Monday, March 28, 2005

Not Al(that)bright

"I'm an American," former Secretary Albright assured the audience, "but I'm not here to defend the administration." She added, "It's difficult always in a foreign setting, but I do think that the ways we're dealing with terrorists are, actually, maybe creating more of them."

Secretary Albright chose not to mention the successful elections in Iraq or Afghanistan, or the "cedar revolution" unfolding in Lebanon. Instead, she focused her attention on other matters, saying, "If you start a war, you have to bring it to a final victory so that you avoid disastrous effects like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib."

The above paragraphs are from an article in the Weekly Standard. So here we have our fearless former Secretary of State spouting the latest stupidities and trying to avoid the elephant in the room. Kim Jong-Il's former dance partner, a woman who smiled while the North Korean army formed a ballistic missile in a military performance for her behalf, and has gone on record as decrying the fact that America is now the lone super-power (gee, I long for the days when another country could nuke us to kingdom come in the matter of a day), says now that our actions are creating more terrorists.

Here is how the logic works. Al Queda had a very hard time recruiting people when the brochures sported pictures from camps in Afganistan where, along with 100 or so fellow recruits, you got to shoot at things in between praying to Allah. The brochures also provided pictures of Western property that they have successfully blown up, and the parties that followed them in the safe confines of the camp. Some lucky recruits were able to go on trips to Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq - all expenses paid, and very little need to remain somewhat covert. And back then, the brochure promised that only large-scale missions would require suicide. Ahh, the good old comfortable days - so hard to recruit people to a life of terrorist activity when no one was fighting back.

But now recruiting is so easy - recruits get to be volunteered for suicide missions on a much lower scale these days. Sure, you have virtually no chance of cavorting with fellow recruits in camp these days, which adds to the romanticism of the career. Prior to Bush opening up a can of whoop-ass on Afganistan and Iraq, your chances of being killed were basically nil unless you were voluntarily making that lunge for the 70 virgins in Allah's paradise; now those odds have increased to the point where the women you used to have to rape are so impressed by your obvious foolish courage that they'll sleep with you voluntarily. Sure, your expected lifespan as a terrorist just shortened by 50 years or so, but the girls will love you.

So what should we do? We should make the life of a terrorist even easier than it was prior to 9-11. Maybe we should send more poverty aid to the countries that used to provide them haven, so that their corrupt leaders could give Al Queda more money for more comfortable camps and better travel benefits. Then just sit back and watch their recruitment efforts crumble.

Can't argue with the logic there, but of course one can imagine the opposite reaction - that the attractiveness of the terrorist lifestyle goes down when you are forced into the caves of Afganistan for the rest of your life. So maybe it could go either way in the end, which means that maybe someone who humbly recognizes the possibility of the actual result deviating from her expectations might actually track the actual situation rather than sounding like an idiot in front of a bunch of European idiots who merely nod their heads in agreement. Maybe she could have read this article about the problems being faced by the Al Queda terrorists.

Nah, why bother - telling a bunch of Europeans that you were wrong and Bush was right will never land you a Nobel Peace Prize - just ask Jimmy. Just stick with your original instinct, and see if you can get another dance with Kim Jong Il. And remember, you'll always find a welcoming audience in Europe.

I could go on for another two days about the idiocy of wishing the U.S. wasn't the only super-power. In retrospect, when you look at the Clinton cabinet versus the Bush cabinet - is it not obvious that Clinton feared having anyone around him who was considered brighter, as it might deflect credit, whereas with Bush that is of no concern? Clinton was always the smartest guy in the room, but one thing that you'll notice in virtually any organization is that the smartest guy in the room is rarely ever the leader, and there is a reason why.


Blogger Professor Vic said...

So are you saying that it is foolish to be critical of prisoner abuses? Are you saying that violent actions don't lead to reprisals by those who are injured?

In fact, one of your own examples contradicts you. The cedar revolution is a direct response by the people of Lebanon against foreign invaders who killed one of their citizens.

Showing concern for American abuses like Abu Ghraib may be a "stupidity" but, personally, I think there is a real reason worry when dozens of prisoners of war have died in American hands. We're supposed to be the good guys.

You seem to think that terrorists just pop up from nowhere, but the worse we behave the easier it is to convince people to rise up against us. The question is, and this is an empirical question, does American policy increase or decrease terrorists? Basically is the number of terrorists we kill and deter through violence more or less than the number of new terrorists we create through violence?

I certainly don't claim to know the answer. The closest thing I can think of as a test case is the intafada in Israel. Basically Israel started to get very tough with the Palastinians about 7 years ago. The number of Israelis killed by terrorists more than tripled during the period of the crackdown compared with the period of relative leniency that preceded it. In this case it appears that the number of Palastines willing to kill themselves and others rose faster than Israel's ability to stop them, and Israel's violent attempts to stop them spurred more terrorist attacks. In this case, getting tough actually made Israel less safe. Iraq is a different time, different place, but one could see why this same logic might apply.

But, if you want to be the guy who calls everybody that points out these problems "stupid", be my guest.

P.S. I guess it is also my duty to point out that Al Qaeda had almost no identified activities in Iraq until the U.S. invaded. Given the sort of stuff one can read on the Internet, it is easy to see why so many Americans think Iraq was involved in 9/11. There were plenty of reasons to invade Iraq, but retaliation for 9/11 and Iraq's role in global terrorism (as well as WMD)was not one of them.

7:07 AM  
Blogger Hatcher said...

You are correct, Professor Vic, it is an empirical question ultimately, which is why I suggested that she might want to read what is actually happening rather than just assuming that her original instincts were correct. And why do we need a test case - there is evidence that speaks directly to Al Queda's growth and power since we started wackin 'em. Read the linked article.

And we are the good guys - just ask the people we've freed - they're not fretting too much about the Abu Ghraib abuses. Those pale in comparison to what they would have expected at the hands of their former leaders. And guess what - they have been able to see that there is a free press in America that brought such abuses to light, and that those responsible for such abuses were punished rather than promoted. That sends more of a message than the abuses themselves.

It is a matter of perspective - there are more people who remember the comparatively more brutal and deadly torture they were subjected under Saddam, who understand that in the case of those at Abu Ghraib, it was their former torturers who became the tortured. Now they have a chance at freedom thanks to us, and many have given their lives in the efforts to bring peace, stability, and freedom to their country. The overall effort is something you should be proud of as an American, but instead like every other liberal you want to make Abu Ghraib into Auschwitz, and forget that it is an extremely small chapter (albeit a regrettable one) in a much larger story.

As for Lebanon, are you f*&^ing kidding me? Syria has had its boot to the necks of Lebanese citizens for decades, and our presence in Iraq is comparable to Syria's in Lebanon? No one is rising up against us, it is quite the opposite - what you see in Lebanon is people rising up against a corrupt regime - and they are doing it now because the heat is rising in the Middle East for these dictators because there are a couple hundred thousand US troops right there.

And, I am sorry, but someone who thinks that it is regrettable that we are the only superpower is an IDIOT!

7:34 AM  
Anonymous Jim O said...

It would be nice if there was another superpower that would agree with us, in trying to bring freedom to the world and end tyranny. But having another super power opposing us would only lead to each side doing the cold war dictator shuffle, which did such wonders for south america and africa in the 50s/60/70s/80s. No thanks.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Incredible Dirigible said...

Well put, Jim O. I wouldn't feel too threatened if someone like Great Britain had more muscle than it currently has. But another Soviet Union, cold war, arms race, etc. I don't think would be a good thing for the world.

6:18 AM  
Blogger Professor Vic said...

Another vote here for Jim O. And I think that's what Albright meant, that it would be nice to have someone else to help with the burden of policing the world.

Iraq would have gone better, for the Americans at least, if Europe and Asia had put another 100,000 troops on the ground.

That aside, I guess my major issue with the points brought up by Hatch is that simply being better than the other guy doesn't make you a good guy, and being the second worst invader doesn't mean than people won't hate you all the same.

I would wager that American soldiers have killed more Iraqi civilians over the past 2 years (generally accidentally, I realize) than Syria has killed in Lebanon in the past decade. I can certainly imagine lots of Iraqis hate the Americans even if they find them preferable to Saddam. Our actions in Iraq, justifiable or not, have still made the area a fertile breeding ground for terrorists, and even successful elections don't change that completely.

Furthermore, when thinking about suicide missions, one would think that making it likely that a suicide bomber will be killed by an American soldier isn't much of a disincentive to the bomber who was planning to die anyway. But an American soldier accidentally killing a civilian relative is just the sort of thing that turns someone into a suicide bomber. It seems that violent coercion may not not be an incentive compatable solution to suicide bombers. (As Israel has learned.)

In any case, Albright's comments are not obviously stupid. They may be empirically wrong when the final accounting is finished, but she addresses ideas in a rationally sound manner.

8:10 AM  

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