September 06, 2004

The Beslan Tragedy and Putin's Speech

Putin's speech reacting to the senseless carnage of Beslan indicates that the tragedy, like 9/11 in the U.S., represents something of a pivot point in Russian history. To be sure, Russians are far less historically innocent than Americans given their much more brutal history through many centuries of strife. And they have been living with Chechen terror for a good while now. But, and even by harsh Russian standards, this past week has been hugely gruesome.

First, a Moscow bombing killed about 10. Soon thereafter, so-called 'black widows' (female Chechen terrorists), suicide bombed two jets killing another 90. And then, of course, the horrors of Beslan. The numbers alone shock. Likely over 500 Russians will have died in terror attacks in the space of a week. But, more than the sheer numbers, it is the death of so many score children in Beslan that has shocked Russia so deeply. And not just the Russian people. Its leaders, notably Putin, appear to view Beslan as something of an epoch-making event necessitating a materially new course of action for Russia:

As I have said on many occasions, we have faced crises, rebellions and terrorist acts many times. But what has happened now - the unprecedented crime committed by terrorists, inhuman in its cruelty - is not a challenge to the president, the Parliament or the government. This is a challenge to all of Russia, to all our people. This is an attack against all of us.

Indeed, the senselessness of the mass carnage in Beslan has led the Russian leader to speak very bluntly indeed:

There have been many tragic pages and difficult trials in the history of Russia. Today we are living in conditions formed after the disintegration of a huge, great country, the country which unfortunately turned out to be nonviable in the conditions of rapidly changing world.

Today, however, despite all difficulties, we managed to preserve the nucleus of that giant, the Soviet Union. We called the new country the Russian Federation.

We all expected changes, changes for the better, but found ourselves absolutely unprepared for much that changed in our lives. The question is why. We live in conditions of a transitional economy and a political system that do not correspond to the development of society. We live in conditions of aggravated internal conflicts and ethnic conflicts that before were harshly suppressed by the governing ideology.

We stopped paying due attention to issues of defense and security. We allowed corruption to affect the judiciary and law enforcement systems. In addition to that, our country, which once had one of the mightiest systems of protecting its borders, suddenly found itself unprotected either from West or East.

It would take many years and billions of rubles to create new, modern and truly protected borders. But even so, we could have been more effective if we had acted in timely and professional fashion. We have to admit that we failed to recognize the complexity and danger of the processes going on in our own country and the world as a whole. At any rate, we failed to react to them adequately. We demonstrated weakness, and the weak are beaten.

This extremely frank talk is quite astonishing fare coming from any leader-- especially a Russian leader accustomed more to Soviet modes of secrecy and ducking of responsibility for government failures. That said, of course, when Putin says that "we stopped paying due attention to issues of defense and security" or "we demonstrated weakness" he is in large part describing the chaotic, alcohol-laden Yelstin years. This is part of the reason that Putin talks about it taking "many years" to create secure borders, ie. he would have needed more time regardless given the lost Yeltsin years.

Still, however, this speech was an astonishing mea culpa by Russian standards. What does it all mean?

1) Russia will now look to re-assert its historic sphere of influence through the Caucasus (including, if to a lesser degree, the southern Caucasus).

One big loser will likely be new Georgian President Saakashvili. He can forget about any unfettered moves by Tbilisi to assert full Georgian control over South Ossetia. Putin will now make a bid to restore a quasi-hegemonic role through the Caucasus. This will lead to some tension with the Americans who are also vying for influence in the region--but such prospective tensions will be mitigated as Putin's moves will be pitched to Bush as necessary actions undertaken under the umbrella of the war on terror.

2) Putin will now look to spearhead a significant overhaul of Russia's intelligence services (not unlike the post 9/11 bureaucratic reorgs in the States). He will also be forced to move significantly more resources into the military/intelligence sphere--which likely means the risks of going-forward Yukos-style confiscatory actions will be increased given budgetary constraints.

3) While Putin did state that any governmental actions will remain within the confines of the Russian constitution (though it almost sounded like an afterthought in Putin's speech), you can be sure there will be additional constraints placed on civil liberties in the coming months and years. The Russian bear has been re-awoken--not only in terms of robust policing of the 'near abroad' but also in terms of promoting domestic 'cohesion':

Putin: "But what is more important is a mobilization of the nation before the general threat. Events in other countries prove that terrorists meet the most effective rebuff where they confront not only the power of the state but also an organized and united civil society." [ed. note: He's sounding like Zell Miller, no?]

4) Finally, note this part of the speech:

We cannot but see the evident: we are dealing not with separate acts of intimidation, not with individual forays of terrorists. We are dealing with the direct intervention of international terror against Russia, with total and full-scale war, which again and again is taking away the lives of our compatriots.

This is a signal to major powers that the gloves are going to come off--not in terms of Russia's prosecution of the Chechen war (the gloves have always been off there) but in terms of potential actions beyond Russia. Put differently, the mention of "international terror" signals that, much like the Americans will fight terror globally and even in preventitive fashion, so too will Russia now.

What's happening here is that, post 9/11, we see an increasing trend by which various nations seek to categorize their specific homeland security issues as part and parcel of the international war on terror. Israel has often, and quite succesfully, made the case that its security problem with groups like Hamas and Jihad Islami are directly analogous to the homeland security issues America faces with al-Qaeda. And now Russia, especially given ostensible al-Qaeda involvement in this latest brazen attack, seeks to also gain this kind of imprimatur of legitimacy in placing the conflict in Chechnya within the larger context of the global war on terror (the Indians re: Kashmir; and Chinese re: Xinjiang, do this kind of thing too).

There is a problem with all of this, of course. Each situation is materially different (though they all, of course, involve Muslims groups). While the tactics of indiscriminate terror are equally reprehensible whether done in NYC on 9/11, a Passover dinner in Haifa, or a school in North Ossetia--we need to analyze such attacks within the context of the specific dynamics at play. Put differently, the U.S. was not occupying Saudi Arabia when 15 Saudis crashed planes into the Towers (we had troops there at the invitation of the Saudi government). Contra this, the Palestinian terror groups are operating in the context of a war underway there since 1948. Similarly, Chechens and Russians have been in conflict, at least this last go-around, since the early 90s.

What's my point?

Well, it leads me to this little Matt-Glenn dust-up (or what the French might call a dialogue de sourds). Matt, clarifying his earlier post, writes:

What I was saying, in case this is for some reason genuinely unclear, is that to get Chechens to stop making war on Russia requires Russia to do something to resolve the underlying grievance -- Russia's mistreatment of Chechnya. At the same time, taking steps to resolve the underlying grievance would, under the circumstances, be just the sort of appeasement that would invite further attacks. Therefore, it's not clear what the Russian government can or should do in order to prevent future massacres like this.

A few thoughts on all this.

As I see it--there is never any justification for the purposeful slaughter of innocents--no matter how deep-seated and/or justified any group's political grievances. But, like it or not, and given the realities of asymetrical warfare and the success terrorists have had of late, these tactics are with us to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.

We therefore need to a) make abundantly clear that such tactics are not, under any circumstances, acceptable to us (Glenn's point); but all the while striving to reach settlements that will help foster more peaceful conditions (Matt's point).

Let me put it differently.

Imagine an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza with its capital in portions of East Jerusalem (with access to Muslim Holy sites under the aegis of Islamic authorities). Imagine further that Israel got to keep certain key settlements, certain strategic border buffer zones, and that the Palestinian state was largely de-militarized. Imagine too, and critically, that a major compensation fund were opened for '48 refugees and their descendants who can't go back to their original homes. (Please, no E-mails about my breathless naivete and the John Lennon song).

Now, most of the world would think this a pretty fair deal. Many irrendentists in Hamas and Islamic Jihad would not. But such groups would then be much more isolated then they are today. The vast majority of observers, including likely all of Europe, would feel that a decent deal had been struck. People would further recall that the U.N. authorized the creation of an Israeli state in the late '40s pursuant to real Jewish historical links to the region coupled with the grotesque crime of the Holocaust necessitating a national homeland for Jewry. In other words, history brought us to this difficult pass, a very fair deal was struck, and it's now time to move on.

Any further attacks by Islamic militants in Israel, after such a peace settlement, would be met with significantly more ire than currently (since many, like it or not, see such attacks in the context of a national liberation struggle). This increased ire would be shared amidst the vast majority of judicious governments and, yes, mainstream Islamic groups. There would no longer be any tolerance for, as it is often done by many Middle East observers, drawing distinctions between killing innocent discotequers in Tel Aviv versus killing innocent settlers in Hebron. IDF soldiers on the ground would now be patrolling internationally recognized borders rather than borders in dispute--so would not be considered 'fair' targets in the context of an independence struggle. And so on.

The effect of such a settlement would be to a) cut down Hamas and Jihad Islami's recruitment pool dramatically, b) leave said groups with no support from state actors (Syrian and Iranian support post such a settlement would largely dry up) and c), perhaps most important, lead to conditions where terror groups would meet ferocious and near unanimous condemnation across the globe if they continued to attack any targets in Israel within its '48 borders (or settlements retained as part of any deal and Jewish-controlled Jerusalem).

Ditto, of course, in Chechnya. Suppose Grozny were awarded some 'deep' autonomy where Russia merely kept certain border security/foreign policy levers. Chechens would have, let's say, their own currency, schools, municipal government, flag, and so on. Such a move would de-radicalize many Chechens just as a Palestinian state would de-radicalize many Palestinians. There would be fewer 'black widows'. Fewer thugs willing to slaughter innocent children. No, of course (like with Islamic Jihad, say) there would be absolutists who would view the Russian concessions as weak-kneed and would thus seek to inflict further terror blows to gain further concessions. But, such radicals would enjoy little support but from the most radical of terrorists (ie, the al-Qaeda theoratic barbarian crowd).

So, to wrap up. There can be no appeasement of gruesome international terror tactics. Not now, not later. But, we can't live in a bubble. These monsters who kill children in Beslan and Tel Aviv emerge from a climate of deep historical grievances, myriad outstanding claims and recriminations, long and bitter conflicts. In other words, and returning to Matt's point (if indeed this, er, is his point), we do need to work to reach negotiated settlements of the Kashmirs, Palestines, Chechnyas of the world. The sooner we can resolve those--the better to narrow down the battle to those who will never be satisfed by any reasonable concessions and attempts at rational compromise. Those, for instance, that hate the very idea of liberal democracy--particularly, its leading avatar America.

The hijackers who felled the Towers were, yes, likely motivated in part by the fact that Israel occupies the Territories, that Muslims were being killed in Chechnya, that American troops were in Saudi (or now, Iraq). But, more deeply, they hate us because of what and who we are--a hyper-modern, dynamic capitalist society that allows freedom of religion, a libertine popular culture, the free exchange of ideas. Such societies run contra the idealized visions of a utopic Islamic caliphate spanning from Andalusia to Indonesia.

Yes, we must do our part to signal to such groups that terror will never lead to achievement of their political goals. Yet, at the same time, we must be seen to be striving to resolve outstanding conflicts that help breed hatred. If nothing else, such efforts will help make smaller the recruitment pools of the terrorists.

You simply can't win the war on terror, long term, without resolving these outstanding conflicts, addressing economic development through the Middle East as well as providing alternatives to radical madrasas and such. At the same time, you need to be extremely robust in terms of cracking down on terror groups and states that symphatize with various terror organizations (as Putin put it plainly, "the weak are beaten"). It's not easy to do all this simultaneously--but we must. This is the challenge of our era. While terror has been with us for milennia--it has never had the chance to reap maximalist damage of the sort now possible via chemical or nuclear weaponry. So, no, we will not endlessly prattle on about 'root causes' and shy away from combatting international terror groups and states. But nor can we mount this campaign divorced from the realities on the ground that so often create the conditions that allow for terrorism to thrive (national humiliation, stagnant economies, corrupt authoritarian regimes, longstanding territorial conflicts).

Posted by Gregory at September 6, 2004 10:50 AM

I said before that my triumvirate of foreign policy heroes is Thomas Friedman, Fareed Zakaria, and the Belgravia Dispatch, but after reading this posting I have to put the Belgravia Dispatch in the "number one" category. (It makes me regret my recent decision to vote differently than B.D., but B.D. will be an valued source of foreign policy insight no matter who wins the U.S. election.)

I don't know if it really matters -- evil is evil -- but the terrorist organizations killing innocent Israelis seem to be independent from al Qaeda, whereas the terrorist organizations killing innocent Indians in my parents' homeland (Kashmir) seem to be closely connected to al Qaeda. Anyway, in the case of Kashmir, a peace settlement between India and Pakistan would help to weaken the terrorists.

One concern I have is that terrorism seems to be effective -- that is, the particular grievances which the terrorists claim seem to win greater attention than other equally legitimate grievances without terrorist "sponsors". That doesn't seem right to me, but I admit I don't have a solution. Still, what about all the suffering people in the world -- malaria victims in Africa, for example -- who aren't blowing up nursery schools?

Posted by: Arjun at September 6, 2004 06:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Radicalized Islam is in many ways no different than the fascism and fanatical nationalism of the 1930's and 1940's in that it has developed an unhealthy appeal to segments of society (both commoner and elite) that feel increased levels of disenfranchisement or powerlessness. Only when the circumstances of that disenfranchisement have been dealt with will the terror subside.

But the root causes of Muslim disenfranchisement are not eliminated by appeasement. Muslim women will continue to long for the freedom enjoyed by western women if the US were to immediately disengage from Iraq and Afghanistan. Same goes for Russia/Chechnya. Middle Eastern countries will continue to experience significant brain-drain as both young men and women flee to Europe and America in order to be educated and to live in prosperity. And Western countries and companies will continue to operate on Muslim soil regardless of the increased security threats. The upside to Middle Eastern energy availability is far too critical to abandon.

Islam is delivering a backlash to the West due to the increased ease with which people and information travel in the age of the jet aircraft, the television, and the Internet. No longer can theocratic rulers fully shield their constituents from the appeal of the West. The intent of Radicalized Islam is to roll back the access and influence western society has developed with Muslim people and Middle Eastern governments.

So, how do we fix this? We've got to foster the belief among Muslims that engagement with the West, democracy, and the right of self-determination is NOT incompatible with Islam.

But appeasing Radical Islam by giving in to their demands will do nothing to achieve these goals. We must be willing to displace the people and institutions that bar the way with force, and be willing to stay the course until democracy has a firm foothold.

The US is doing this in Iraq. I call on the Russians to do their part by immediately recognizing the threat posed by Iran, and to undertake the same type of operation the US has undertaken in order to deny Terrorist sanctuary in that land.

I also call on France and Germany to assume their role by militarily engaging Radical Islam on the horn of Africa and Yemen. To go as liberators, not as conquerors. To give democracy and freedom in the Muslim world a fighting chance.

Posted by: G. Brickl at September 6, 2004 07:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sorry, but your entire analysis is wrong. The problem is not the various grievences, or poverty, or bad government, those exist everywhere and at all times. Wealth and good government are the exception not the rule. The true problem is the success(!) of Wahabbism. It was a derided minor branch of Islam that had been suppressed from it inception 300 years ago until it finally came to power with the Saudis in 1920 Arabia. Then came the oil wealth which allowed its acolytes to propogate the ideology throughout the Muslim world during the last 30 years. Every single one of the outrages we read about are committed by Wahabbis, 9/11, Bali, Madrid, Baslam, ... Read the Iraqi blogs, they blame and hate them for the major part they are playing in the internal strife in Iraq. The only solution is to attack and destroy the ideology and the people who spread it.

Posted by: Paul at September 6, 2004 09:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The only solution is to attack and destroy the ideology and the people who spread it."

About how many people would this policy require be killed? Especially considering that killing one spreader is likely to produce several more.

Posted by: Wonderer at September 6, 2004 10:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Terrorists may cite causes such as Chechnyan independence as their reason for being however this is a false flag, just as the Bolshevik's claim that they represented "the people" was a deception.
Wahhabis and Shia radicals want to re-establish the Caliphate and will use any cause as a pretext for violence.

Islam was in retreat from 1683 until 1979 when the Western powers relented in the centuries old practice of using force to contain Islam. Western liberal policies are being perceived as weakness which is being exploited by radical Islamists.

The disputes in the Balkans, the Levant, Chechnya, Kashmir and sub-Sahara Africa will not be "resolved" until either the Caliphate is restored or the Western boot is placed on Muslim necks again. Islam will never accept a compromise short of dhimmitude for infidels.

The liberal, secular Westerners who wrap themselves in their cloak of moral-relativism had better steel themselves for the decades of carnage that is to come. Only a nuclear detonation in Paris or Madrid will awaken sleepy Kantians from their perpetual peace.

Since Islam has no intention of reforming from within and every Muslim condemnation of violence ends with a "but" we need to provide incentives. Begin with a statement that proclaims that every act of terrorism will result in the loss of a Muslim city. Start with Fallujah and work your way up to Mecca and Najaf. Pilgrimage to a smoldering, radioactive hole in the ground is rather pointless.

Posted by: lugh lampfhota at September 6, 2004 10:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"About how many people would this policy require be killed? Especially considering that killing one spreader is likely to produce several more."


You need to stop thinking exclusively about the present and begin thinking about how we will halt the purposeful killing of innocents in the future. Yes, waging war against radical Islamic terrorists will unfortunately result in the killing of innocent bystanders and others. But NOT pursuing the terrorists will result in many, many more innocent people being killed and injured.

Our goal is to eliminate or de-fang the people who kill civilians to further their goals. The terrorist goal does not include an end to the violence until a.) the Israelis are pushed into the sea, and b.) Muslim countries disengage from from the rest of the world.

Obviously A and B will not happen, thus the terrorist killing will continue until OUR goal is met.

Posted by: G. Brickl at September 6, 2004 11:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A solid post.

A word on this:

The hijackers who felled the Towers were, yes, likely motivated in part by the fact that Israel occupies the Territories, that Muslims were being killed in Chechnya, that American troops were in Saudi (or now, Iraq). But, more deeply, they hate us because of what and who we are--a hyper-modern, dynamic capitalist society that allows freedom of religion, a libertine popular culture, the free exchange of ideas. Such societies run contra the idealized visions of a utopic Islamic caliphate spanning from Andalusia to Indonesia.

I think it's fair to say that they hate us because our values and norms are clashing with theirs, on their turf. I'm still undecided as to whether Al Qaeda genuinely is oriented around affecting US policy, or uses its public communications cynically to appeal to a broader audience. Certainly, guys like Qutb and Khomenei objected to the cultural aspects of American hegemony -- America the seducer. But I get the sense that Bin Laden is different -- he wants the West out of the region, and he thinks that based on his reading of Islamic history the best way to achieve that is to unify the umma and go back to fundamentalism. I think the Afghan experience, wherein the top commanders were the hard core fundies, drove this point home for him. Other AQ members' motivations are explicit. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, for instance, declared in his interview that US support for Israel was what motivated him. Was he lying? Kidding himself? I don't know.

My view is that we have to finish the job of connecting the Arab and Muslim world to the rest of the globe, so that these Western ideas are no longer seen as so alien and threatening, but rather, invigorating and welcome. Notice that some of the world's top terrorists and Islamist leaders have been middle class guys who flitted between worlds. I think it's the contrast and alienation that does it. We have to reduce the gap.

Posted by: praktike at September 7, 2004 03:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree with parts of your analysis especially Russia seeking hegemony over the Caucasus region with Georgia being the fall guy. Bush's concept of pre-emptive assault would entitle Russia to invade the Panski Gorge. Talk about blowback. Trouble is with this scenario as succinctly pointed out from the Belmont Club is that Russia can't invade. The military is too weak. If it invaded Georgia it would be in the same boat as it is in Chechnya. It would shatter Georgia's government but it would be unable to rule it. No I think what he is talking about is some traumatic shake up in Russia to be able to impose it's will. I can see a quasi "5 Year Plan" in the offing.

With that said if I was the Bush administration I would point out to Vlad that the Chechens are trained and supported by Al Qaeda. That Iran is "holding" Al Qaeda leadership. That Russia is supporting Iran's government by selling it's nuclear crown jewels secrets that will allow Iran to bluster it's way to a nuclear weapon so that it can stay an independent actor. How do you like that blowback effect?

I disagree with your contention that negotiating with the terrorists will defuse the situation. The reason is that we are dealing with trans-nationalist ideologues not people with a grievance over a plot of land. The IRA and the Palestinians have a specific plot of dirt that they are fighting over. Al Qaeda doesnÕt not unless you mean the entire Caliphate including Spain. I remind you that the Russians did come up with an understanding with Chechnya just as you mentioned in 1995 after their first disastrous foray. (StrategyPage Russia Board, September 2nd post). The government broke up and you have warlordism today. The ideologues are not interested in negotiations but capitulation, our capitulation. Like Hitler they would just keep coming and coming and coming. New grievances would be dusted off for resolution (Sheeba Farms anyone?). Just like the GIS in Algeria all Russia can do right now is kill and keep killing until the shock and the bloodletting is so great that the Chechen population just gives up. Spengler in Asian Times made this point in his article on the American Civil War. ItÕs not pleasant to contemplate but I believe his analysis is spot on. EuropeÕs war weariness is also a result of the carnage of the Great War and itÕs sequel.

The single greatest weakness facing the West is that itÕs diplomatic structures are stuck in a Westphalian nation state mode. It is not equipped to deal with trans-national movements like Al Qaeda. The last such challenge was that of the Anarchist Syndicalism movement in the late 19th-early 20th century. That movement was subsumed with the creation of the communist bloc which put things back into a nation state prism. This post is already too long but I believe that to effectively strike at these types of organizations you have to destroy their ideology (read no negotiations, no compromise and a withering intellectual assault) and their bases of support (read Iran/Syria/Saudi Arabia). BushÕs ÒAxis of EvilÓ speech was a start but not enough blood has been shed on our side yet to go to its logical conclusion. I am waiting for that tragic female American be-heading that will come if the terrorists manage to capture one to spur greater fury on our side. If there is one organization that needs transforming it is the U.S. State Department. It is our single weakest link. General Clark in his commentary in the run-up to the Iraq war had some very cogent and perceptive remarks on how to do this. (Basically create mirror regional commands like Centcom in the diplomatic realm).

I was fortunate enough to watch on C-SPAN this weekend to see a lecture by Thomas Barnett the author of "The Pentagon's New Map". Actually read the March 2003 Esquire article it's better and more concise. I highly recommend both. But try to see the whole presentation (2 hours plus) including the questions. Very interesting perspectives even if delivered in a bombastic style. The one point that ties to the above paragraph is that warfare is moving from a mass killing venture to targeted individuals (wet work anyone?). You really should try and see this lecture. It draws some very interesting conclusions and makes you think.

Posted by: Jeff Schaeper at September 7, 2004 04:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think the sentiment, often expressed on the left and on the right (including in some comments above) that the U.S. is or ought to be at war with Islam is entirely wrongheaded.

I'm voting for Mr. Kerry, but as a pro-Muslim Hindu American, I'll give the Bush Administration credit for 1) waging two wars of liberation which allow for the process of liberal democratization in two Muslim countries (and the last time I checked, Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi and Afghan President Karzai were Muslims), 2) appointing Muslims to important positions, such as Elias Zerhouni as NIH Director and Zalmay Khalilzad (previously at the Defense Department) as ambassador to Afghanistan.

Posted by: Arjun at September 7, 2004 11:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Winds of Change has a very thorough post on the Besnan slaughter that makes an important point wryly,

(paraphrasing) "Russia tried to surrender in Chenya 10 years ago. It didn't work."

Barak tried "surrendering" - or at least making the most sweeping concessions Israel had ever made - to Arafat.

Both of these attempts to defuse (weaken, attenuate) Muslim anger were less than spectacularly successful.

That is why I'm skeptical of the claim that REASONABLE grievances are a signicant part of the global Islamic terrorim epidemic. They are part of it, but sincere efforts by Americans, Israelis, Russians, etc.. to offer partial accomodation seem to have no effect whatsoever.

Very good post, by the way. Genuinly thoughtful and informative.

Posted by: Randall at September 7, 2004 06:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Great post.

A few thoughts on some comments above:

"Wahhabis and Shia radicals want to re-establish the Caliphate and will use any cause as a pretext for violence."

I think this is true, but that doesn't undercut what Greg was saying. The intractable militants must be dealt with militarily. However, there are diplomatic routes to take as well in the broader context. Wahhabism is spread by the Saudi government, so let's exert pressure on them to curtail this practice, with whatever carrot/stick is necessary. As for Iran, we should do our best to strengthen the hand of the reformers and the progressives who are in a tug of war with the hardliners. We might be able to help Iran reform itself, at least to some degree.

"I disagree with [Greg's] contention that negotiating with the terrorists will defuse the situation."

I don't think Greg was suggesting we negotiate with the terrorists. No where does he describe a round table with al-Qaeda or Zarqawi. Greg was suggesting that we adopt policies that undermine the recruitment efforts of terrorists, and their sources of popularity and support. Even if the leaders of these movements are ideologues who do not care about the underlying issues, the ranks from which they recruit operatives, derive the necessary funding, attain moral support, and attain popularity from, do care about the tangible issues. If we address these causes in a realistic manner, it will be easier to isolate and annihilate the intractable elements. Not negotiation, isolation and destruction.

In addition, I disagree with the sentiment that Russia, France and other European nations commence a wave of invasions to "give democracy and freedom in the Muslim world a fighting chance." This is not an effective means to spawn democracy, and history has proven it to be an extremely inefficient, and almost always counterproductive means to achieve those ends. To quote Fukuyama:

"America has been involved in approximately 18 nation-building projects between its conquest of the Philippines in 1899 and the current occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the overall record is not a pretty one. The cases of unambiguous success-Germany, Japan, and South Korea-were all ones in which U.S. forces came and then stayed indefinitely. In the first two cases, we were not nation-building at all, but only re-legitimizing societies that had very powerful states. In all of the other cases, the U.S. either left nothing behind in terms of self-sustaining institutions, or else made things worse by creating, as in the case of Nicaragua, a modern army and police but no lasting rule of law."

Posted by: Eric Martin at September 7, 2004 07:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Very well-done. Powerful post.

Yes. Terrorists make public demands that match the needs of their potential supporters. Because they want more people to join them.

When we can provide those things, the terrorists will have less support. They will have to find new demands hoping for new recruits.

"Giving in" to such demands won't stop the terrorists, it will merely weaken them. So for example when britain allowed irish independence in the major part of ireland, the war didn't stop. The IRA kept getting money from america to keep fighting. But the IRA after irish independence was very weak compared to irish nationalists before independence. When we "give in" we are not negotiating with terrorists. We are doing what we believe is right, for people who happen to be potential terrorists but who are not yet terrorists. If we appease potential terrorists by doing things we think are wrong, likely as not we'll pretty soon face other terrorists who want the opposite result. We don't gain anything that way. But if we think it's the right thing to do regardless, then we might as well do it and hope it will damage terrorists too. We'll have a hard fight, why make it harder?

I tend to disagree with one side point.

"Putin will now make a bid to restore a quasi-hegemonic role through the Caucasus. This will lead to some tension with the Americans who are also vying for influence in the region--but such prospective tensions will be mitigated as Putin's moves will be pitched to Bush as necessary actions undertaken under the umbrella of the war on terror."

I doubt those tensions will be at all easy to mitigate. We aren't going to want Putin to start putting the USSR back together. Giving up communism just makes it worse, communism was one of the things holding them back. I thought I saw above a recommendation that the russian army should invade iran and do nation-building. If Bush agreed to that I suspect the support that is preventing impeachment would tend to evaporate. We went close to 30 years trying very hard to keep the russian army out of iran, and if Bush invites them in now he's going to look like an utter idiot.

Posted by: J Thomas at September 7, 2004 08:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

J. Thomas.

Your post belies the actual history of the Chechens in recent time.


very informative.

Posted by: capt joe at September 7, 2004 11:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Capt Joe, how is my comment incompatible with that post?

Posted by: J Thomas at September 8, 2004 06:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I like Anne Applebaum's column in the Washington Post today (and everything else she writes) but I wonder whether she is right. She states that terrorists harm the causes they espouse, and this makes a lot of sense.

However, in reality, it seems that in many cases terrorism is "effective". There is often a natural desire to give in to the terrorists in order to prevent harm to innocent civilians. For example, a few years ago India released an al Qaeda affiliated terrorist from prison and allowed him to escape to Pakistan, exactly as demanded by the terrorist hijackers of an Indian Airlines flight. This was done because Indians demanded that the Indian government give in to the terrorists and thereby save the passengers' lives. In this case, and in many others, terrorism "worked".

Today one reads newspaper editorials citing the Beslan incident (inappropriately described as "tragedy" rather than as "atrocity") and calling for Chechen independence. Did the terrorist atrocities at Beslan help draw favorable attention to the terrorists's cause?

Posted by: Arjun at September 8, 2004 07:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oops -- I was reacting to editorials in the New York Times and in my local newspaper the Raleigh News and Observer, but a careless comment in my post above makes it look like I'm launching a cheap shot at B.D, which wasn't my intention. I apologize for that carelessness.

Posted by: Arjun at September 8, 2004 07:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Syrian and Iranian support post such a settlement would largely dry up..."

Amazing that this would be posted without even the slenderest thread of evidence, and given a pass by the commenters.

The policies of Syria and Iran are abundantly clear: destruction of the Jewish state, period. Their governments will continue to pursue this goal, working (as they have in the past) to derail any potential deal, and continuing to fund, support, and train terrorists after any deal. Their Palestinian proxies (that is, those with specific loyalties to them) are numerous and strong.

Beyond that, I think you've fallen into the trap of looking at what people say, not what their interests are. Let's tiptoe through those tulips for a moment.

Many Palestinians and Arabs have openly avowed that a Palestinian state would simply be an interim step on the road to the depiction in their schools and on their maps - not a 2 state solution, but a 1 state solution with Palestine in place of Israel. This was the purpose of the Palestinian movement when it was created in the 1960s by the Arab League, and remains so today.

The only change since has been the rising value of the Palestinians as an external distraction the Arab world's elite can use, in order to deflect energy that might otherwise be used to criticize them. They cannot afford to give this up.

Which means they won't. After any agreement, the reasonable expectation is that private support for Palestinian terror by wealthy Arabs will continue, and that those who advocate Israel's destruction and preach hatred of Jews will continue to get sympathetic and frequent play in the Arab media. vid: Egypt, which fits this profile exactly.

The Europeans, whose mideast policy is primarily driven by appeasement of the Arabs in return for oil access, will find some way to follow along. Probably calls for a bi-national state once the Palestinian state proves economically unviable (which it will be) and conditions remain poor. Since most Arabs will (correctly) understand this as a formula for the destruction of the Jewish state, this will do.

I tend to agree that root causes need to be addressed in order to halt terror. But you and I have very different ideas of what those root causes may be. In the Palestinians' case, the root cause is the durable interest of the Arab elites in using them as a distraction & weapon.

Change the mideast so this is no longer such a priority, and suddenly it IS possible to imagine a scenario where local support and European attitudes might actually shift toward the picture you paint above. A long term effort to address the carefully cultivated, genocidal hatred that has been continually pumped through the Arab & Islamic world also becomes thinkable at that point. At least in some places.

Without that key change, however, you're just smokin' & inhaling.

What will remain regardless, of course, is Syria & Iranian backed terrorism and hate. Unless there have been some major changes in those states, too. As for Saudi Arabia's Wahhabis, they're fundamentalists to whom compromise with an unbeliever who sits on land that "belongs" to Muslims is ideological/spiritual anathema. The visible Saudi state may change, but they will not.

Even the most optimistic "root cause" scenario, therefore, still leaves Israel facing a strong and continuous set of terrorist attacks dedicated to their destruction, backed by 1 and possibly 2 major religious establishments with influence throughout the Muslim world, and quietly supported by many Arabs and most Arab media.

Unless, of course, we also break the Iranian regime, and separate the Wahhabis from the oil money that funds their undue influence and preaching of hatred for the kufr throughout the Islamic world. Then our Palestinian scenario can become more optimistic - much more, in fact.

If you're getting the feeling that solving the Palestinian problem is likely to be the final confirmation of success in the War on Terror rather than the catalyst for that success... yeah, that's where my analysis takes me, too.

Posted by: Joe Katzman at September 9, 2004 04:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Former Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov condemned the terrorists' actions in the Beslan massacre. Putin then puts a price on his head, as if he's Osama Bin Laden or something. Maskhadov also resisted the influence of Wahhabism (think OBL again) 5 or 6 years ago. Islam in Chechnya was in the Sufi tradition (think mysticism, rather than fundamentalism).

As is happening in Gaza if not the West Bank, some argue, a nationalist cause is being taken over by religious fanatics, due to Russia's actions.

Posted by: DavidP at September 10, 2004 11:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The policies of Syria and Iran are abundantly clear: destruction of the Jewish state, period. "

I strongly doubt that. Of course to zionists it seems like everything is about israel. But even israel's bitterest foreign enemies have lots of other concerns.

If israel were to magically vanish tomorrow, if every zionist in israel suddenly changed their minds and picked up and left -- iran would have most of the same issues they have now. Israeli/MEK commando raids into iran are an issue. The chance of israeli airstrikes, possibly nuclear, are a big issue. But apart from such things I doubt israel is more of an iranian concern than cuba was for the USA in 1975. Sure, there were politicians who talked about communism 90 miles from our shore, but they weren't ready to do anything more about it than they always had.

Posted by: J Thomas at September 11, 2004 04:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As shocked as I was by the cowardly attack on innocents in the Towers, the attack on the children of Russia has absolutely sickened me. I can not accept that a human being of any form of enlightenment or civilization could target chil dren, regardless of your grievance. For too long the nations of the West have tried to get moderate Islam leadership to help stop the actions "of these few fanatics" all the while claiming Islam is a religion of peace. The only mistake the US has made in its foray into Iraq to stop these attacks is perhaps being too soft handed. I hope the Russians come down on these fanatics like a juggernaught, and if some "innocent civilians" are killed perhaps there leadership will do more to help stop the few fanatics next time. Terrorists are animals and should be hunted of the face of the planet with the unrelenting will and force of all civilized nations. How long do France and Germany expect to sit on their hands before their children are murdered, or their cities targeted by these lunatics. You can not negotiate with someone who's only goal in life is to see you dead and all your civilization with it.

Posted by: K Dague at September 15, 2004 12:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

K Dague, you are letting abstract ideas rule you.

Consider Timothy McVeigh. He bombed a building that had one or more daycare centers in it, with small children. Luckily he was acting alone and luckily he didn't suicide in the attack so we could catch him and kill him and declare it was over. If he'd died we'd still be going after those who were responsible for the attack.

Now, McVeigh apparently was retaliating for the Waco fiasco. He wasn't one of them but he sympathised with armed nutcases who got attacked by federal forces. Officially the US forces were attacking the Waco nutcases to save the children. But as a direct result of the attack, the children didn't get saved. They got killed. We can fuzz over the moral issue there and claim that Reno and the FBI etc were not responsible for those children's deaths. We can say we weren't the ones who set fire to them. Those people killed their own children of their own free will, simply because they were nutcases, and if they'd had any common sense at all they would have surrendered and their children would be taken care of by competent adults. They could even sue to get their children back if they got out of prison before the children reached adulthood. Still, the children wound up dead and the US government had a lot of responsibility for it.

I'm afraid the way it works is that a bunch of children getting killed all at once is somewhat worse than SNAFU but it isn't all that uncommon.

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