October 10, 2005

Swimming Against The Tide

I have long been doubtful of the proposition that spreading democracy will erase, or even vastly reduce, terrorism. At least not the brand of terrorism that washed up on our shores on September 11, 2001 - the Salafist jihadism espoused by al-Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiyah, and myriad like-minded groups that Dan would be better suited to list. Empirical evidence simply does not support the contention that democracy would eradicate the mentality that gives rise to this virulent strain of Salafism. It is not more freedom that they want, nor would freedom extinguish their cause. They are working for the creation of a romanticized version of a quasi-mythological unified Muslim caliphate stretching from Southeast Asia to large swathes of Africa to Andalusia in Spain. They believe that if they accomplish this feat, Allah will reward the Muslim world and it will vault ahead of the West. To achieve this, they aim to topple the "apostate" regimes currently ruling Muslim countries. Whether those regimes are democratic or authoritarian is irrelevant. Unless of course, democracy would give legitimate power to the Salafists' ideological kindred spirits.

Contra this meme, liberal democracies, at various stages of development, such as the United States, Great Britain, Spain, France, Germany, Turkey, the Philippines and Indonesia (to name but a few) have spawned, sheltered and provided space to numerous Salafist jihadists. Further, democracy has shown no particular penchant for curbing other, domestic terrorist movements such as ETA in Spain, the 17th of November in Greece, IRA in Britain, Beider Meinhof in Germany, the Red Brigades in Italy, Aum Shinrikyo in Japan, FARC in Colombia, Shining Path in Peru, etc. As Marc Sageman points out in his seminal work Understanding Terror Networks (highly, highly recommended), the liberal democracies of Western Europe itself are becoming some of the most fertile grounds for recruiting would-be jihadists. Here is David Brooks commenting on Sageman's work in light of the London bombings (via LAT):

The first implication, clearly, is that democratizing the Middle East, while worthy in itself, may not stem terrorism. Terrorists are bred in London and Paris as much as anywhere else.

Second, the jihadists' weakness is that they do not spring organically from the Arab or Muslim world. They claim to speak for the Muslim masses, as earlier radicals claimed to speak for the proletariat. But they don't. Surely a key goal for U.S. policy should be to isolate the nationalists from the jihadists. [emphasis added]

With this reality in mind, allow me to state emphatically for the record that I support the promotion of democracy, or perhaps more accurately, the empowerment of people to create a more dignified, responsive and just political life through a democratic system of government. Given the lack of correlation between democracy and terrorism, however, we should be wary to assess various strategies for supporting democracy and how they might impact our more crucial endeavor of "isolating" moderate Muslims from the jihadists. To quote Francis Fukuyama:

...[I]t is hard to see how we can deal with [al-Qaeda] other than by killing, capturing or otherwise militarily neutralizing them.

But the radicals swim in a much larger sea of Muslims-1.2 billion of them, more or less-who are not yet implacable enemies of the United States. If one has any doubts about this, one has only to look at the first of the United Nations Development Program's two Arab Human Development reports, which contained a poll asking whether respondents would like to emigrate to the United States if they had the opportunity. In virtually every Arab country, a majority of respondents said yes. On the other hand, recent Pew surveys of global public opinion show that positive feelings about the United States in Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan and other supposedly friendly Muslim countries has sunk to disastrously low levels. What these data taken as a whole suggest is that for the broad mass of public opinion in Muslim countries, we are disliked or hated not for what we are, but rather for what we do. What they do not like is a familiar list of complaints about our foreign policy that we somehow continue to fail to take seriously: our lack of concern for the plight of the Palestinians, our hypocritical support for dictators in Muslim countries, and now our occupation of Iraq.

The War on Terror is, in other words, a classic counter-insurgency war, except that it is one being played out on a global scale. There are genuine bad guys out there who are much more bitter ideological enemies than the Soviets ever were, but their success depends on the attitudes of the broader populations around them who can be alternatively supportive, hostile or indifferent-depending on how we play our cards. [emphasis added]

As Fukuyama and Brooks point out, our goal should not be to appease the actual Salafists such as Zawahiri, Bin Laden, Zarqawi, etc. Nothing we could do would placate them, nor should we reward such behavior to begin with. For them, there are only violent solutions. But it is absolutely crucial that we engage the remainder of the Muslim world in an effort to take away the jihadists' base of support - that which they rely on in order to thrive. The recent bombings in Bali, and the reaction to them, provides an illustration of the two currents laid out above: the fact that democracy itself is neutral to the effort to purge terrorism, and how public opinion impacts our efforts to combat the jihadists. Here is Scott Atran:

The coordinated bombings of popular tourist areas in Bali, almost exactly three years after similar attacks there, signal that an outbreak of democracy in the Muslim world will not necessarily be enough to destroy Al Qaeda's viral movement or even to diminish its reach.

If anything, the entrenchment of democracy has weakened Indonesia's willingness to fight terrorism. The country's minority-led democratic government, whose very survival requires the support of Islamic parties that range from the militant to the mainstream, has spent the period between the two Bali attacks waffling in its response to terrorism for fear of alienating these Muslim parties and a largely anti-American populace. Such lack of resolve augurs ill for American efforts to promote democracy as an antidote to terrorism elsewhere in the Muslim world.[...]

President Yudhoyono has said that he cannot submit legislation to parliament proscribing Jemaah Islamiyah because there is insufficient proof that the group exists. At the same time, he warns that more terrorist attacks may come.

That seems more than likely, to judge from the accounts I received from self-proclaimed mujahedin in Java and Sulawesi. They report that Jemaah Islamiyah has set up a suicide squad to conduct large actions against Western interests, over the objections of some group members who reprehend killing civilians.

It cannot possibly be in the Indonesian government's interest to continue to shelter an organization with such violent intentions. But the country's officials may have concluded that it is even riskier to support American policies. According to the latest survey conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, Indonesian views of the United States, which were largely favorable before the invasion of Iraq, plummeted to 15 percent favorable right after. In Pew's June 2005 survey, 80 percent of Indonesians feared that the United States would attack their country. [emphasis added]

From this reaction in Indonesia, it is easier to see the impact that certain facets of our foreign policy have had on our effort to combat the radical Islamists. The invasion of Iraq, regardless of any ancillary benefits (a conversation for another time), has not aided our effort to win over the moderate hearts and minds from the likes of Bin Laden and his ilk. In fact, it has set us back considerably by lending credence to Bin Laden's outrageous propaganda about US/Anglo/Israeli crusaders seeking to take over Muslim lands and humiliate Muslims - aided by images of civilian deaths and carnage that are the inevitable accompaniment to any military action no matter how carefully planned. Public opinion of America in the region has plunged so low, that many reformers and would be proponents of democracy have complained that the mere fact that their movements are associated with American ideals has made their work more difficult. As Fareed Zakaria (a supporter of the invasion of Iraq) noted:

Bush does not seem aware that the intense hostility toward him in every country in the world (save Israel) has made it very difficult for the United States to be the agent of freedom. In every Arab country that I have been to in the last two years, the liberals, reformers and businessmen say, "Please don't support us. American support today is the kiss of death."

There is much room for improvement in our outreach to moderate Muslims, and we need to constantly analyze our actions and methods to find a balance of policies and tactics that will both serve our interests and appeal to a Muslim population whose support we will rely on in years to come. At the very least, and as a starting point, we should show marked reluctance to invade another Muslim nation in the near future. Invasions have a funny way of tarnishing a nation's image and washing away bridges and common understanding. Especially in a part of the world already suspicious of our motives to begin with.

Posted by at October 10, 2005 03:43 PM | TrackBack (11)
Comments

Regular readers will be aware that I share Eric's skepticism about democratization, partly on the grounds he states but more fundamentally because representative democracy is a highly demanding political system that I doubt can be sustained by most of the peoples we are encouraging to adopt it. Our great efforts in that direction now, if successful, might further American interests somewhat; if unsuccessful -- the more probable outcome -- they would damage our interests severely. For nations as for individuals the surest way to undermine others' confidence in one is to make promises one is unable to keep.

This view does not directly address the problem of terrorism. In that connection I wonder if we have not fallen into the habit of thinking of "the Muslim world" as a single entity that will be influenced for good or ill by specific changes in American policy. It is certainly the objective of Islamist terror gangs that all Muslims everywhere should unite as Muslims under Islamist leadership. We can either seek to dispute their leadership or encourage them to think of themselves as other than simply Muslims.

Take the interminable Arab-Israeli conflict that the United States is continually asked to solve with the promise that this will dramatically improve our standing in Muslim countries. In the first place there is little agreement on what "solving" this conflict really means. In fact, many of the governments in the region need the conflict much more than they need a solution to it. But leaving that aside, what good would flow to Muslims in Indonesia or East Africa from a "solution" to the Palestinian problem? For that matter, how would such people benefit from an American withdrawal from Iraq? From an American withdrawal of from US military bases in the Gulf States?

In tangible terms, the benefits are hard to see in any of these cases. But let's go farther than the concern of non-Arab Muslims with Arab issues, and look at Arab Muslims' concern about issues vital to Muslims outside the Arab countries. What nations were first on the scene of the tsunami that hit Sumatra last year? Which nations have stepped forward to help the victims of genocide in Darfur, and which nations have refused? My point is that solidarity among Muslims looks like a one-way street; Arabs demand support from all Muslims in their controversies, but are indifferent (in the case of Darfur, much worse than indifferent) to the problems faced by Muslims who are not Arabs.

I don't see why this cannot be exploited, and have been disappointed that so little effort has been made to do so. Certainly we face difficulties over regional issues of pressing concern to non-Arab Muslims, especially with respect to Iran and Kashmir. But the terrorism problem is very largely an Arab problem; surely it is worth attempting to stigmatize terrorism as a product of Arabs selfishly seeking to export their feuds and hatreds to other countries -- rather than debating amongst ourselves whether terrorism is a product of Islam. Westerners will not win many theological arguments with Muslims anywhere, for reasons that ought to be obvious enough. Our intellectual battles must be fought and won on other grounds.

Posted by: JEB at October 10, 2005 05:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Since I like thinking in terms of percentages - if Al-Queda terrorist network penetration was divided into two segments:

a. Al-Queda piggybacking itself to unpopular occupations
b. Al-Queda launching solitary terrorist actions.

What would the percentages be?

Chechnya, Iraq, and Afghanistan would be examples of piggybacking, right?

While Indonesia, Britain, would be examples of launching terrorist actions without the piggybacking of occupations.

My own best guess would be 70 % piggybacking, 30% not piggybacking.

Is that a valid shot-in-the-dark estimate, or is it a simply a woefully misinformed shot?

Posted by: JC at October 10, 2005 07:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

But the terrorism problem is very largely an Arab problem; surely it is worth attempting to stigmatize terrorism as a product of Arabs selfishly seeking to export their feuds and hatreds to other countries -- rather than debating amongst ourselves whether terrorism is a product of Islam.

this, of course, is sheer nonsense. Terror is, and always has been, part of the way societies maintain control. Eric catalogued a number of non-Arab terrorist groups, Dan Darling is bloviating on terrorism in Indonesia.

But terror isn't used only by radical organizations that want to change the status quo. Throughout history, governments all over the world have used terror as a means of controlling people and societies.

The US has sponsored terrorism throughout Latin America for ages. (And what, other than to terrorize the Iraqi people, was the purpose of "Shock and Awe?") Americans have used terror against each other as well --- terror was the primary instrument of controlling black populations in the antebellum South, and terror is used to supress and intimate gay people in the US today.

The reality is that "terror" isn't new, and it isn't something that is "largelyan Arab problem." "Attempting to stigmatize terrorism as a product of Arabs selfishly seeking to export their feuds and hatreds to other countries" will be seen in the Arab world precisely for what it is....racism.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 10, 2005 08:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Along those lines:


The world leader in suicide terrorism is a group that you may not be familiar with: the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.

This is a Marxist group, a completely secular group that draws from the Hindu families of the Tamil regions of the country. They invented the famous suicide vest for their suicide assassination of Rajiv Ghandi in May 1991. The Palestinians got the idea of the suicide vest from the Tamil Tigers.

This from Robert Pape:

http://www.amconmag.com/2005_07_18/article.html

Posted by: Eric Martin at October 10, 2005 08:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There is much room for improvement in our outreach to moderate Muslims, and we need to constantly analyze our actions and methods to find a balance of policies and tactics that will both serve our interests and appeal to a Muslim population whose support we will rely on in years to come.

As long as there are over 100,000 American troops in Iraq, there is really no way for us to "serve our interests and appeal to a Muslim population whose support we will rely on". The best we can do is minimize both the damage to our own interests and further erosion in America's standing within the Islamic world.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 10, 2005 09:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric,

Yeah, I believe we have talked about the Pape paper in other venues. However, Al-Queda as a PIGGYBACKER ideology, is still a very dangerous force (as I'm sure you agree). And it is a somewhat unified ideology, across disparate areas (Iraq, Britian, Indonesia, Chechnya), as a piggybacker - and it is this unified "Islamic fundamentalism" which makes it particularly dangerous, as I know you also agree.

Also, while as a matter or raw numbers, Tamil Tigers are the most prevalent, this one group skews the IMPACT of terrorism around the globe, I believe.

Still, it's an interesting analysis to be done. Incidents of terrorism caused by Al-Queda piggybacking on local insurgencies, as opposed to acts of terrorism initially fomented by Al-Queda.

Posted by: JC at October 10, 2005 09:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

p.lukasiak,

"But terror isn't used only by radical organizations that want to change the status quo. Throughout history, governments all over the world have used terror as a means of controlling people and societies."

Well, a distinction may be useful here - between "terror" and the "monopoly of violence". The state has always used the monopoly on violence to insure order. And not that "terror" hasn't been an outgrowth of "monopoly of violence", because as you point out, historically it sometimes has been the case. Violence, the THREAT of violence, and the ability to engage in that violence, as a pragmatic matter, will always form the substrate of relations IN a state and BETWEEN states.

But you can use that threat of violence, to invite other countires into greater alliances, such as NATO, thereby creating a greater international community - or you can go it alone, such as what has been done in Iraq

The reality is that "terror" isn't new, and it isn't something that is "largelyan Arab problem." "Attempting to stigmatize terrorism as a product of Arabs selfishly seeking to export their feuds and hatreds to other countries" will be seen in the Arab world precisely for what it is....racism."

Well considering that the Bushes and the House of Saud have been buddy-buddies for over 30 years now, I don't know if the charge of racism, while sometimes true is the overriding concern here. Also, by declaring "racism", you are forgetting the geopolitical concerns of occupation, and also how radical Islam does seem to be a unifying force, across otherwise racist groups. You can look at the sectarian killing in Iraq, or in Bosnia, to see that what is happening with radical Islam is something other than simple racism. Not that racism isn't there, but that is a shallow reduction to the "cause".

If you only wanted to point out that this is ONE mote in the West's eye, yes, sure.

Posted by: JC at October 10, 2005 09:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric, with all respect, the Tamil Tigers are irrelevant. They are not involved in terrorism against us, or indeed involved in much of anything outside of Sri Lanka.

If what you are looking for is an academic definition of terrorism, then certainly the Tamil Tigers deserve consideration. I had been under the impression that you were instead discussing terrorism as a problem for American foreign policy.

Posted by: JEB at October 10, 2005 09:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Also, another observation -

a. Movements with/without leaders - 4th generation movements. If one takes the very first part of what John Robb says - but taking out the REFERENTS -

"[Identified group(s)] is made up of dozens of different groups, each with their own motivation for fighting. Under this big tent, no one group is dominant. Even the [identified group]are but a single digit percentage of the total "movement' [changed text]. Despite this fragmentation, the "movement" [changed text] appears to act as a single entity: it probes for weakness, improves its methods, and mounts campaigns."

I've been marvelling a bit at the intra-Right clash on the Miers nomination. I've been hearing - and believing - about this deeply coordinated Republican rightwing message machine, and thinking of this as a top-down phenomenon. Rove, some White House and Congressional staff, and a few of the leading pundits, craft the "message of the day" that then flows through the various important members of the message machine - and then out to cable, newspapers, Rush, etc.

But with the Miers nomination, it's pretty clear that either:

a. there is a clash in message machine - that the Bush administration, who crafts the message, is off of message with the rest of the message machine leaders
b. the message machine is somewhat "leaderless", and operating from a 4th generation dynamic - but also remaining unified in goals. Thus we get the Bush message being pushed back by the 4th generation true believers, and we get to watch how even when the head of the message machine is cut off, it doesn't matter, as the movement has its own dynamic, and isn't willing to bite back on Bush.

If this is the case, it won't matter what we do by capturing Bin Laden, as the movement will follow it's own course.

Thoughts?


Posted by: JC at October 10, 2005 10:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Also, another observation -

a. Movements with/without leaders - 4th generation movements. If one takes the very first part of what John Robb says - but taking out the REFERENTS -

"[Identified group(s)] is made up of dozens of different groups, each with their own motivation for fighting. Under this big tent, no one group is dominant. Even the [identified group]are but a single digit percentage of the total "movement' [changed text]. Despite this fragmentation, the "movement" [changed text] appears to act as a single entity: it probes for weakness, improves its methods, and mounts campaigns."

I've been marvelling a bit at the intra-Right clash on the Miers nomination. I've been hearing - and believing - about this deeply coordinated Republican rightwing message machine, and thinking of this as a top-down phenomenon. Rove, some White House and Congressional staff, and a few of the leading pundits, craft the "message of the day" that then flows through the various important members of the message machine - and then out to cable, newspapers, Rush, etc.

But with the Miers nomination, it's pretty clear that either:

a. there is a clash in message machine - that the Bush administration, who crafts the message, is off of message with the rest of the message machine leaders
b. the message machine is somewhat "leaderless", and operating from a 4th generation dynamic - but also remaining unified in goals. Thus we get the Bush message being pushed back by the 4th generation true believers, and we get to watch how even when the head of the message machine is cut off, it doesn't matter, as the movement has its own dynamic, and isn't willing to bite back on Bush.

If this is the case, it won't matter what we do by capturing Bin Laden, as the movement will follow it's own course.

Thoughts?


Posted by: JC at October 10, 2005 10:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jeb,
When the big entities kill little entities, thats manifest destiny, white man's burden, rule of law, establishing order, etc.

When big entities kill big entities, that's war.

When the little entities kill members of the big entities, that's terrorism.

When little entities kill little entities it's time to change the channel and find something good to watch; especially if those little entities are located in Africa and the scale of their killing is actually not so little (exception: if those little entities are located in Eastern Europe then the situation is something different entirely if you're a democrat, but remains time to change the channel if you're republican).

Whe big entities side with little entities who kill other little entities, the little entities sided with the big entities are "freedom fighters", "peace lovers", etc.

That's all you need to know as far as definitions go.

Posted by: avedis at October 10, 2005 11:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, a distinction may be useful here - between "terror" and the "monopoly of violence".

in any discussion of the international response to terrorism vis a vis the USA, I'm not sure that the distinction is all that relevant. The "monopoly of violence" is essentially a means of legitimizing violence (and the threat thereof) under state auspices, and within a state that legitimacy may be recognized, even when it is exercised extraterritorily (e.g. US sponsorship of El Salvador death squads, anti-Castro terrorist attacks, etc.) But when the issue is international terrorism, "monopoly of violence" loses a great deal of its relevance, because states disagree on what is the legitimate use of the "monopoly of violence" when exercised by other states.

Which is really just a long-winded way of making a specific point, i.e. that the US efforts against international terrorism would be taken far more seriously if the Bush administration wasn't empowering people like John Negroponte. The blatant hypocrisy displayed by putting Negroponte in the UN, then appointing him ambassador to Iraq, signals to the rest of the world that the US "war on terror" isn't really about dealing with terrorism at all, but with dealing with America's enemies.

And although it is in the interest of virtually all states to stop the spread of international terror, lots of nations "don't have a dog in the fight" that exists specifically between al Qaeda and the USA, or between the US and Iraqi nationalist insurgents....and are acting accordingly.

Well considering that the Bushes and the House of Saud have been buddy-buddies for over 30 years now, I don't know if the charge of racism, while sometimes true is the overriding concern here.

its not. the point was being made in response to JEB's advocacy of
"attempting to stigmatize terrorism as a product of Arabs selfishly seeking to export their feuds and hatreds to other countries". I think that such an approach would be considered "anti-Arab"/racist in the extreme throughout the Arab world....and that is all I was trying to say.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 10, 2005 11:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JEB,

Point taken. I was merely throwing out the concept that terrorism is not only employed by one group (Arabs or Muslims).

You are right that I am only really interested in the terrorism that threatens the US. But in the same vein, I tire of the conflation of Palestinian terrorists with al-Qaeda and other international jihadists.

This is most commonly done in the attempt to paint Saddam as someone who "supported terrorism," and thus invading Iraq is made to fit neatly in the clumsily named "war on terror." While Saddam did support Palestinian terrorists, that was and is largely irrelevant to the struggle against al-Qaeda - at least its only connection lies in the obstacle to peace in Israel/Palestine which is not entirely insignificant, but probably not a solid casus belli either.

The other connections between Saddam and Salafists are tenuous at best and are often shakier than other regimes that we call allies.

Posted by: Eric Martin at October 10, 2005 11:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yes, but we have a deep relationship and a strong unconditional alliance with Isreal.

Many of our defense experts have religious, economic, and employment affiliations with Isreal.

It's easy to see how sponsoring terrorism against Isreal becomes conflated with sponsoring terrorism against the US.

Posted by: avedis at October 11, 2005 12:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If this is the case, it won't matter what we do by capturing Bin Laden, as the movement will follow it's own course.

athough any attempt to conflate OBL with Karl Rove is guaranteed to tickle me heart, I think that comparing the right wing noise machine with al Qaeda is considerably off the mark.

that being said, I do think that, at this point, capturing bin Laden won't make a significant difference. If anything, at this point bin Laden---with his penchant for the theatrical grand gesture rather than strategic geo-political thinking---is an impediment to the achievement of the "next step" for al Qaeda adherents.

Bin Laden is really little more than a symbol in terms of the radical Islamic fundamentalist movement, and it doesn't much matter what happens to him --- symbols can be manipulated, and as long as he remains free he is a symbol of resistance, and if he is captured or killed he becomes a martyr.

A distinction must be made between the "adherents" of al Qaeda (those who are working toward the re-establishment of a pan-Islamic Califate) and "affiliates" of al Qaeda (those who are essentially nationalist in nature, and whose goal is setting up "Islamic Republics" in their native lands.)

What we are talking about is not a single "movement" therefore, but a multiplicity of movements based on a common religious perspective but whose priorities are not identical. Much of the what will "play out" could do so in a relatively "democratic" fashion --- the Bush regime's efforts to "spread democracy" have paradoxically lead to widespread popular support for those opposed to American hegemony, so in places like Indonesia its not that difficult to see democracy result in the imposition of a fundamentalist government at some point. (The same could be said of Pakistan if Musharrif ever attempts to restore democratically elected government there.)

Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 11, 2005 12:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Many of our defense experts have religious, economic, and employment affiliations with Isreal.

one hopes that Ledeen is restricting his presence on this blog to the Darling threads....because I don't want to get splatted when his head explodes when he reads this....

Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 11, 2005 12:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Michael Ledeen; "Look at the map of the world: national boundaries have not been drawn by peaceful men leading lives of spiritual contemplation. National boundaries have been established by war, and national character has been shaped by struggle, most often bloody struggle."

"Without fear of God, no state can last long, for the dread of eternal damnation keeps men in line, causes them to honor their promises, and inspires them to risk their lives for the common good."

"Dying for one's country doesn't come naturally. Modern armies, raised from the populace, must be inspired, motivated, indoctrinated. Religion is central to the military enterprise, for men are more likely to risk their lives if they believe they will be rewarded forever after for serving their country."

I love this guy, he's a full bore whack job and he'd be amusing as hell (literally, I guess) except that he and his fellow pysche ward escapees are actually influencing serious matters.

At any rate, this sounds like Jihadi terrorism talk to me. Like I said when the big kills, it's manifest destiny. When the little guy kills, it's terrorism.

Nothing will be "over" regardless of what happens with Bin Laden or Iraq until these perverted psychos are removed from Washington and locked away where they belong.

Fuck you Michael Ledeen and the horse you rode in on.

And don't even start to feel smuggly reassured that I'm just some cretin that can't comprehend your "brilliance" and your "courage" in accepting "reality".

You, sir, are the coward; the owner of a bloody butcher shop with clean manicured hands.

Coward.

Posted by: avedis at October 11, 2005 01:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I should explain my venom here.

My son is attending military academy. He be an officer in the US military the day after graduation. My family has a long history of service, four generations on my father's side and back to the revolutionary war on my mother's. And I'm even willing to verify this to the extent that my son's name can remain confidential.

My son and his classmates are among the finest young men and women this country has. I don't see them doing what they are doing - and there's nothing easy about it - for any of the crap that Ledeen bloviates about.

Rather there's a sense of personal pride, commitment, duty and honor. They are willing to fight, to kill and to die if need be for right and for the Constitution of the United States and what it represents.

They are loyal and honorable young men and women.

When I learn what Ledeen and his co-conspirators believe, when I see that he adheres to a doctrine of war upon war to "glorify" our nation, when I see that he praises lying to the People as a virtue and condems honesty as weakness, When I think of the young men and women that will fight and contrast them with the cynical ivory tower "intellectuals" that become rich and satisfied off their blood, I want to become ill.

I'm done here for good.

Posted by: avedis at October 11, 2005 01:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree democracy does not "cure" terrorism - we had our own bout with anarchists from the 1880's to the 1920's pursuing "propaganda of the deed" and a minor echo in the '60's and 70's with the weathermen, et al. Terrorism is a response to wrenching social change and the universal human desire for a scapegoat. Just as most lifers in prison blame their lifestyle on social conditions, bad/abusive parents, bad potty training, etc. your cataloging of complaints by the poor widdie Muslim masses blaming the US for the dysfunctional nature of their own societies does not move me the way it does, say, Mr Lukasiak.
What democracy helps get rid of is state sponsored terrorism. For all the problems Indonesia is experiencing in dealing with this Jemaayh group, I do not envision them sending out bombers to take out a Rafik Hariri, or John Howard, the way a dictator would. I also think you are conflating the problems with democracy with the problems of a Weimar Republic, proportional representation parlementary system. As the various actors in Indonesia realize the problems their current system suffers, they will (hopefully) evolve into a more stable party structure and marginalize the hotheads.

Posted by: wayne at October 11, 2005 03:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This is a terrific discussion and I am grateful for all the participants. I part company with those who argue that eliminating Bin Laden, Zagawi, and the other leaders of Al Qaeda will only make them martyrs and will not affect Islamic terrorism generally.

A distinction has to be made between larger groups that are operating in a coordinated way, and isolated cells or smaller groups which although sharing ideology to a greater or lesser extent, operate independently, that is in cells that must be nurished and inspired from the outside in order to be ultimately effective. The former operate much as states or states within states and are ultimately governmental in nature. What they lack in "official" power, that is, derived by control over the strings of government regardless of the structure, they believe they can obtain by terrorizing the relevant population(s). When they win, they are sometimes called revolutionaries! When their abilities are insufficient to gain governmental control, they are terrorists or insurgents. Such groups are really not the issue here. The real threat comes from the loosely connected terrorist cells which are inspired and financed through the efforts of the overt leadership.

While I strongly agree with those above who argue that the West and particularly the US must seek to win the hearts and minds of the average Mulsim populace, we also have to be realistic and practical. The Islamic terriorists require both financial support and inspiration. Inspiration seems to come from shadowy leaders who successfully defy the efforts of the Infidel to hunt them down and as long as that defiance continues, they are inspirational. Moreover, inspirational leaders are able to tap into the financial resources of countries and wealthy individuals that either stand to gain by the chaos that they sow, or who share their idealogy, or are themselves fearful of terror and seek to appease the threat by sharing the wealth. For that wealth to be effective, it has to be distributed back to the small, isolated groups who can thereby support themselves, obtain weapons, support recruitment, etc. This is accomplished, I suggest, by the more sophisticated individuals that are close to or involved with the inspirational leadership. Thus, this inspirational/leadership structure is essential to maintaining the "troops" who will be able to carry out the terrorist attacks and to providing support to those who are proselyzing the idealogical message and recruiting on the ground. Without conspicuous leadership, that process will inevitably break down and the smaller groups, as they become increasingly desperate in their efforts to carryout their "missions" will make the mistakes that lead to their discovery and capture.

Thus, I think there remains considerable merit to a decapitation strategy.

Michael

Posted by: Michael Pecherer at October 11, 2005 05:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Avedis,

I'm sorry, but your reading of Leeden is way off the mark. You may disagree with his politics and his recommended policies, but you seriously misinterpret the Leeden text you posted.

I'd go further and explain, but your hatred for him and this administration would obviously overshadow any serious discussion of the argument.

Posted by: Joe at October 11, 2005 10:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Avedis,

I'm sorry, but your reading of Leeden is way off the mark. You may disagree with his politics and his recommended policies, but you seriously misinterpret the Leeden text you posted.

I'd go further and explain, but your hatred for him and this administration would obviously overshadow any serious discussion of the argument.

Posted by: Joe at October 11, 2005 10:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What democracy helps get rid of is state sponsored terrorism.

This is hardly the case, given the US sponsorship of terror in other nations, most notably in Latin America. (and lest one thinks that its only the US that is willing to sponsor terrorism, remember France and that Greenpeace ship?)

The whole "state sponsorship of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism" thing is grossly overblown, IMHO, because it does not draw a distinction between support for Islamic revolutionary movements and support for terrorism. This lack of a distinction is deliberate on the part of the far-right, who want to equate all forms of fundamentalist Islamic nationalism with terror.


Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 11, 2005 12:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric -

i think there is some fundamental misunderstanding of what Bernard Lewis and those who have attempted to transform his work into a policy guide mean in regard to the causes of terrorism, and the role of democratization.


Its NOT that holding multi-party elections has a direct, immediate impact on terrorism.

Rather its an attempt to deal with a broader problem in the muslim world.

Note that we dont have the same level of terrorism outside the muslim world, even in response to imperialism, local border disputes, etc that are just as serious. Yes there IS terrorism outside the muslim world(and yes, im quite aware of the Tamil Tigers, that beloved citation) , but it occurs less often, is more targeted (the Tamils generally target Sri lankan military or pols, not inncocent civilians), and is rarely if ever international. Indeed there is a broader alienation (which you refer to above) that is particularly found in the muslim world.

Lewis attributes this to offended dignity, the wound a great civilization felt at being surpassed by its traditional inferiors. This is less important to Sinic, Hindu and other civs, as they did not live in close proximity to the West during their time of greatness, and so did not develope the same view of Westerners as their inferiors.

The thesis is that this has interfered with the muslim world copying successful western techniques for modernization (in striking contrast to east asia) which creates a mutually reinforcing cycle of violence, rejection of the west, and economic failure.

Indonesia is a long run bright spot. Indonesia, with influence from the largely non-muslim states of the region achieved economic growth under the military regime - when the old regime fell in the 1998 economic crisis, it moved to democracy - a democracy which has survived for the last 7 years, and which has recovered from the 1998 economic crisis. Its still hard for them to deal with JI, and islamists are still important in their politics - you dont overcome a long civilizational problem like this in 7 years. And its not a country by country thing either, as the muslims, especially those most likely to support terrorism, have a sense of teh state of the islamic world that transcends individual states. So growth, economic and political in Indonesia, will help us in Egypt. But continued failure of Islamic societies in the ME will still hurt us in Indonenesia.

And muslims in western europe are particularly, even exquisitely sensitvie to the state of muslim countries.

This makes democratization a two edged sword, esp when achieved by force, as in Iraq.

The invasion of Iraq, is, for non-Kurdish, Sunni muslims, yet another humiliation. So it makes things worse. In the long run, a stable, democratic, economically and socially successful Iraq will be a huge benefit. A fortiori if it leads to improvements in neighboring countries. Whether the net - net is positive, is of course a matter of uncertainty and debate.

But I presume you are talking here less of Iraq, than of places where democratization strat is NOT tied with invasion - Pakistan, Egypt, Uzbekistan, etc. There I think there is more upside, and less downside. Which doesnt mean that democratization create short term difficulties - the kinds of difficulties which will make it unattractive to the CIA, State, and ALSO to folks like Donald Rumsfeld. Which is why us Jacobins need to push as hard as we can.

Im old enough to remember the cold war. The revolution in Portugal, the fall of the Greek colonels, and the death of Franco all presented the danger of Communist expansion. The instinct of "realists" in regard to southern europe, and elsewhere, was to push back as hard as possible.

Ultimately the antirightist revolutions of the '70s played a role in the fall of Communism. To some extent this happened despite the realists, like Ford and Kissinger, and to some extent because of the efforts of our relatively neowilsonian prez, Jimmy Carter (who doent deserve the opprobrium he gets from the right)


Then too the short term interests of the CIA, DoD, etc leaned toward "stability" and against democratization that could empower our enemies.

Posted by: liberalhawk at October 11, 2005 03:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The invasion of Iraq, regardless of any ancillary benefits (a conversation for another time), has not aided our effort to win over the moderate hearts and minds from the likes of Bin Laden and his ilk. "


Well since the causal chain for improvement involved a stable democracy in Iraq, economic development in IRaq etc, and since Iraq right now is NOT a stable democracy, NOT an economic success, etc, thats hardly surprising.

NOw that may be an argument for not invading muslim countries. It could also be an arguement for not doing it on the cheap, or with rampant incompetence, like not planning for occupation.

Its also essentially a strawman. What further country is anyone serious talking about invading and occupying in order to establish democracy? Not Iran - not even Ledeen calls for that. Not Syria. Not anywhere, AKAIK.


Posted by: liberalhawk at October 11, 2005 03:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Dear aveda,

What you forget is that the Jihadist movement has declared war against the entire non-Jihadist world. This movement is supported, more or less as any army is supported by the greater population from which it springs and is nourished, by 1.2 Billion Muslims around the world. So this is not an imbalanced conflict between a small criminal gang and gigantic nation states. It is a balanced conflict between an expansionist, supranational ideology of total warfare and the entire rest of the world.

We, the west (and I include Israel among the ranks of the west), are defending ourselves against the Jihad. We are not on the offense. Perhaps we should be. The reason we (including Israel) are being attacked is that we have resisted totalitarian Islamic rule. Yes it seems absurd on the face of it. But there you have it. Our enemies are religious fanatics and they don't give a toot about the Palestinians. All they care about is having images that help them recruit more killers and excuses to kill us until we finally surrender.

Tootles,
Pangloss

Posted by: Pangloss at October 11, 2005 04:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

LH: I mostly agree with you, but on this:

"Its also essentially a strawman. What further country is anyone serious talking about invading and occupying in order to establish democracy? Not Iran - not even Ledeen calls for that. Not Syria. Not anywhere, AKAIK."

I say I hope I agree with you. Within the last year, John Podhoretz called for the invasion of both Syria and Iran as the continuation of what he calls World War IV - and there have been, unfortunately, similar calls from certain circles. In Podhoretz's case at least, there is an indication of it being a part of the democracy building campaign.

William Kristol and others have called for an invasion of Syria, though not necessarily to promote democratic regime change.

In addition, Zalmay Khalilzad made the off the record prediction that the US will go into Syria to combat insurgents that have been using the country as a staging ground for terrorist activity in Iraq.

But I think that such an invasion would provoke the same negative response regardless of underlying motives.

My hope is that these people are not being listened to by any in power. My fear is that they still are.

Posted by: Eric Martin at October 11, 2005 06:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

my caveat, in order to establish democracy, was made deliberately. Even if we dont think we can establish democracy in Syria or Iran by force, I dont think war with either should be off the table, regardless of their international behavior.

The dilemma is most striking wrt to Iran. I think its clear to anyone who thinks about it seriously that we're much more likely to get a democracy in Iran by means other than conventional war - again, I think Ledeen has been pretty explicit on that. OTOH, its not clear that the alternate means will lead to change in Iran in time to prevent nuclear weapons in the hands of a regime that continues to suggest in its rhetoric that wants to see Israel destroyed. That being so, Im not sure we can take war off the table.

After all, as you and Dan make clear, democratization is NOT the only issue we face.

Posted by: liberalhawk at October 11, 2005 06:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"My hope is that these people are not being listened to by any in power. My fear is that they still are"

I doubt John Podhoretz is (though I dont think use of the term WW4 necessarily means more invasions - such numbering implies the cold was was WW3, and we won that largely be different means).

Kristol is certainly listened to by McCain, but probably not by the admin, for other reasons.

I would imagine however that anyone close to the situation in Iraq, like Khalilzad, doesnt need to read conservative opinon mags or websites to be VERY concerned with Syrian and Iranian misbehavior on the ground in Iraq.

Posted by: liberalhawk at October 11, 2005 06:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Its also essentially a strawman. What further country is anyone serious talking about invading and occupying in order to establish democracy? Not Iran - not even Ledeen calls for that. Not Syria. Not anywhere, AKAIK.

the operative word here is is. Immediately after the overthrow of Saddam, there was a lot of talk about invading both Syria and Iran....and some of it was coming from administration officials.

The only reason the neo-con imperialists have stopped talking about more invasions is that the occupation of Iraq is a disaster. And one of the primary reasons that the US policy in Iraq is such a failure is that the rest of the world, and especially Syria and Iran, know that the Bush regime would use any success in Iraq to invade other countries.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 11, 2005 08:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In blogospheric terms this is a very late response to Eric's post of just before midnight yesterday, which dealt with the conflation of terrorism against Israelis with terrorism against everyone else.

The only comment I have to make about this is that it is irrelevant to the distinction I think needs to be drawn between terrorism for Arab causes under Arab leadership on behalf of Arab ideologies and terrorism by Muslims for other reasons. The first is the major security problem we face today; the second -- the Iranian problem excepted -- is much less serious. I do understand that Muslims across the world are outraged at the state of the Palestinians and sympathize with the outraged dignity of Sunni Arab Iraqis, neither of whom care very much about the problems facing non-Arab Muslims. In fact, as I wrote in this space last spring, the single greatest abuse of Muslims anywhere in the world today is the responsibility of an Arab government, and other Arab governments have done nothing to stop it and almost nothing to succor its victims.

It is the one-way direction of this relationship that could be used to our advantage. The alternative -- the tactic we are pursuing now -- is to fight the war of ideas against terrorism entirely on the defensive. We do so care about a Palestinian state; but we are for peace and freedom in Iraq; it isn't true that America is against Islam. Don't expect fighting on the defensive, even if it is done skillfully, to accomplish more than to hold ground.

Posted by: JEB at October 11, 2005 10:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Do not be fooled regarding the neocon scum's desire to invade Iran. Just because such a move does not appear to be intelligent, does not mean they won't do it anyhow.

Currently we are reinforcing our airbases in Azerbaijan. We have employed the terrorist group, MEK, to target certain sites in Iran; primarily with explosive devices (Michael Ledeen, our friend here, knows this to be true as he is involved) and we are flying over Iranian airspace with drones and, occassionaly, manned aircraft.

We are probing and poking. Pushing to see if Iran will give us the excuse we need to attack.

Posted by: ghost at October 13, 2005 11:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Do not be fooled regarding the neocon scum's desire to invade Iran. Just because such a move does not appear to be intelligent, does not mean they won't do it anyhow.

Currently we are reinforcing our airbases in Azerbaijan. We have employed the terrorist group, MEK, to target certain sites in Iran; primarily with explosive devices (Michael Ledeen, our friend here, knows this to be true as he is involved) and we are flying over Iranian airspace with drones and, occassionaly, manned aircraft.

We are probing and poking. Pushing to see if Iran will give us the excuse we need to attack.

Posted by: ghost at October 13, 2005 11:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'll bet the Mullahs are happy you are around to defend them ghost

As sure as I am the democracy activists in Iraq today are suffering because of usefull idiots like yourself

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at October 14, 2005 10:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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