Saturday, August 06, 2005

Michael: This is Terror Too

An AWOL Israeli soldier killed 4 in an Arab town when he opened fire aboard a bus. The soldier was Eden Tsuberi, who abandoned his unit two months ago after refusing to participate in the planned evacuation of Jewish settlers from Gaza. One guess what his beef was.

Did Tsuberi subscribe to a dark vision of political bondage and love of death, as Bush contends that all terrorists do? Did he hate the freedoms of the innocent Arabs he murdered? I doubt that. Nor does true Judaism preach hatred, intolerance and holy war.

Many Christian Dominionists, who advocate the abolition of secular government and carry out the assinations of abortion doctors, are terrorists, or potential terrorists. Do they represent the Christian faith? Do they represent all WASPs? All Americans? No.

Terrorists are simply people dedicated to the point of sacrificing their lives and murdering others for an ideological goal they cannot achieve through any political process. Their political views are often grounded in the dogmas of religious belief. Their political goals are not necessarily illegitimate; but when they can find no way to advance their cause, they turn to murder. It doesn't mean their religions are evil; just that some believers have twisted their faith into an instrument of hatred and death.

Our leaders do us no favors by further demonizing those who are properly our enemies. That only prevents understanding, which is the vital key to defeating any enemy. We must fight and defeat religiously inspired political radicalism of all creeds, but in the spirit of jihad, not Schwartzkopf. More killing won't always fix the underlying problem and, as we are seeing in Iraq, can even exacerbate the problem. When the terrorists political cause is just and achievable, legitimizing those political goals can remove the causes of terrorism - the IRA for example. When the political cause is unjust and impossible, ending terrorism neccesarily begins to look more like attrition than negotiation.

Failing to distinguish between those two very different species of terrorism is the difference between leadership and simply being reactionaries; it's also what made the 'War on Terror' fold its tent so quickly. The Pentagon and State Department officials who promoted the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism at least recognized that economics, diplomacy, and negotiation are necessary weapons if America is to lead this struggle. Unfortunately, it looks as if Bush is sticking to his rhetoric, and his disasterous tactics.

The problem isn't really the slogan, or even the violence; it's the extremism, stupid. If one simply tries to destroy the violent extremists, without also engaging the extremists who aren't yet violent, one is only fixing symptoms, not addressing causes. It is the great missed opportunity of the Bush Administration that our best chances to address the causes of Middle East terrorism have already been squandered.

5 Comments:

At 9:30 PM, Blogger Joel Gaines said...

I agree with a great deal of what I think you are saying - if I understand you.

Hamas - a terrorist organization, but has a political body with specific political goals. Further, they negotiate, not just bomb and shoot.
Global Jihadists - i.e. the foreign fighters in Iraq or AQ in general - a terrorist organization without a specific negotiable political aim. They merely want the conversion or destruction of infidels.

They are both still terroists, but with Hamas there is a chance of an amicable end - as long as they get a large portion of what they want.

I do have a contension about:
"Many Christian Dominionists, who advocate the abolition of secular government and carry out the assinations of abortion doctors, are terrorists, or potential terrorists. Do they represent the Christian faith? Do they represent all WASPs? All Americans? No."

These people may wrap themselves in a cloak of Christianity to - in some twisted way - justify their actions, but they are no more "Christian" than the Jihadists who bomb children and justify it with a cloak of Islam are "Muslim". These folks tend to be labled right winged wackjobs, but no one on the right would claim them.

I don't believe you are, but we must take care not to minimize the actions of people like Eden Tsuberi. His government has come out quite strongly in condemning his actions and branding him a terrorist. I think we need to always call a spade a shovel in this matter.

Your IRA example - striking military targets for political gain is at least a war between beligerants. Blowing up a shopping center full of innocents is never justifiable regardless of the possible political outcome. The Protestant vs. Catholic thing goes way back to Queen Mary or Elizabeth I and there is so much of that mixed into the Irish movement for freedom, it is - in my view - a completely different dynamic. This is not my area of expertise, so all you get is my opinion.

Try this one:
Menachem Begin was noted for bombing the British out of Palestine, making them turn the whole mess over to the League of Nations. The bombing of the King David hotel killed 92 people - the difference is the bombing was designed to damage the hotel itself not cause loss of life. The Irgun telephoned a warning, which went unheeded, before the explosion. I see Irgun, possibly, as an example of what you mean. I am not sure, based upon intentions, that counts as "terrorism" as such. The actual outcome, because the hotel was not evacuated when warned, certainly created terror.

"The Pentagon and State Department officials who promoted the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism at least recognized that economics, diplomacy, and negotiation are necessary weapons if America is to lead this struggle. Unfortunately, it looks as if Bush is sticking to his rhetoric, and his disasterous tactics."

You are quite right. I think the administration is afraid that not calling it the War on Terror, they will somehow lose grasp of the goal over time. It appears that Rumsfeld was corrected quite handily by the President, when he used that "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism" phrase the first time.

I am not sure if I agree about the "squandered" statement you make. There are huge inroads made in several countries that probably would not have happened without the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. There is also a definite pattern between what is getting built up in Iraq and what the terrorists are attacking. Extremists who have been drawn to the Iraqi magnet may not have ever come to the US and flown planes into buildings. What is to say they would not have approached a naval vessel in Yemen and blown themselves up, or bombed a tourist hotel in Thailand, or fired rockets at the jews on the border? Terrorism didn't start because of the US invading Iraq. While there may be guys being indoctrinated as martyrs who otherwise would not be, there is no evidence the vast majority would not otherwise engage in some aspect of the global jihad.

My dos pesos.

 
At 3:00 PM, Blogger Michael said...

Joel,

Thanks for the thoughful comments. You lost me at the end, but most of what you say rings true. I disagree with the notion that Iraq is some sort of cleasing purge of Middle East radicals. The whole idea of 'fighting terrorists there so we don't have to fight them at home' is disporoven by the origin of the London bombers. I have no doubt that future attacks in America will be carried out by Americans or residents.

My first objection is that the contingent of foriegn fighters is a small portion of the insurgency. Iraqis are backbone of the the resistance. Foriegn fighters always were a minor part and are declining over time as we pay more attention to borders and to pressuring neighboring governments. To the extent that foriegners are being drawn to fight in Iraq, and for those large numbers of radicalized Iraqis, I think the effect of the occupation is that of advanced training camp for terrorist techniques and guerilla combat tactics. Far from preventing future terrorism, we are training tommorrow's terrorists to be even more dangerous to both civilian and military targets (if attacking military targets can properly be defined as terrorism... I tend to think that it often can).

In a globalized society, the whole notion that we can somehow quarantine ourselves from the effects of what we do elsewhere in the world is simply naive. Out policies over the years in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, the other side of the globe, came home to roost on 9/11. What date will our policies in Iraq over the past several decades come home? I don't know. But I fear it will be soon, and I know for a fact that it will come.

 
At 9:25 PM, Blogger Joel Gaines said...

Michael,

"My first objection is that the contingent of foriegn fighters is a small portion of the insurgency. Iraqis are backbone of the the resistance."

What we know for certain is that Saddam had a great deal of arms, money and infrastructure stashed away for an insurgency. But the "insurgency" in and of itself is a small portion of the actual anti-government attacks. There are three things at play here:

1) A guerilla insurgency, in which Fedayeen Saddam and others are trying to roll back the ability of Iraq as an emerging nation enjoying a level of self-determination never before seen there.

2) Heavily armed clan on clan fighting - much of which is manifested by brutal criminal gangs doing anything to keep the police forces from gaining momentum anywhere in Baghdad, Mosul or the Al Anbar province.

3) A well organized group or groups of terrorists who go to any lengths to cause instability.

In most cases in the news reports each of these is indistinguishable from the other because the people reporting the news to us are lazy, inept, or just not knowledgeable.

"I disagree with the notion that Iraq is some sort of cleasing purge of Middle East radicals. The whole idea of 'fighting terrorists there so we don't have to fight them at home' is disporoven by the origin of the London bombers. I have no doubt that future attacks in America will be carried out by Americans or residents."

I agree with you - mostly. I have heard the same memes, but I look at these things slightly differently than most (wouldn't you guess?). I would rather we fight terrorists in Iraq than on Mainstreet USA and right now Iraq is a magnet for folks who have turned their extreme-ism into action.

To my way of thinking, the London attacks disprove something else entirely (I agree with your statement though). It disproves the notion that people turn to terror because they have no hope or opportunity. The attackers in London were not poor, downtrodden, or uneducated. Quite the opposite. However, their extreme viewpoint is easily grown in a place that does not ask for immigrants to assimilate. Generally speaking, when Arabs go to Germany, France or Britain, they go to be Arabs in Germany, France, or Britain. When Arabs come to the US, they come here to be Americans. That's the difference.

"In a globalized society, the whole notion that we can somehow quarantine ourselves from the effects of what we do elsewhere in the world is simply naive."

I agree completely. However, our helping the Muj against Soviet domination didn't somehow create the Taliban or AQ, but we were a heck of a lot more naive in the 1970s than we are now.

"What date will our policies in Iraq over the past several decades come home? I don't know. But I fear it will be soon, and I know for a fact that it will come."

Actually, I hope to see this happen sometime fairly soon - in the next 10 years or so. We tried to make friends with scorpions, not just in Iraq but in several places in the ME - and that never works. There are people who want to hurt us, destroy us - and it is simply a case of exceptional hard work and luck that we have not been attacked again - but we have already seen the impact on several ME nations when they understand the US is not a paper tiger. Iran and Syria to me are threats, but not huge. Libya has decided to play nice.Bahrain, for all their problems, had elections. Several CA nations are doing the democracy dance. Hopefully, this trend continues - hopefully.

I'll tell you what concerns me. The house of Saud's King Faisal died recently at 92; the new king, Abdullah is 80-something. When Abdullah is gone (and that could be any time now), one of two things will happen. Either the house of Saud will self-destruct with all of the princes vying for power, or one of the more radical, ruthless princes will win by process of elimination (for real). With the former, we have no idea who comes out of the rubble - could be good or very bad. Especially if AQ has the kind of momentum there it seems they do. The latter scenario will be deadly as well, but the question there is "for whom?" the house of Saud is hated by most Arabs who care one way or the other. There could either be a popular revolution or some serious repression of one. Either way, I am wondering home the Saudi part of Saudi Arabia will survice. Thoughts?

 
At 9:31 PM, Blogger Joel Gaines said...

Either way, I am wondering home the Saudi part of Saudi Arabia will survice.

Should be:

Either way, I am wondering how the "Saudi" part of Saudi Arabia will survive. I would not mind it if it didn't - but then again the HoS has not been completely unreasonable in helping us. I hate the fact that we end up ignoring a lot of their crap as a price of that help.

 
At 1:47 AM, Blogger Michael said...

"With the former, we have no idea who comes out of the rubble - could be good or very bad."

I share the concern about the fallout from the crash of Saud. I suspect a very much more radical and aggressive version of what happened when the last royal house we backed crashed - the Shah of Iran. The state falls into the hands of the religious radicals, though if we work at it possibly a nascent democracy constituency, possibly under whatever Princeling thinks he can ride that bronco, but more likely by simply shoving the whole edifice of Saudi power out of the way in a tidal wave of popular discontent.

The most worrying aspect of this is not really the immense wealth and strategic stranglehold that gives our putative enemies, but what military potential they may inherit. There are of course a great deal of the lastest military gadgets from the arms bazzars of the world in the hands of the Saudis, but given Israel's nuclear capability, I would not be surprised if the Sauds didn't have a secret capability of their own. Of any Arab government in the ME, they are best positioned to have managed to acquire nuclear weapons under the world's radar (though not neccessarily ours).

Just as AQ sympathizers and radical Islamacists in the ISI may be a heartbeat away from nuclear capability in Pakistan, I can easily see Saudi Arabia becoming a point of nuclear proliferation to terrorists during the collapse of Saud.

Iran doesn't scare me nearly so much as such an failed-state, or proto-state proliferation. Lines of command are maleable. Things get lost. Large money zooms around. Who knows who has their finger on a button. At least in Iran or North Korea we know who's in charge, who's got the button and where to blow the return kiss.

 

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