Understanding the Enemy

The first step in understanding our enemies is to acknowledge that we have them. We want to believe it is all a misunderstanding (To know us is to love us?) but those most enthusiastic about killing us are often those who know us best. They have experienced our way of live and they do not like our freedom or our liberal ways and they see our tolerance as an exploitable weakness.

I would like to discuss the implications of the linked article on common myths about terrorists and about our reaction to them.

But first let's stop blaming ourselves. Since it is unPC to criticize non-Western societies, let’s go into western history of intolerance to see how this blaming ourselves makes little sense. We will go far enough that nobody can reasonably be offended, back as far as the Thirty Years War. We need not to go into details. Just ask yourself, if you lived in a Catholic village in Bavaria (or a Protestant village in Bohemia) and you just didn’t want to be involved in religious conflict, if your philosophy was live and let live how long would you be able to do both (or either)? When the opposing mob arrives, after explaining your tolerant, liberal philosophy ask them what you have done to deserve it as they prepare to rape your wife, burn your house and cut you into small pieces? They can give you lots of reasons and they are probably right that you passively supported oppression of the guys with the torches & sharp knives and you indirectly benefited from "exploitation", but does that really make a difference to you now? Your choices are to run, fight or die. Your preference may not be the same as theirs. If you want to blame yourself, option three is what you want. I disagree.

So who are the terrorists? Start with what they are not. They are not poor; they are not very young; they were not criminals; they are not poorly educated or unemployed; they do not come from religious backgrounds and they even do not usually live in the Middle East. Wow. The only thing that fits with the stereotype is that they all are Muslims, but most of them were lazy, secular Muslims and some were not Muslims at all until they had a religious conversion as young adults.

These guys look like the angry young men we find hanging around so many college campuses. The difference is that they actually act on their violent hatred. What can we do about that?

There are some choke points and some commonalties. Al Qaeda essentially ran a finishing school for terrorists in Afghanistan. We shut that down. This had an undoubted positive influence. Al Qaeda's infrastructure was decimated.

But the bad guys adapted. Actually, technology became available that allowed them to build network organizations. Compare the Internet in 2001 to what it is today. The same trends that make the physical location of a corporate headquarters more flexible, help employees telecommute, permit distance education and make outsourcing an option keeps terrorists in touch. Terrorism metastasized on the Internet. The most recent crop of terrorists (the ones the Brits broke up) seemed to have only very tenuous links with Al Qaida leadership.

That is one reason why surveillance of the Internet is so much more important than it was in 2001. More and more it is possible for terror groups to self organize. Previously isolated angry young men now have a way to link up with like minded colleagues. By tightening up border crossing and eliminating the terror safe haven in Afghanistan, we have made life more difficult for them but the increasing interconnectivity provided by the Internet has made that achievement less decisive. We need to know what they are talking about. Recent court decisions might make it harder. Two steps forward; one step back.

No matter how motivated or aggressive, angry young men still have expenses. Training for terrorism takes time away from earning money at an ordinary job. Travel and equipment takes money. Few terror cells are self supporting and when they reach out to terror paymasters, they expose themselves. This is why monitoring financial transactions is so crucial, not only to starve the bad guys of funds, but also as a way to track them. (President Bush promised to do this back in November 2001 and he did.) Two steps forward.

The struggle against terrorism has many aspects. Eliminating terror safe havens requires military action. Finding the bad guys among us is a matter of investigation. Uncovering their plans is a matter of surveillance. Stopping their plots is police work. Cutting off their funding is a financial matter. We CAN do all these things and we CAN prevail. But all wars are won or lost in the will. We CAN do these things, but will we?

We need to acknowledge that we have enemies and that it is not a big misunderstanding. To know us is NOT necessarily to love us. MOST of the things we consider personal rights are offensive to radicals. Liberals would have a particularly hard time. Do you think they would tolerate a debate on gay marriage? With some there can be no accommodation. But we also must strive to avoid real misunderstandings. Islam is not our enemy, but some faulty interpretations of it are. We (the U.S. and the West) are not the enemies of Islam, but our enemies try to make us out to be. Some of our enemies must be destroyed, but this is not a struggle against everyone who disagrees with us and this is not only a physical struggle.

The ideological struggle is also crucial but it is not primarily in the places we commonly think of. It is not in the Muslim world nor in the U.S. that it ultimately will be won or lost. The central front in the ideological battle is in Europe. Most of the terrorists who bombed us on 9/11 were radicalized in Europe. It is in Europe where Islam rubs up against a secular post-Christian society every day and in a variety of ways. We can find good and bad news on the old continent. If Europe cannot properly integrate its Muslim population, we will be faced with a situation as bad as we faced in 1939. If they succeed, we will almost certainly prevail with our own problems. The U.S. can handle the military and financial side, but our longer term success in the ideological struggle is in the hands of the British, French & Germans. It is time we all recognized this. I believe the bad guys already do.

Posted by Jack at August 18, 2006 11:40 PM
Comments
Comment #176389

I seriously doubt that a rallying cry of any of our enemies is, “We hate freedom!” But I do think the clash of values is important. In the 1980s I shared a campus paper route with a young Syrian. We got along fine for the most part. But one day, he said, “Why do you wear your hair long? Only women have long hair.” I said something about how hair length is irrelevant etc. and besides, the girls liked it. After that, I learned a lot from him about specific western things tha tbothered, including the use of sex to sell products and to make our media titillating, our attitudes about women, etc., etc. I don’t want to make too much of this — it’s just an anecdote. But what struck me was how strongly he felt about these things. He wasn’t a radical in his eyes; he certainly wasn’t a terrorist.

I think what many think. To many in the Muslim world, western ideas are unnatural, corrupting, dangerous, and all pervasive.

That alone may or may not have been enough for violence, but there is also the belief that the west has exploited the middle east for its own purposes. In other non-Muslim countries I’ve visited, this is also the case. The CIA is a dirty acronym in much of the world. (I leave aside the accuracy of the belief — we know the good and bad parts of our history.)

In addition to these general factors, I think it is clear that political leaders in the Muslim sometimes use the west and the United States as the Great Satan, for their own political purposes. A great boogeyman is a proven way to inspire hatred and to gain and consolidate power. Our support of Israel plays into this.

You are correct, Jack, in asserting that our enemies know us and our methods. They are often very skilled at using public relation and media techniques developed in the west for their own purposes. (Hezbollah giving cash to Lebanons whose homes were destroyed was politics worthy of a Dick Morris or Karl Rove.)

To fight terrorists, we do have to understand what they hope to gain. Destruction of the United States is impossible; if a nuke were detonated I think they are smart enough to know much of the middle east would be reduced to a glassy plain. As the article you linked to says, they are not mentally deranged or stupid.

So what do they hope to gain? Standing in the middle east, I would presume. Regional power. Certainly there is rhetoric of wiping out the west, but that sounds like a longterm goal that doesn’t necessarily play into short term poliitical advantage. I think this war has to be fought extremely intelligently; much of it really is a battle for minds.

Posted by: Trent at August 19, 2006 12:28 AM
Comment #176400

Trent,

They may not want all the ‘freedoms’ we have but I have to believe that they want to be able to, at least, live with fellow Muslims without the threat of death.
We have intense disagreements over gay marriage and abortion. Some of us go as far as murder. It isn’t a mindset that controls the masses though.
That is the beginning of the fight to win the ‘hearts and minds’.
If only we could get them to tolerate each other - first.
I can understand, in a way, why a majority of Muslims blame the U.S.. They see us as supporters of their oppressive governments due to our dependence on oil.
We have to find alternatives. Period.
Those governments have to find ways to give their citizens a means to be productive.
We’ve known that in the west for a long time. People need to feel like they are needed. People need to be rewarded for the good they do. People have to feel wanted - important.

We have some of the same issues here - and growing. We have people who rely on the government for everything and expect the government to take care of everything. (take a look at ‘Always Whitey’s Fault’)

That is how Hezbollah became so strong. Hezbollah does not have their own money or medical supplies but the people think it all comes from them. The U.N. delivers aide and Hezbollah distributes it. Iran and Syria send money and weapons - the people think Hezbollah is self sufficient.
That is why Hamas has become so powerful. Aide.
Suppression. Lack of alternate opinions and media access.
We are fighting enemies that we helped create.
We can only destroy them by becoming independent from oil.
As we become less and less dependent on oil we can send jobs to their countries.
Of course, eventually, we will all become stockholders and live off dividends instead of relying on these companies for jobs. We will play golf, make movies, and tour the world with our ‘free’ money to keep everyone elses economies flourishing.
We will have ‘worker programs’ for people from other countries to come in and do the service jobs.
It’s a dream world.

Posted by: dawn at August 19, 2006 1:22 AM
Comment #176403

Jack,

“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”

Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear
Dune, by Frank Herbert, pg 19

What does the world look like when you are afraid?

Fear, suspicion, and paranoia create an unhealthy view of the world.

And yes, even paranoids have enemies. But that does not mean paranoids can commit atrocities.

The unhealthy, fear-filled perspecitive you enunciate would result in a world where only the US, UK, & Israel will stand together against the rest of the world. It is a perspective which results in wars (get them before they get you!), senseless bombings, invasions of other countries based upon lies, and a disproportionate response to real or imagined provocations.

The “War on Terror” is not a sufficiently important development to serve as a focus for policy. Just as paranoids do have enemies, there will always be terrorists, and loons, and stone cold crazies who will want to go out with a bang. Controlling them is a matter of intelligence & police work & perhaps special ops.

We agree, the last time there was a sufficient target for action was in Afghanistan, almost five years ago.

But fear is a mind killer. If a paranoid keeps lashing out- if the US, UK, & Israel keep invading and bombing- then yes, we will provoke WWIII, and our fear will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The threats have been insignificant, in relative terms. The British caught the most recent ring with ease- that group had been infiltrated by an informant for a year, and had no chance of ever achieving anything other than very long prison sentences.

Iraq is another matter. It is going so badly, no one wants to even think about it anymore. It is like a gambler who has lost $90,000 out of a $100,000 stake. Does the gambler walk away with the remaining $10,000 and realize the loss, or assert “withdrawal is surrender” and keep playing? We both know the answer.

As for Afghanistan, liberals and conservatives have always agreed. It is just we all forgot.

Instead of fear, we need to base policy with an eye to the future.

Be confident, Jack. Stand up straight. Take a deep breath. Focus, and smile. Let the fear pass through you, and realize you and I do remain, after all, at least for a little longer, and there is a lot of good to be done. It is well to do so, and right. Let us move forward.

Posted by: phx8 at August 19, 2006 1:40 AM
Comment #176405

Unfortunately, merely shooting a few thousand terrrorists isn’t going to get rid of terrorism. It would probably make the problem worse. Because “terrorists” also happen to be Allah’s holy warriors. Hezbullah is especially recognized for trying to through out the Crusaders and the Zionists. The only way to destroy terrorism is to tame Islam. Christianity is no longer a religion of Inquisitions and Crusades. Islam is. Only by making Islam a sort of Middle Eastern Christianity as we have a Western Christianity, by “taming” Islam so that it will not take up arms, only using political weapons, not firearms. Make Islam mostly complacent to social change. Or at least not violently opposed to social change. Then we will have peace.

I apologize for the poor writing but I was following a train of thought that had not gotten to the other station yet.

Posted by: Silima at August 19, 2006 1:48 AM
Comment #176406

phx8

?!?!?! Sorry, but somehow I don’t want my leaders to just say, “oh, its not that big a problem.” about people who want to kill me. And my family. And my friends. And just about everyone else I know. Somehow I want my government to make sure they never get here. That doesn’t strike me as unreasonable.

Israel, at least, has every right to be paranoid. Can you name one time period since the diaspora when Jews have NOT faced either state sponsored discrimination and racism, or since 1948, a multitude of nations and organizations that regularly call for it and all its people to be annihilated? I can’t. When Israel’s borders are violated and its soldiers kidnapped they should say, “Well, we can’t get rid of them, so why bother trying and we shouldn’t be paranoid, anyway. There can’t be very many of them.”? NO WAY. Any sovereign country whose sovereignty was violated as Israel’s was has every right to go beat the stuffing out of whoever did it.

If the gambler knows that if he leaves, the man he was playing poker against will break into his house and steal the remaining $10,000, yes, he should keep playing.

Posted by: Silima at August 19, 2006 1:59 AM
Comment #176407

phx8, hey, a Frank Herbert reference! As a student journalist, I interviewed him in the mid-’80s. Nice guy. Had high hopes the movie would be good.

Posted by: Trent at August 19, 2006 2:00 AM
Comment #176409

Silima,
Tell me more about these people who want to kill you. Have you ever met them? What are their names?

I would especially like to know if that person belonged to Hezbollah, or was Iraqi. No one from Hezbollah and no Iraqi terrorist has ever attacked an American in the United States. Never. Not once. For bloodthirsty people, they seem remarkably willing settle for situations where Americans & Brits & Israelis coming to their lands and kill.

“Can you name one time period since the diaspora when Jews have NOT faced either state sponsored discrimination and racism… I can’t.”

Why yes. I can. You should read accounts of Jewish history in the Middle East. Before the Zionist movement of the last century, Jews co-existed peacefully with Muslims for hundreds of years. Until WWII, Bagdhad hosted one of the longest-lived Jewish communities outside of Israel. Syria hosted the longest established one, 2700 years.

Jews suffered some persecution at the hands of Muslims, especially during the tulultous years during the early expansion of Islam. However, these persecutions paled in number compared with the treatment Jews received at the hands of Christians, culminating in the Holocaust.

Trent,
I love SF, and read a great deal. My personal favorite is Jack Vance.

Posted by: phx8 at August 19, 2006 2:17 AM
Comment #176410

Jack,
Why is it that although I agree with your analysis almost in-toto, I still want Bush and his whole goverment impeached? Why do otherwise intelligent folks like you keep insisting that it is necesary to violate the law and even the constitution, to have a surveilance program? Why aren’t you disgusted with the witch hunts this administration goes on against soldiers, intelligence analysts or anyone else that gives them their profesional opinion, when it doesn’t support the conclusions they want to draw?
Why aren’t you up in arms about regarding the Geneva convention as “quaint”? Why aren’t you seething about tax breaks for big oil, when what we need is a “Manhatan Project” for alternative fuels?
I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that I believe this administration may have severely damaged if not outright destroyed the world’s “last best chance”, if it causes our lunatic fringe to supplant your right wing nutjobs.

Posted by: Rene at August 19, 2006 2:30 AM
Comment #176413

My Nmae Is Roger:

Islam is a religion!
Judaism is a religion!
Christianity is a religion!

According to the teaching of all three of these religions, there are some things which can never ever be tolorated!

Here in America we call ourselves Jews and we tolorate and practice all kinds of things which are spoken against in the Bible.

Here in America we call ourselves Chrisitans and we tolorate and practice all kinds of things which are spoken against in the Bible.

Here in America we call ourselves Muslems and tolorate and practice all kinds of things which are spoken against in the Quran.

And because of this our country has become more corrupt, more wicked, more sinful, and we wonder why they look at us as being corrupt, wicked, and sinful.

GOD has set down certain strandards for His people to live by, and except for a small group of people, most of us do not even try to live up to that standard; and we make fun of those who do.
We label them with all kinds of names, yet at the same time we still call ourselves followers of GOD.

PLEASE… don’t call yourself a Muslem or Jew or Christian if you are not living up to the teaching of your religion, or at least trying to.

PLEASE… don’t look down upon those who are!

PLEASE… Try to understand [ YOU ARE WRONG AND THEY ARE RIGHT ], because they are trying to live up to the teachins of their religion.

ROGER

Posted by: ROGER at August 19, 2006 7:30 AM
Comment #176420

Jack-
Great topic! You have explained what people need to know about terrorists in a way that I have not been able to. I lose patience. I hope a lot of people see what you have written.

Trent-
You seem to fully understand who these people are and what they do. Somehow, though, you manage to throw a couple of punches at the administration. Libs, like you, seem to have a religious zeal (not comparing you to a terrorist) when it comes to your politics. Terrorists do not care what your politics are. They will kill you, just for living life as an American. This country needs your help. We need to stand united. We currently are not, and that is what is costing us lives and money.

Terrorists are exploiting our politics. Kerry, during his prez campaign was saying things that seemed to be read verbatim from terrorist websites. All for politics. We can disagree, but we should not take the debate to a degree where we are paralyzed. The Democratic Party is trying to take down the president at all costs. The Republican Party must continue to win elections until the Dems become more sane. Maybe that will be 2008, when Bush is no longer the prez.

Libs made HATE a crime, and they hate Bush so much I wonder if they could consider it wrong. I dont understand Libs. I try to debate them and try to understand and try to make them understand, but it is tough. I wonder if Coulter was right about the religious left.

Posted by: JoeRWC at August 19, 2006 8:49 AM
Comment #176428

Jack - I think your analysis is overly simplistic and a way to absolve the US of any responsibility.

Michael Schuer(ex-CIA Middle East analyst) in his Book “Imperial Hubris” says Terrorists hate us for what we do, not who we are”

First you have to define what is a terrorist and what motivates them. The reasons are many and complex. And we can look to ourseleves and 0ur history to find the answer. But I see a different history than you.

The problem is routed in a cultural conflict between west and Middle Eastern values. Both of us are ideologically attached to our believes, values and culture. One of us has imperialistic ambitions and wants to force our values on the other to gain access to oil, security, defend Israel and maintain control.

Also, where we are the same as terrorists, is that having enemies is a uniting force. Here in the US, Godless Communism, progressive social policies, the Clintons and Terorism are rallying cries for Social and neo-conservatives. Enemies give us a focus of moral clarity and moral purpose. It allows leaders to consolidate power. It makes your values superior to the other, gives you a sense of moral rightousness(insert your religion here to justify) and it simplifies the conflict as being between “good and evil”. It is a place where people with authoritative and controlling personalities find refuge. Both the US (conservatives) and Islam clerics do this.

Going back to your example.

When the opposing mob arrives, after explaining your tolerant, liberal philosophy ask them what you have done to deserve it as they prepare to rape your wife, burn your house and cut you into small pieces? They can give you lots of reasons and they are probably right that you passively supported oppression of the guys with the torches & sharp knives and you indirectly benefited from “exploitation”, but does that really make a difference to you now? Your choices are to run, fight or die. Your preference may not be the same as theirs. If you want to blame yourself, option three is what you want. I disagree.

The US is the opposing mob. Not just in the middle east, but in Latin America as well. We have a history of intervening in the affairs of other countries(240 times since WWII), supporting ruthless dictators, the School of Americas has trained death squads” responsible for killing over 300,000 people in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaguara in the 19080’s and over throwing democratically elected leaders who do not support our interests (Montt, Allende). The CIA has a term for all this “Blowback”

According to Ron Suskinds book “The one percent doctrine” He quotes a CIA analyst as follows: “Blowback is the unintended consequences of US covert actions. The US engages in cladestine operations against another soveregn state and they retaliate. The American people have no senes of context or history as to why. Then we ask ourseleves “Why do they hate us?”

Your history is self serving. You need to stop rationalizing and seeing this conflict as simply “Good vs Evil” So you can fell good about the US.

Posted by: Jerseyguy at August 19, 2006 9:33 AM
Comment #176431

JoeRWC, I certainly didn’t mean to slam the current administration. I have before on this issue; I don’t approve of many things this administration has done, but my intent was to stay true to the spirit of the article and not cast blame. Was it the CIA reference? I was only talking about perception, not whether it was valid, though, of course, I think sometimes it is valid — but I didn’t go there? Was it the implication at the end that we have to be smarter than the terrorists? I could see how that could be perceived as criticism as the current administration, but, you know, I think we do have to be very smart about this. Anyway, I truly wasn’t wanting to push any buttons.

Posted by: Trent at August 19, 2006 9:44 AM
Comment #176434

Trent-
The injection of Morris and Rove is seemingly a slap at the administration. I willtake your word and apologize if I jumped to quickly, because you seem to have a rational way of thinking. Comments like that seem gratuitous and take away credibility from an otherwise cogent argument.
It is nice to find someone like you that does not just parrot the neo-lib dogma.

Posted by: JoeRWC at August 19, 2006 9:56 AM
Comment #176435

We have met the enemy and it is us!

Too gullible to consider that we can’t go on enjoying cheap energy forever…now the local electric company has proposed raising rates by 23%!!

The government needs to spur research into alternative energies…and quick!

Posted by: Lynne at August 19, 2006 10:02 AM
Comment #176442

Phx8

I am not fearful. I am just trying to figure out a way ahead. Maybe what I wrote scares you. I just see it as difficult challenge. We need to be realistic. We cannot believe that we can all just get along. Some terrorists must be eliminated. We also cannot believe that everyone who disagrees with us is deadly enemy.

Silima

If Islam is to become “tame” it will happen first in Europe. When dealing with something like this, we need to pursue many options. Some need killing. If we let the bad guys go, they will infect others. But we have to reach out to the others.

Rene

The Geneva Convention is to among signing powers. It conveys rights and obligations on all parties. For example, it does not protect those who kill civilians and who do not wear uniforms. Such spies and saboteurs are liable to execution. It is also a violation of the rules of war to among behind and among civilian populations. They are important, not quaint rules. But they apply to both sides. By the rules of war, most of those detainees in Guantanamo should probably be dead.

This Manhattan project for alternative fuels is unreasonable. We will not find a magic formula. We already have lots of alternatives. They just cost more than oil, which is very cheap and easy to get. At today’s oil prices, alternatives are viable and are rapidly developing. This is not a crisis; it is a situation.

Re surveillance programs - we can talk about details. I do not believe the main thrust is illegal. In fact, I believe it is necessary. If Al Qaeda is sending emails and making calls to America, I want us to know. Ultimately, the Supreme Court will probably decide. Then that will be the law of the land. If the Dems win congress, they probably will impeach Bush. It will waste a lot of time and in the end he will be found not guilty.

Jersey

I am not saying that our policies have not contributed to the problem. I do not, however, believe we caused it. I am also looking forward. What can we do now. If we can reasonably change policies to mitigate the problem, I am for it. On the other hand, if our enemies expect us to die in retaliation for their supposed past grievances, I am not going to cooperate. Our study of history should give us options and alternatives. We are not bound by it.

I do not see it as good versus evil (although some of our enemies are evil). Like many wars, it is mostly about power and will, which side can impose its will on the other. In a war, I want our side to win. If the study of history helps us do that (and I think it does) good. I do not believe in historical guilt. There is always plenty of blame to go around. What we can do today counts.

I think we should be magnanomous in victory, but we need a victory first. If we have to settle for less, we still need to achieve as much as we can. I don’t give anything away preemtively.

Posted by: Jack at August 19, 2006 10:32 AM
Comment #176451

[We cannot believe that we can all just get along]

Jack,

We will never be able to get along if we cannot beleive we can.

In order to stop this killing and madness and future killing and madness one has to believe that it can be stopped.

Otherwise change will not happen.

Posted by: Jim Guy at August 19, 2006 11:18 AM
Comment #176453

JoeRWC, ah, I see. Well, you know, I was attempting to NOT be partisan there. I associate Morris mostly with Clinton; and Rove with Bush.

Posted by: Trent at August 19, 2006 11:22 AM
Comment #176456

We have met the enemy and he is us.

A lot of people are still thinking this war is like WWII or Korea where you could look at the enemy and know who he was by what he wore. Since Vietnam it has been different. The enemy is among us, learning about us, and just because he seems friendly what kind of information is he collecting and going to use against us.

As a American’s we think that we have the best form of government, and it is right for everyone in the world but is it? Roman went on for how long with the different Ceasar’s. Egypt with theirs. Yes they might have been despot’s but their countries were the most powerful at their times.

We assume that the terrorist are poor, dumb, and regilious vealots, but this is not true. Just because someone does not have a diploma on the wall doesn’t make them stupid.

We need to learn about our enemies, but at the same time not try to force our way of life onto their.

Posted by: KT at August 19, 2006 11:33 AM
Comment #176457
The struggle against terrorism has many aspects. Eliminating terror safe havens requires military action. Finding the bad guys among us is a matter of investigation. Uncovering their plans is a matter of surveillance. Stopping their plots is police work. Cutting off their funding is a financial matter. We CAN do all these things and we CAN prevail. But all wars are won or lost in the will. We CAN do these things, but will we?

This is what Kerry said, that one of the most important aspects of fighting terrorism would require international policework. Republicans said that made Kerry soft on terrorism.

Kerry recognized the nature of the beast. We cannot defeat terrorism by going into countries and occupying them. There will always be dissidents, and, as Jack pointed out, it’s easier than ever for them to recruit, organize, and plan across borders.

I still say we need an international coalition of countries who agree not to do business of any kind with governments that participate in x, y, z, as well as create an international task force dedicated to finding and rooting out terrorism around the world.

I also do not buy the argument that this is a cultural thing. I think its a modern thing. China, Germany, Russia, etc. all shared the same modern myth at one point or another: that there was a group of underpriveledged but chosen people whose idealistic vision was unrealized because of infidels of one sort or another. That vision would only become reality when all the infidels are dead. Fascism, totalitarianism, communism, terrorism are all different in their particulars (even contradictory) but share the same recognizable methods and goals.

As far as I can figure, terrorists are lonely, desperate people who feel humiliated by their lack of opportunity and circumstances. There is nothing better for them to strive to do than blow themselves up and be known as martyrs. In some cases, by blowing themselves up, they can give more money to their family than in any other way imaginable. The only support or applause or attention of any kind the world gives them is when they blow themselves up.

I thought Bush’s plan of creating a democratic nation of Iraq was a beautiful plan. I wanted it to work, but also thought it was naive, and, as time went on, incredibly poorly executed. It was also eye opening to me to discover that underneath it all, there really is a significantly large group of people in Iraq who simply do not want democracy.

The Republicans, to my mind, are the ones that have been strangely idealistic and bleeding heart throughout this war. Insisting the people want democracy when it’s clear many don’t. Insisting we destroy terrorism, when it clearly cannot be destroyed. Insisting the war is working, when clearly we should cut our losses. It’s time Republicans grew up. You are a backwards mirror image of what you once were.

What needs to happen now in Iraq is we need to leave and tell whatever government is in place that unless it treats people like human beings and lets us in to police international terrorism the world will not do business with them. This was George Senior’s sober assesment, and it effectively crippled Sadaam. Then we need to make building an international security force a top priority and shift our resources there. We need to focus on all the ways we can minimize risk, because there is no way to remove it entirely. We also need to give up on fantasies that the rest of the world loves us and wants to be like us, and settle for them leaving us peaceably alone.

Posted by: Max at August 19, 2006 11:43 AM
Comment #176459

Thanks for your great post, Jack.
Concerning the Muslims in European nations not assimilating into the culture of the particular nation their living in. Isn’t that crucial? Particularly since the birth rate has decreased so dramatically among European nations, while the birth rate among Muslim people in those same countries has increased dramatically? They are certainly not aborting their children as those in Europe and the U.S. are, but having large families. Their is also a push to rebuild mosks which formerly existed in Spain (re-expansion). It appears to me that we must look beyond our noses at a broader picture of what’s happening here.
Terrorism is an immediate concern and one that is ongoing for which we cannot let our guard down, however, there seems to be a global push here towards a broad Islamization of our world. This is not paranoia. This is looking at the world situation, and putting pieces together.
Look at what happened in the Netherlands with the assassination of VanGogh and the extreem fear of Islamic retaliation worldwide due the publishing of ‘cartoons’in their press.
We are becoming far too appeasing and complicit when it comes to this fear of ‘offending’ Muslims. Do we live in fear of offending Christians or Jews, Buddists or Hindus? This must tell us something of the nature of these religious extreemists. Anyone who thinks religion has nothing to do with any of this is deluding themselves. There ultimate goal is to claim the world for ALLAH.

Posted by: linda at August 19, 2006 11:45 AM
Comment #176458

Thanks for your great post, Jack.
Concerning the Muslims in European nations not assimilating into the culture of the particular nation their living in. Isn’t that crucial? Particularly since the birth rate has decreased so dramatically among European nations, while the birth rate among Muslim people in those same countries has increased dramatically? They are certainly not aborting their children as those in Europe and the U.S. are, but having large families. Their is also a push to rebuild mosks which formerly existed in Spain (re-expansion). It appears to me that we must look beyond our noses at a broader picture of what’s happening here.
Terrorism is an immediate concern and one that is ongoing for which we cannot let our guard down, however, there seems to be a global push here towards a broad Islamization of our world. This is not paranoia. This is looking at the world situation, and putting pieces together.
Look at what happened in the Netherlands with the assassination of VanGogh and the extreem fear of Islamic retaliation worldwide due the publishing of ‘cartoons’in their press.
We are becoming far too appeasing and complicit when it comes to this fear of ‘offending’ Muslims. Do we live in fear of offending Christians or Jews, Buddists or Hindus? This must tell us something of the nature of these religious extreemists. Anyone who thinks religion has nothing to do with any of this is deluding themselves. There ultimate goal is to claim the world for ALLAH.

Posted by: linda at August 19, 2006 11:45 AM
Comment #176460

Jack,
The “War on Terror” is not important enough to be a focus of policy.

Most of us know what needs addressing:

Our dependence upon oil.

This is the equivalent of the struggle against communism, or WWII. Oil dependency is the linchpin; cut through that gordian knot, and most problems disappear.

Currently, the US spends as much on defense as the rest of the world combined, yet we are afraid. We export as many arms as the next 14 largest exporters combined, yet we are still afraid. What is going wrong? Why does KT worry about unseen enemies among us?

The problem is that the Bush administration is a Fossil Fuel administration. That does not mean they are evil. It means that they see the world through an oily lens. Bush & Cheney and others believe that what is good for Big Oil is good for the country. So, in a platonic sense, they do not knowingly seek to do evil; they seek to do good in accordance to their convictions, and they are convinced that what is good for Big Energy is good for the country.

Unfortunately, they are wrong. Almost all of us know this. What is good for alternate energy is what will be good for this country.

Exxon has recorded the most profits every earned by any country in history. We currently spend over $250 million per day, almost $2 billion per week in Iraq. Imagine if our efforts were directed towards alternate energies?

But because the Bush administration begins from a false premise, the results turn out very badly. As a country, we are badly out of kilter, and it keeps getting worse: Iraq grows worse, Afghanistan grows worse, oil prices continue their climb, we cannot finish the job of rebuilding New Orleans after Katrina, the national debt grows, the budget & trade deficits stagger the imagination, Global Warming receives scant attention from the government, the Terror Alert is raised to red for the first time ever, even though the administration knows perfectly well there was no need, and, in short, we are afraid.

Realistically, this will not change until the Bush administration leaves.

Posted by: phx8 at August 19, 2006 11:53 AM
Comment #176464

phx8
That’s right everything wrong in the world today is W’s fault. Hurricans, oil prices, deficits, how much snow we get in the winter and how much heat we have in the summer are all his fault. Wow, I wish you could get past the 2000 election and move forward. As far as global warming, man are you arragant to think we pueny humans can destroy this planet or influence it in any catastrophic way (other than with nucs). You’ve never studied much science or astronomy have you?
But then again maybe the inventor of the internet, Algore, can save us.

Posted by: linda at August 19, 2006 12:33 PM
Comment #176463

phx8
That’s right everything wrong in the world today is W’s fault. Hurricans, oil prices, deficits, how much snow we get in the winter and how much heat we have in the summer are all his fault. Wow, I wish you could get past the 2000 election and move forward. As far as global warming, man are you arragant to think we pueny humans can destroy this planet or influence it in any catastrophic way (other than with nucs). You’ve never studied much science or astronomy have you?
But then again maybe the inventor of the internet, Algore, can save us.

Posted by: linda at August 19, 2006 12:33 PM
Comment #176467

phx8
That’s right everything wrong in the world today is W’s fault. Hurricans, oil prices, deficits, how much snow we get in the winter and how much heat we have in the summer are all his fault. I wish you could get past the 2000 election and move forward. As far as global warming, it’s quite arrogant to think we humans can destroy this planet or influence it in any catastrophic way (other than with nucs). You’ve never studied much science or astronomy have you?
But then again maybe the inventor of the internet, Algore, can save us.

Posted by: linda at August 19, 2006 12:38 PM
Comment #176475

Linda,

Wake up. Phx is talking about the fact that Arab countries own all the oil, and that we shouldn’t be dependent on them for our energy. We have to stop giving billions of dollars to countries that turn around and fund groups like Hamas. Bush said this too.

As far as global warming is concerned the scientific consensus is that it’s real. Only nutjobs argue against global warming being real or that we are causing it. Many Christian groups are starting to recognize the threat of global warning, and the sin of doing nothing about it.

Anyway, what are you saying about Bush? That he’s not responsible for our debts? or this war? or the way it was run? or his policies that contributed to Katrina’s ruin and global warming? I don’t hold him solely responsible, but I do hold him accountable for his decisions. For instance, I do not hold Bush accountable for global warming, but he sure hasn’t helped. He had an opportunity with Kyoto to define internationally accepted levels of CO2 emissions and walked away. I think he’s the worst president we have ever had and I believe that is a sober assesment, no hyperbole.

Posted by: Max at August 19, 2006 2:15 PM
Comment #176480

“Understanding our enemies”?????

That sounds suspiciously like the time that Kerry urged that dumb bunny bush to fight “a more sensitive war on terrorism. Get a clue, bush and his friends aren’t capable and it’s too late.

Posted by: Charles Ross at August 19, 2006 2:41 PM
Comment #176481

Jack:

You say we must understand the enemy. I say we must understand the criminal. Terrorists are not enemies such as antagonistic states might be. They are criminals.

Terrorist leaders like bin Laden and Nasrullah are seeking power. They are extremely upset that Muslims are not treated with respect by the West. They also rage with anger because the West lords it over them and treats them like dirt. These terrorist leaders figure they can use this rage to become powerful.

Instead of going to war with every Muslim country, we should mount an international terrorist hunting program. If done right, we may even get terrorist-sponsoring states, such as Iran, to help us.

Posted by: Paul Siegel at August 19, 2006 2:45 PM
Comment #176487

Phx8

This oil consumption began when? I recall lots of consumption before 2001. The price of gas reached an all time low in 1998. Predictably, consumption exploded in the 1990s. Most of those big gas guzzlers on our roads today were built before Bush took office. Not everybody traded his small car for an SUV in 2001. In fact recently small cars and hybrids have been selling better.

The same goes for global warming. President Clinton never submitted Kyoto for ratification. Gore didn’t seem to have much of an effect on anything. We might have a problem, but it is a bipartisan one.

Re New Orleans - I sure hope we do not rebuilt all of New Orleans. We had lots of people living in places unsuitable for building. Nature just took it back. Let her keep it. The parts of New Orleans already being rebuilt are probably just about right. We have a chance to be smarter this time.

Max

The high price of gas is having the proper effect of encouraging conservation and alternatives. In 1998 hardly anybody thought about better energy efficiency. Now it is on TV all the time and all over the papers.

Charlie

Kerry was not being comprehensive. Beyond that, when liberal leaders talk about understanding our enemies, they are often speaking in code for blaming ourselves.

Paul

We actually have not gone to war with any Muslim countries. We replaced two unrepresentative governments. I believe we treat Muslims with great respect. Read what Bush says about Islam. We do not treat it as superior, which seems to infuriate some radicals.

Posted by: jack at August 19, 2006 3:09 PM
Comment #176496

Max
Each President or leader must be judged and evaluated in the light of history. Only time can adequately evaluate any leader, however, with the hand that W was dealt, in large part through the befuddled/ineffective foreign policy of the previous eight year administration along with 9/11 and all that has transpired since, though he hasn’t been perfect (he’s done things that we conservatives don’t agree with) he and the administration have done their level best to confront, instead of shrug off, simply avoid, or put off til later the tough issues as the previous administration did. He’s never tried to pass the buck to make himself look good . He takes the shots and never complains or quits (or whines) and liberals can’t stand that (it makes him look too much like a ‘cowboy’). Much of our national debt is, as always, due to circumstances beyond our control Katrina, tsunami relief and not to be redundant but 9/11, illegal immigration, and yes helping to liberate the people of Afganistan and Iraq. We are a generous nation - even helping Lebanon(which I’m somewhat conflicted about)rebuild. We are first and foremost humanitarians.

I thank God every day that Bush has been our leader during these trying times instead of Algore. Bush was the right man at the right time and I believe history will bare that to be true.

As far as global warming is concerned, there’ll be plenty of warming when our star, the sun, begins it’s expansion or if an unseen meteor or comet should stray into our planetary neighborhood, or if tectanic plates begin to move and rupture causing volcanic or other such natural cataclysmic events to take place. Global warming caused by humans will become a pretty moot point. Suns, planets and moons are born… have a life cycle… and then they die(not ususlly with a wimper either)but with the extraordinary convulsions that only nature can produce. And there’s not one twit that we can do to change that. We are a small though significant part of nature, however, we are certainly not on a par with the Creator of it all. We accept the things we cannot change
We change the things we can
And ask for wisdom to know the difference.
We should all do our best to conserve and preserve what we have, but the forces of Nature will not be contained or brought to a halt by our wishes, and that’s a scientific fact.

Posted by: linda at August 19, 2006 3:57 PM
Comment #176510

Jack,

High gas prices are making alternative energy a valid economic choice, but the high prices are largely because of Bush’s disasters, certainly not because of any Republican policy (at least, not purposely).

Linda,

Bush is not conservative. That’s an adult position I respect. Today’s Republicans are neo-conservatives. They believe many childish things yesterday’s conservatives did not.

You are arguing that no one should criticize the president until his term is long over, but it’s clear now to most people that Bush is a total failure. Americans do not need to wait ten years after having all gone into debt with nothing to show for it to say a mistake was made.

Also, you are going to have to post some facts (though I’m not sure you understand what this word means) to back up your ridiculous claim that humans cannot affect their environment.

Posted by: Max at August 19, 2006 5:33 PM
Comment #176511

Jack,
The energy programs begun by Jimmy Carter should have been pursued and modified. Unfortunately, Reagan tanked them. But that kind of back and forth can be endless. What differs today is the explosive demand for oil due to the growth of China & India, the continued high demand in the US, and the possibility of “Peak Oil.”

Bipartisanship would be nice, but currently Republicans control all branches of the federal government. They have a chance to lead. We are still waiting.

Same with Global Warming. There is a tremendous opportunity for the American innovative spirit to come up with solutions. Climatology has been the most rapidly advancing scientific field over the past decade, and any debate about Global Warming should have been put to rest in 2001, with the third IPCC report.

Even as concensus emerged, Bush withdrew the US from Kyoto negotiations.

Linda,
You, personally, may have created a localized condition of climate warming this afternoon.

What happens to the inside of your car if you leave it parked in the sun, with the windows rolled up?

Carbon Dioxide (C02) in the atmosphere does the same thing as the glass of your car window, but C02 is a greenhouse gas. Humanity produces huge amount of C02 by burning coal, among other things. The amount of C02 can be measured in the atmosphere, and it is steadily increasing. In addition, historical measurements of C02 can be made using ice cores and other cores drilled from sediments from around the world. They all show the same. Atmospheric C02 is at the highest level in 600,000 years, perhaps 20 million years.

The historical record shows previous naturally occurring variations in temperature match variations in atmospheric C02.

C02 is a greenhouse gas.

It is at very, very high levels in the atmosphere.

What do you think will happen?

Posted by: phx8 at August 19, 2006 5:39 PM
Comment #176513

Thank you Linda and Jack. I don’t have enough time to answer all of those who think the United States is the cause of all evil in the world while they give a pass to the murderers we oppose.

Some aparently think we should wait until one or more cities have a nuclear device detonated in them before we begin to oppose the terrorists. Iran and Syria are state sponsors of terrorism. In my opinion they have committed acts of war by proxy against our ally Israel.

We didn’t attack Saddam because of his support of terrorism, but because he was a gathering threat as he sought more deadly weapons. He violated the cease fire between us when his forces fired missiles at our planes for 12 years. Didn’t Bill Clinton care that for eight years Saddam looked for more deadly things to do against us?

Some hate President Bush so much that they don’t care if stopping us from listening to what the terrorists say helps the terrorists slip a bomb past us.

The judge made an error in her interpretation assuming she didn’t deliberately misinterpret the Constitution because of her own hatred.

The military has always intercepted enemy communications, even if they were on a telephone call to the United States, even when Clinton and Carter were president.

I agree with upholding the Constitution and I believe it will be properly upheld by the Supreme Court.

If the rules say the United States has to just lay down and die (as some of you seem to want) then those rules need to be changed.

Posted by: Steve S at August 19, 2006 6:19 PM
Comment #176516

SteveS,

Who said we shouldn’t go after terrorists? No one. You’re just spouting partisan diatribe.

Also, it has been shown beyond a reasonable doubt that Sadaam was not a threat. He had no weapons. Sure, he wanted them, but he couldn’t make them because the embargo and inspections effectively crippled him. Thank you Bush Senior. This is not in dispute. And going into a war without planning for it, preparing for it, understanding the reasons thoroughly, etc. does not gain my respect.

We now should probably return to the discussion of who our enemy is, but I can tell you this, Iraq was not a threat.

Posted by: Max at August 19, 2006 6:41 PM
Comment #176517

Max

I did not say it was a policy. Most things that happen are not the result of government policy, although they try to take credit and get the blame.

The fact is that any program to create conservation or alternatives - if it works - needs to raise the price. I hear a lot of sanctimonious preaching about how we need to conserve or go to alternatives. But when it starts to happen they cry about it.

What do you think Kyoto would have done to prices of energy?

Phx8

Carter’s synfuel program failed because it was not practical. Thank God it failed too. Most of what they were trying to do was convert coal to other fuels. In those days we worried about global cooling and called CO2 a harmless byproduct. Carter’s program, had it succeeded would be causing us severe problems.

Steve et al

Re U.S. being the source of trouble and evil is not really the point anyway. Even if I do something really bad, I still am going to prevent my enemy from getting revenge if I can. We can/should look to our past behavior to understand the problem. But no matter what FDR did in the Middle East, I am not going to recognize the legitimacy of these guys to punish me. In a fight to the death, if someone ends up dead, I prefer it be them. I can live with the “guilt,” but only if I stay alive.

Posted by: Jack at August 19, 2006 6:46 PM
Comment #176524

Jack,

Totally agree. Higher gas prices are great. I just wish it were a part of a plan, like with us taxing it, instead of all that money going to terrorists.

Posted by: Max at August 19, 2006 6:59 PM
Comment #176526

I’m curious, why do Americans want to kill Arabs?

Is it because of 9/11? Most Americans had no connection to the people in New York. Most Arabs had nothing to do with 9/11.

Is it because of the price of Oil? Most Americans are getting by, even though they are losing disposable income.

Is because they want to free the Iraqi’s and killing some of them seems the best way to do it? Most Americans don’t know anything about Iraq except our soldier’s are there and getting killed.

The US killers are mostly young and naive. No they average probably somewhere around 26 and some have degrees. It’s amazing that an army isn’t mostly 15 year olds or 60 year olds.

My point here is not to figure why Americans want to kill Arabs, but to point out that this kind of analysis is pure propoganda and not any kind of real analysis. People do things for a myriad of reasonable and unreasonable things. Followers follow and leaders lead.

The point is whether US policy is serving our interests.

Posted by: gergle at August 19, 2006 7:12 PM
Comment #176538

Sigh…. I sure miss the days when to be conservative meant keeping our noses in our own business instead of most of the rest of the world.

Why today’s “conservatives” can’t seem to make the connection between US imperialism and the terrorist attacks we’ve experienced is way, way beyond me.

Even the petroleum connection would not be a problem if we could just keep our flippin’ noses on our own business and out of the mideast. The price of petroleum would have gotten high enough to spur domestic exploration and production while at the same time conservation would have made sense. But no, we had to camp out in Saudi Arabia for 10 years policing that area until OBL said enough is enough. And we’re out of there now, aren’t we? Why wasn’t that called “cut and run”?

The mideast extremists don’t hate us for our freedom or our wealth or our religion or our decadent lifestyle. They hate use for the things we do, sticking our noses into things that aren’t our business. Way to go, neo-cons, mission accomplished.

Keep in mind that every empire has met a sad and ignominious end, because it just doesn’t work to try to force people to do things they don’t want to do on their home turf. I predict things will turn out exactly the same as it did for the British, the French, the Germans, the Russians, the Romans, the Greeks, the Macedonians, in short every empire. We can only hope ours doesn’t end in nuclear holocaust.

Posted by: Crazy_joe_divola at August 19, 2006 8:08 PM
Comment #176541

Crazy Joe,

You’re right; nothing last forever. But I hope the good ol’ US of A is around for a long, long time, and after that, I hope the ideas of individual liberty, government of the people, and all of the rest of the amazing ideas in our founding documents still remain. The jury is still out, will always be out. What a noble experiment this all is :)

Posted by: Trent at August 19, 2006 8:39 PM
Comment #176542
You’re right; nothing last forever. But I hope the good ol’ US of A is around for a long, long time, and after that, I hope the ideas of individual liberty, government of the people, and all of the rest of the amazing ideas in our founding documents still remain. The jury is still out, will always be out. What a noble experiment this all is :) Posted by: Trent at August 19, 2006 08:39 PM

Right, everything has to come to an end sometime, but don’t get me wrong: I’m in no way predicting the end of the US, only the end of our empire. I absolutely believe we’ve got the best situation in the whole world; what we need to do is to stick to our own knitting and get out of the Mideast, get out of the Orient, get out of Europe, get out of everywhere they don’t want us. We will be around a lot longer and more successfully if we quit trying to address every security issue and conflict on the entire globe. The problem with the neo-con philosophy is that they never saw a problem anywhere on the globe they didn’t think they could fix and turn to our advantage. That philosophy is just wrong - it’s the foreign affairs equivalent to the failed liberal “Great Society” experiment of the 1960s.

If instead of spending our taxes to protect and defend the far-flung corners of our empire, we spent that on beefing up the defense of our actual national borders, we would be far safer and far less in debt. But thanks to neo-cons we are instead blowing millions and billions on protecting questionable allies while our own borders are porous. And the best we can seem to think to do to protect the homeland is make everyone leave their liquids behind when they fly.

Posted by: Crazy_joe_divola at August 19, 2006 8:53 PM
Comment #176545
If the rules say the United States has to just lay down and die (as some of you seem to want) then those rules need to be changed. Posted by: Steve S at August 19, 2006 06:19 PM

Classical, classical Republican false choice here. The rules, of course, as you know, do not say we must just lay down and die. The rules do say that we have the right not to be subject to unreasonable search and seizure. Now how you extrapolate that into “we must just lay down and die”, I’m afraid I’ll have to get you to explain - you lost me. If the spooks need to wiretap someone on the basis that they may be a terrorist, they can do it for 3 days without a warrant but by then they need to get a warrant. How’s that laying down and dying?

My whole problem with the warrantless wiretapping is it seems like such a simple thing and that the Bush administration has chosen to break the law for no other reason than they think they should be able to break the law. To the best of my knowledge, it has never been claimed that either they’ve ever been slowed down waiting for a FISA warrant or that the secrecy of a surveillance has been compromised going through FISA. It’s always been a simple matter of “We could do that, we just don’t want to.”

Posted by: Crazy_joe_divola at August 19, 2006 9:02 PM
Comment #176547

Steve S,
I am more openly disbelieving than just about anyone else commenting on Watchblog, but I do not believe we should not go after terrorists. As the recent British capture demonstrates, it is primarily a police action which depends upon intelligence & international cooperation. While I do not think Osama bin Laden & Zawahiri are involved in operations anymore, we should make a great effort to capture them too, to stop their poisonous words from urging others kill, and as a matter of revenge.

Having said that does not change my basic point. There is not enough there to make this a focus of policy. Terrorists are a part of the landscape of the world, a relatively small part, and not a world unto themselves.

As for terrorists with nukes, relax. It will never happen. There are way, way too many safeguards built into nuclear weapons for a terrorist to successfully detonate one. It will never happen.

This is just another example of the Bush administration making people unnecessarily afraid. Fear is the mind killer, and it causes fearful people to make all kinds of mistakes. Just look at Cheney and Iran. He has once again resorted to his own channel, through an Intelligence Directorate, a member of PNAC, to provide him what he wants to hear about Iranian nukes. It appears the CIA intelligence does not feed the fear Cheney feels about Iran.

Linda,
Not only does Bush use terror as a way of making you free, he most certainly does it for policical gain. Before the 2004 elections there were 13 increases in the Terror Alert system. None originated with Homeland Security, as Ridge publically admitted. All of those alerts came from the White House, and they were timed to influence the political landscape. For example, one came right after the Dem convention. This last increase came the day after Lamont beat Lieberman.

The Brits made the bust. Chertoff used the bust as a way of instilling fear. There was zero chance of a US aircraft being threatened, none.

Posted by: phx8 at August 19, 2006 9:09 PM
Comment #176548

Steve S,

Question for you. What’s your definition of success in Iraq?

Posted by: Max at August 19, 2006 9:25 PM
Comment #176559

Crazy Joe et al

Remember that 9/11 happened while the U.S. was defending Muslim in Bosnia and Kosovo and at time right after the U.S. had made serious attempts to help the Palestinians. This was before Afghanistan or Iraq, although U.S. and British no fly zones were protecting Muslim lives among Iraq’s Shiites and Kurds.

Re empires you may recall that the Roman Empire about 700 years (depending on where you start to count) and a total of 1700 years if you count the Eastern Empire. It produced the longest period of general peace over a large area in the history of the world. Engineering and water provision in Rome did not regain its ancient effectiveness until the 1950s and you can still use some of the bridges they built.

Everything meets a sad end, just like everybody dies. What counts is how long this takes to happen and what happens in between.

We should probably “get out” of some places. But we did learn from our experience after WW II. We stayed in Europe and Japan long enough to create a general stability and making us all more prosperous. No strategy works in every situation.

Gergle
It is silly to say the U.S. wants to kill Arabs. If that was our goal, we could be doing it much faster.

Max

Some of us made our predictions back in late October 2005. With about three months ago, here is the latest Iraq Index. None of us will be completely right, but it is good to get our vague predictions down to actual numbers.

Posted by: Jack at August 19, 2006 11:45 PM
Comment #176564

My predictions:

“… Eventually the Shias will use the police, Iraqi Army, and Badr Brigades to settle scores with the Sunnis.

It will be a thoroughly nasty piece of work. There won’t be pitched battles between set armies; the civil war will take the form of midnight arrests, assassinations, mass executions…”

“There will be no major terror attacks in the continental US in the next year.”

“OBL & Zawahiri, however, will remain at large…”

“Since 2004 I’ve been predicting economic recession next year, summer or fall time frame. I’ll stick with that prediction.”

“Saber rattling games with Syria and/or Iran could get out of hand, and result in another war. There could be a very intentional provocation. This eventuality becomes more likely the worse the domestic situation becomes.”

My predictions turned out to be pretty good. I thought we would choreograph a US withdrawal from Iraq by now, so I definitely missed that one. None of us realized the situation in Iraqa would be even worse than we feared.

Jack, thanks for the link.


Posted by: phx8 at August 20, 2006 12:47 AM
Comment #176566

That recession prediction is not much of a prediction. If you predict it every year, eventually you will be right. If you started in 2004, you missed some of the best years of growth we have had.

You will probably be right once every 6-7 years.

I thought you worked in investments. If you acted on these predictions, your clients much have been disgruntled.

Posted by: Jack at August 20, 2006 12:56 AM
Comment #176567

Phx8

BTW - I do not think the situation in Iraq is worse than we feared (or predicted). I tried to keep mine to measurable stats. We will see what they look like in November, but it is not worse now than the predictions would have indicated.

Posted by: Jack at August 20, 2006 1:05 AM
Comment #176568

Jack,
“Since 2004 I have been predicting economic recession next year, summer or fall time frame. I will stick with that prediction.”

Jack, in 2004 I predicted, in writing, a recession in the summer or fall of 2006. That is a freaking ridiculously GREAT prediction! Wow, talk about a tough crowd!

I have not been in finance for a long time. For the past seven years I have been in sales related to technology, networking & programming.

If it makes you feel better, I am still invested in the stock market, still hoping a drop in oil prices will give stocks a little run, but I keep waiting and waiting for the “fear premium” to come out of oil prices. It has been a long wait, and I am getting just a little bit nervous. Washing out the fear premium has begun in a small way. I am hoping for a larger drop. I would like to see a drop in oil prices down into the $50’s, and a little bravery about inflation, in order to create some optimism & exuberance. When people in the Red Column start pumping their fists about how the greatness of Bush policies, that is when you will know the economy is done. In any event, I believe I will take the sure thing and move to money markets soon.

Posted by: phx8 at August 20, 2006 1:30 AM
Comment #176570

Jack,
The link on Iraq cites statistics compiled by the Brookings Institute. Keep in mind it “is based primarily on U.S. government information.” It is nearly impossible for any group to acquire information in Iraq first-hand. It is simply too dangerous. Information provided by the US government to the public has an obvious built-in bias, regardless of the good reputation which the Brookings Institute enjoys. The Brookings Institute link is interesting, and useful, but those numbers almost certainly represent a minimum for most categories, and probably a low one at that. The US and Iraqi governments lack a presence in cities like Fallujah, and Ramadi, and with the withdrawal of US troops from Mosul to re-fight The Battle of Baghdad, information from the third largest city in Iraq is also suspect.

Finally, conflict between the Kurdish PKK, the Kurdish communists, & Iran & Turkey is occurring in remote areas. Again, compiling statistics from these areas must be difficult.

Posted by: phx8 at August 20, 2006 2:06 AM
Comment #176590

I think its interesting that the Roman Empire was mentioned, as we have many similar traits. Like the Romans, we are the world economic and militatry powerhouse, like the Romans we employ a professional standing army, like the Romans we are facing massive interest problems as we sell our debt (in the Romans’ case gold) to foriegners for consumer goods. Even more important than the similiarities are the differences.

The biggest difference that I can see is our obvious hatred of our own culture and our weakness in the face of our enemies. Where the Romans pointed out the evils of their enemies, our media acts as apologists for terrorists. Where the Romans would react to a lose in battle by raising another army and crushing their enemies, we have cowardice and retreat advocated by our “loyal opposition.”

My time in the military has given me one thing I never expected, and that is a contempt for civilians of my age. While our grandparents all pulled together and defeated one of the greatest enemies of global peace to ever exist, our parents smoked dope and sang kumbaya and raised a generation of slackers who are more interested in scoring some ex than they are in what happens to thier nation.

We are going to lose this war, not because our enemies are strong, but because we are weak. Some say that there is nothing worse than war. They are wrong. A nation that is so morally decayed that nothing is worth fighting and killing and dying for, where cowardice and treason are not only allowed but applauded, where citizens are too busy with hedonism to defend their nation, is much worse. I thought that 9/11 would be enough to get us over ourselves. I was wrong. I only hope that it doesn’t take too many more attacks for us to figure out what we have is worth defending.

Posted by: 1LT B at August 20, 2006 9:19 AM
Comment #176599

Phx8

You will have to be very liberal with your definition of recession. I do not know what the fall figures will be, but we have no obvious recession signs now. A decline of grow from a searing rate of more than 5% to a respectable rate of more than 2% in a quarter to quarter meaure is not that scary.


BTW - I am not a stock wizard, but if you expect a recession, shouldn’t you be selling short or at least keeping a very high cash position?

Posted by: Jack at August 20, 2006 10:22 AM
Comment #176612

1LT B,

You’re one of the posters I like to read because I can’t always assume where you are going to stand on the issues.

I do disagree with some of your points. Maybe there are those Americans who genuinely hate America. However, what I believe is that the vast majority of Americans across the entire political spectrum do love this country. There are damn good reasons to! The Bill of Rights moves me in ways I am still surprised I can be moved. Our ideals are huge in world historical terms.

But if you believe in these ideals, and I know you do and, in fact, are fighting for them, then sometimes we have to be critical of ourselves when we fall short of these ideals. When there is a fact, we must face it, no matter how uncomfortable it is. I’ve read enough of your posts to know that you suffer from few delusions, so please don’t think I am talking about you.

I think we have made some huge mistakes after 9/11. I think our president has broken the law and perhaps should be impeached. I think after the end of the Cold War, certain people started casting around for a new approach to foreign policy that was hubristic, and that after 9/11, we found an enemy to use this new approach against. Because this approach was ideological, it did not adequately consider reality.

Anyway, I do not think recognizing that makes us cowardly and weak. Perhaps the fact that most of us don’t bother with politics or are concerned with nothing more than the next Lost episode does, but not examining our role in the world.

—-

Your comments about the Romans. The sources we have are almost unanimously pro-Roman, so much so that written information about the “barbarians” (who of course were not monolithic; the different groups differed from each other considerably) is scarce. Some of the gaps in the picture have been filled in by archeology. Anyway, yes, I agree there was the belief in Roman sources of Roman superiority.

As far as never retreating, well, you know, Rome did stop efforts to conquer lands east of the Rhine after the defeat of three legions. Some historians make a compelling case that this defeat was caused by the Roman’s inability to understand the people east of the Rhine — their way of life, their technology, and their political systems. After some more skirmishes over the next decades, Rome decided to hold the line at the Rhine and never seriously attempted to conquer lands east again. Apparently, Rome concluded that the effort it would take to pacify the Germanic tribes there was not worth the benefit. Anyway, the empire in the west lasted nearly another 500 years.

Sometimes it’s hard to draw lessons from history, but here are some possible ones. Because of Rome’s sense of superiority, it didn’t bother to fully understand these people, who lived in different circumstances than other peoples they had conquered. Because in the aftermath of the defeat in A.D. 9 it recognized that the effort required to “win” would drain the empire and not produce sufficient benefits, it stationed a number of legions along the Rhine and took a defensive posture. One could argue that the effects of the Huns incursion on the Germanic tribes who were pushed into Roman territory centuries later would have been avoided, but who knows. The fact is, Rome did last for centuries after it gave up its imperialistic ambitions east of the Rhine. Rome adjusted its strategy from offensive to defensive in that particular situation.

Posted by: Trent at August 20, 2006 12:00 PM
Comment #176613

Some how the old boring ideas come out from people. Religion is a powerful tool of identification and control. I am called a Jew because some anti-semetic SOB desided for me that that would be my tag, my religation. I do not call my self a Jew, although I practice the religion the west calls “Judaism”. I do not call it this because it means “Jews Philosophy”. I call it the path of strieghtness, in thought and deeds.
It is pertty much the same when you western minded people name Arabs. Arabs are Muslims in religion, all Muslims are not Arabs. Infact all Arabs are not Muslim - Take the Druies and those who practice Christianity. The word Arab has come to mean “sand Nigger” in some minds. There I’ve used the forbidden “N” word. Not in the true definition but as a low life from the desert. The Jews have traditionally become a bit higher in the hatred vocabullary - “at least they’re white”, the person who said that did not know about Etheopia or Yeman.
Then there is they guy who points out that we do not personally know our “enemy” and he does not know us. I would remind that person “knowing” is not a condition of killing some one. Neither is believing in a “type”.
The fact that Arabs and Jews are fighting over a piece of land has nothing to do with religion or way of life. It has everything to do with perception that a piece of land was stole from its legitimate owners. Claiming land and envy of someone you percieve as better off than you are is a typical reason for starting a war - Hitler did it.
Let me put it this way, a current Canadian example, New Caladonia. The Goverment of Canada claims and sells land to settlers, land they know belonged to the Aboriginals. They have a government’s mentality that all the land in its domain belongs to it, ignoring any older or newer claims. Morally wrong. Compensation should go to owners, but destruction of property is also immoral.
I could go on showing that the Land known as Israel was legitimatly brought. But who cares to hear truth.
As to Our Muslim friends, peace be upon them, They must step into a new world - not forced. They asked for the help of the western nations, good. We gave it in the spirit of Capatialism and Democrocy - even a bit Christian. But there are those who resent it and those are the enemy!!!

Posted by: kuzriel at August 20, 2006 12:15 PM
Comment #176630

Jack, finally, a Republican with an ounce of sense and the temerity to stand up for what is reasonable. Now all you have to do is send your post to our “commander in chief”; maybe he ought to read it too!

All you have said was said soon after 9/11 by many people. In the rush to seek revenge and in the shadow of anger the nation was “led” down a fruitless and eventually disastrous path in a war on terrorism..a never ending war on a tactic. You are so correct. Identify the enemy as best you can; while I may quibble with some of your analysis it is basically on target. We are up against a small group of religious zealots who for some reason (maybe if we all read more of Sayyid Qutib’s work we’d understand) are intent on waging war against us.

(Full disclosure. I am a raving liberal who thinks Bush et. al. are not only wrong but criminals as well.)

You might like Sam Harris’ book, THE END OF FAITH, for its analysis of Osama and the boys. Please remember that Sam, although an atheist, is no star crossed liberal. His warnings should be heeded by all. At any rate, what he and others have been saying for years I think is true. You will not defeat these people by brute military force. And to deny that what we have done in the past has no bearing on their anger and hatred for us is to put one’s head in the sand. Furthermore, to deny that they might have perpetrated what happened on 9/11 if we had been saints, is also misplaced and wrong. They hate us and for them this is a holy war.

When faced with this kind of fanaticism one can become like them (thus loosing any leverage in the important battle of ideas) or be something else. That something else is found in our commitment to a secular society founded on beliefs in democracy as stated in our Constitution and Declaration. We cannot hope to be prevail in this clash of ideas by selling out our basic values (that’s why so many are upset with things like unwarranted surveillance, Abu Ghraib, violations of the Geneva accords, and images of some of our soldiers as rapists and murderers).

Does this mean we cannot take additional steps to fight this new menace? Hardly. We might start by implementing the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations, all of them, and find a way to bring more security to our nation without violating all we hold dear. Can that be done? You bet it can!

Finally, we must quit pandering to people’s fears. A terrorist attack here is less likely than a hurricane, car wreck, cancer, tornado—you name it. What people, adults that is, need is a calm, frank statement of the risks and what we can are are doing to reduce those risks. I have not ceased using my automobile (with gasoline prices as high as they are the thought has crossed my mind) because I fear an auto accident. Nor am I going to forgo a planned trip to Ireland because of fear of terrorists on the flight there. Some fears we have to learn to live with—assuming we feel secure in knowing that all reasonable precautions have been made to reduce or minimize risk.

This bunch in Washington seems to be without a clue, and I include some Democrats in this judgment. Fortunately there are some sane heads around, Sen. Hagel and Sen. Byrd come to mind, who might just be able to lead us out of this morass. It must start with the Iraq War, which was based upon lies and fear. It has nothing to do with fighting the guys we are after—unless we figure in the increased number of religious zealots we are creating by continuing to fight the war. It might also begin with actual talks with Iran, heaven forbid!, which, sorry, would have to take into account the fact that our CIA got rid of a democratically elected leader of that nation in 1953.

In the spirit of your post, I suggest we calmly and reflectively examine our present course of action and the more than probable disasters it is leading us towards.

Peace, cml

Posted by: cml at August 20, 2006 2:03 PM
Comment #176643

I, for one, am at war with islam, period. I don’t believe the thirty years war was hi-jacked by a few misguided christian individuals, just as I don’t believe the same about islam. It’s islam Stupid!!!
I admit I’m a high school drop-out who went to Vietnam for my graduation, and a former construction worker (replaced by “Guest-Workers”} and just another Bob-Twelve-Pack, but I still think for myself most of time.
We just might get another wake-up call on August the 22nd.
Watch your back and keep your powder dry!!!
Bob Styles, Placerville, Ca USA

Posted by: Bobby W. Styles at August 20, 2006 4:06 PM
Comment #176652

phx8,

None of us realized the situation in Iraqa would be even worse than we feared.

I guess it depends on what you mean by “us”. Personally, I knew Iraq would turn out to be just the fiasco it actually has turned out to be; in fact, I told my wife on the night of 9/11/2001 that we would be going into Iraq and it would be just such a disaster.

Posted by: Crazy_joe_divola at August 20, 2006 5:56 PM
Comment #176658

Islam has embraced militant armed aggression against the west since it’s inception. The first “Crusade” did not occur for some 500 years later—it was a defensive response to generations of armed jihad. Much of the middle east was once heavily Christian. Muslim armies changed that by imposing Islamic rule (Sharia).

The Moors dynasty occupied Spain for 750 years. France escaped a similar fate narrowly in 732 due to the bravery of Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours. Greece was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in the fourth century. Russia has struggled with the Tatars for centuries. The Ottomans were defeated by the Polish army at the gates of Vienna in 1683.

Those that do not know and understand their history are bound to repeat it.

Posted by: nikkolai at August 20, 2006 7:14 PM
Comment #176677

I’m glad several have agreed the United States has a right to exist.

Iran is threatening to acquire nuclear weapons. Iraq’s progress towards nuclear weapons was much more advanced than we expected in Gulf War I.

I agree that bush Sr. made mistakes in building an Arab coalition and agreeing not to take Saddam out of power the first time. I was alive at the time and disagreed with him not going after Saddam right then. Aparently he made some poor agreements to build the coalition. I also am disappointed that Bush Sr underestimated Saddam’s willingness to kill Iraqis, and with Bush Sr not coming more quickly to the defense of those who rose up against Saddam as they were encouraged to do.

Some criticized George W Bush for not building a coalition and making the same mistakes again. It’s almost like those critics wanted GWB to make mistakes that would be costly to our country.

Saddam’s government deliberately withheld evidence of their removing chemical weapons. They heavily guarded empty warehouses. Iraqi military leaders said their unit didn’t have chemical weapons but they believed other units did. Either Saddam wanted us to think he had chemical weapons or his own military was deceiving him into believing they had them.

Who doubts that Iran will use a nuclear weapon or give one to a terrorist organization is they get one?

We know that if they use one against us they will become a sea of glass before they can launch another one.

In my opinion Iraq will be a success if they end up with a government that doesn’t threaten her neighbors’ sovereignty and doesn’t try to hold people hostage with nuclear weapons. Part of not threatening their neighbors includes no ambitions to rebuild the Ottoman empire as John Kerry said Saddam intended to do before GWB was even president.

While we believe in the oil being freely marketed, we rightly will prevent the hostile takeover or the world’s oil supply.

By the way, the ones who say we shouldn’t listen to terrorists who telephone people in the United States in my opinion ARE saying they don’t want us to go after the terrorists.

This is not just a legal battle. We see how time consuming and expensive it is to try just a few terrorists in court. If these were just a few criminals then we could use just the legal system. These terrorists have the backing of nations. And those nations need to be brought to justice.

Posted by: Steve S at August 20, 2006 9:46 PM
Comment #176692

Trent,

Good point about the Tuetoburger Wald, I hadn’t considered it in the light you suggest. Had it not been for the constant civil wars, the Roman Empire might very well have endured to today. No external enemy could defeat it before its armies were weakened by civil war and its populace reduced to uncaring dolists. While I very highly doubt the US military will ever turn into the vehicle of ambitious dictators in America, we do need to foster a better sense of patriotism.

One of my weaknesses as a writer, I think, is that when I get annoyed I get philosophical and paint with a broad brush. I don not hate dissent, but I do despice the philosophy that informs a good part of the dissent I see today, especially from the far left. It comes, in my mind, out of radical communism and regards patriotism, traditional religious values, nationalism, independence, and pretty much anything white, as inherently evil. Based on my interpretation of what informs most of this dissent, I tend to really want nothing more than to butt stroke these dissenters. Maybe I need to swear off coffee before posting in the future.

nikkolia,

Its extremely unfair of you to make a statement that Muslims have waged war against the West since Islam’s inception. They don’t discriminate, they’ve waged war against everyone who isn’t Muslim since Islam’s inception. More recently, apparently not content to merely kill infidels, they’ve taken to killing each other with such verve and vim that I’m surprised the zero population growth people aren’t shipping them arms.

Finally, and this is completely off topic, but can anyone explain to me why the hell JonBenet Ramsey is on the news? Her death, while tragic, was not anything more than a local story when it happened, to say nothing of 10 years later. I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m really sick of these idiotic pretty white girl is missing/abducted/murdered “stories.” There’s real news out there for God’s sake! I’m definitely not drinking coffee before posting anymore…..

Posted by: 1LT B at August 21, 2006 12:51 AM
Comment #176929

can there be any doubt that it is an unshakable religious conviction in the honor and reward of martyrdom that gives rise to this kind of activity? Religious conviction in martyrdom and the afterlife is the ONLY - the ONLY- conviction powerful enough to motivate someone to fly an airplane into a skyscraper. Modernity is at war with the thoroughly antimodern idea that beliefs can be sanctioned by anything other than evidence (i.e. “faith). Make no mistake about it; the free world is at war with Islam.

Posted by: Matt Henderson at August 21, 2006 11:51 PM
Comment #176955

Matt H.,

Well, I’m not sure that it has to be seen in such stark terms, but let’s assume that what we are seeing is a war between western ideas and Islam. I’m not sure that we want are leaders saying that. Rhetoric like that would tend to unify the opposition. Better to divide the fundamentalist Islamists from the others as much as we can.

Posted by: Trent at August 22, 2006 8:10 AM
Comment #176984

1LT B-

You are very emotional in this thread I see. I just have to say that, while they may be one of the easiest targets for your frustrations, the hippies and peace loving dope smokers are the least of your concerns. Didn’t you realize in high school that they were often the most picked on and beaten up kids until they found each other and developed a common hankering for some mind-altering substances to escape the cruel meathead world? Then they either turn out to be burnouts or cops when they’re middle aged. I personally think that, just like everyone else did years before, they just needed to get laid and drugs are great for that purpose.

Their lack of support for a war that no one really understands (myself included), especially those waging it, is no reason for anyone to worry. It just means that America is a safe place for pussies to live. So what? They don’t hurt anyone, and no one really listens to them unless they temper their words with specific examples, in which case they SHOULD be at least heard. Hey we’re supposed to be a diverse culture right? Then don’t enforce a “meathead only” policy.

Your anger is mis-placed. They are not the enemy, and they are not dangerous. They certainly do not provoke international unrest. They are just mildly annoying, and sometimes comical.

Now back to the real issues of the day.

“We are going to lose this war, not because our enemies are strong, but because we are weak.”

Or a lack of that all important PLAN.

“Some say that there is nothing worse than war. They are wrong. A nation that is so morally decayed that nothing is worth fighting and killing and dying for, where cowardice and treason are not only allowed but applauded, where citizens are too busy with hedonism to defend their nation, is much worse. I thought that 9/11 would be enough to get us over ourselves. I was wrong. I only hope that it doesn’t take too many more attacks for us to figure out what we have is worth defending.”

If I’m alive, and I have free will, I’m a hell of a lot happier than if I was at war, and muffled in every way. And I think you are confusing things like “cowardice” and “treason” with the free flow of ideas that can sometimes produce insultingly stupid dialogue. Remember that we are an education-based culture. Letting people think things through for themselves, even very noisily, is not going to bring about the end of civilization. A breakdown in parenting and good INFORMAL support mechanisms for our kids will do that MUCH MUCH faster.

Good conservatives know that the best way to help the moral development in America is by NOT legislating it. You cannot steer people to “good” actions by making laws. You must let the people steer themselves and only get government involved when there is a clear danger to society, not just a small part of it, or the potential for it. People are what make this country work, and give it its face. They ARE the nation. Not some philosophy. Not some formula for a “good” nation.

Put that nation at war, and things MAY change. Or they may not. If they do, only then will a policy exploiting this new sentiments of the people be appropriate. 9/11 was the single biggest life altering event in my own personal life (I lost friends, my job, etc.). Just because I respond with a less bullish and simplistic approach does not make me weak. I guarantee you that I care just as much as you do about justice. And so do most of those you arbitrarily relegate to “treason” status.

Your anger is misplaced. I hope you continue to fight the good fight, and leave the “spray and pray” strategy of attacking anyone seemingly in your way to those much greener than you.

Posted by: Kevin23 at August 22, 2006 2:12 PM
Comment #177660

The Koran
The Disbelievers

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the
Merciful.

[109.1] Say: O unbelievers!
[109.2] I do not serve that which you serve,
[109.3] Nor do you serve Him Whom I serve:
[109.4] Nor am I going to serve that which you
serve,
[109.5] Nor are you going to serve Him Whom I
serve:
[109.6] You shall have your religion and I
shall have my religion.

Hmm, no mention of Jihad there. If only most
muslims would practice what their own religion
preaches. please send this to everyone on
your buddy list.

Posted by: joe_thousandaires at August 26, 2006 6:38 PM
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