly might help communication, though it wouldn't do anything for the logic.

"Deterrence" is having enough military force that an opponent won't attack because of the threat of retaliation. The classic case is the Cold War. In fact, "deterrence" is when you never have a war. If somebody attacks, they haven't been deterred, no?

What you are describing is more accurately "intimidation by example". But if the idea is to show ruthlessness and disproportionate use of force, there's no reason for it to be rationally related to any provocation. In fact, the less the provocation, the more impressive it is. So why not go all the way, and just choose the target randomly? Small-scale use of this tactic even has a name.

Intimidation by random aggression has certainly been used in many cases. There is a theory of negotiation that considers it as a tactic. Some people thought Nixon used it to advantage. There was a slightly impulsive, unstable quality that made people afraid to cross him. But in general, there are a number of ethical and practical reasons not to use it.

Incidentally, what is the evidence that Iraq was "harboring or supporting terrorists who target the US"?

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