A friend wrote, saying that it was hard to watch the TV, since his kid is the age of the youngest kids murdered in Beslan. He also noted that the Russians are the same people who survived the siege of Leningrad and Stalingrad and that it is stupid and dangerous to provoke the Russians. Also, the Russians possess a nuclear arsenal which could annihilate the majority of Muslims in the world in an afternoon, and that it is stupid to think the Russians would never use them if sufficiently provoked.
I responded more or less as follows:
Agreed that Beslan is very upsetting. Not having a TV helps at times like this. The dead kids in the photos looked exactly like my kids. Exactly like them.
The Russians lived on bread partly made out of saw dust, and soup made out of scraps of cabbage leaves, wearing rags and shoes made out of wicker, and made tanks in unheated factories in Siberia working three shifts. It was the Russians who killed the Wehrmacht. The Russians are hard people. Russians are hard to kill. Russians are survivors. Russians are realists about responding to violence with as much violence is necessary, then a little extra to be sure. With them, genocide is never off the table. A very harsh response is possible. They would literally “go nuclear” faster than we would ever dream of doing. In fact, the dilapidated condition of their conventional military makes it more likely they will do so. I hope it doesn’t come to that. But if it does, they are just the guys to do it.
I am hopeful that this atrocity will lead to much better Russian/US military cooperation. They need our training and technology, in particular they need discipline and a house-cleaning, since the Army is seriously corrupted by bribery and other criminal activity. We need to help them get their military modernized and operating in a civilized and effective way. And we need some of their traditional ruthless, relentless, iron-fisted spirit.
More to the point, the Russians and the Israelis just reached a joint intelligence agreement, according to StrategyPage. The Israelis have an excellent intelligence network in the Arab middle east, and the Russians supposedly still have very good contacts left from the Soviet days. I anticipate joint Mossad/KGB covert operations, including assassinations and perhaps more spectacular hits. The Russians always retaliate. They are like the mafia. They live in a tough part of the world. They are stone killers. They know if you show weakness you will be cut to ribbons.
Incidentally, I called Beslan an “atrocity” advisedly. I am sick of mass-murders being called tragedies. Tragedies just happen, they are inevitable, in the hands of the Gods. This type of made-for-TV murder is not tragic it is squalid, vile, and is a decision for evil, not inevitable, a decision requiring a response, not resignation.
This absolutely could happen here. People say armed teachers would be futile. I disagree. Give them all Glocks and make them practice on the pistol range. The new fact is that terrorists now do not hold captives, they murder them. What 911 did for aerial hijacking, Beslan has done for surface hostage situations. Murders are inevitable, so casualty reduction means immediate attack. Better to start the shooting immediately, create as much mayhem and confusion as possible at the outset, make it as hard as possible for the terrorists to control the situation, even if the teachers are totally outgunned, even if they all certainly die. I can say with absolute certainty that if I were a teacher and some guys with Kalashnikovs were approaching the school or entered my room, I’d tell my kids to run out the door or go out the windows and I’d start shooting at the fuckers with that Glock I’d be required to have. Fuck it. Death is inevitable. Die on your feet. I’d probably piss my pants, but I’d do it. I could face God Almighty 90 seconds later with a hole through my face but without a qualm. Maybe I’d even drop one of them, or set off his explosive vest in the parking lot, where it would do less damage.
We need to harden our attitudes around here.
Update: Looks like Russian/American cooperation is already happening:
Col.-Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of the general staff of Russia’s armed forces, asserted Russia’s right to strike terrorists beyond its borders. “As for carrying out preventive strikes against terrorist bases … we will take all measures to liquidate terrorist bases in any region of the world,” he told reporters. Baluyevsky made his comments alongside NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, Gen. James Jones, after talks on Russia-NATO military cooperation, including anti-terror efforts.
Not surprisingly “European Union officials reacted cautiously to Baluyevsky’s statements … the 25-nation EU is against ‘extra-judicial killings’ in form of pre-emptive strikes.”
Can’t have any “extra-judicial killings” in a war, I guess.
Maybe instead of shooting down Yamamoto’s plane, or blowing up Michael Wittman’s Tiger tank, we should have served them with arrest warrants.
The British are cool with the Russian program.
It is like WWII all over again, with the USA, UK and the Soviets against a common enemy, with the French (or that bloated France-writ-large, the EU) as the de facto ally of our enemy.
Glad to have Ivan back on the team.
Too bad it took this to do it.
Update II: My correspondent saw the press conference on TV, and noted that the Russian general did not rule out the use of nuclear weapons. I responded more or less as follows:
The Russians always practice razviedka — obtaining maximum information on the enemy, denying all useful information to the enemy, and actively engaging in deception measures to mislead the enemy. They will never tell the enemy in advance what weapons they will use, when, or where. If they seem to be saying something useful or accurate in public, they are probably lying.
We work under much greater constraint here. Our open society makes secrecy almost impossible and intentional deception very difficult. We telegraph all our punches.
Moreover, it is my understanding that the Russian military has never admitted that nuclear weapons are different in kind from other weapons.
Rather they have insisted, at least as declaratory policy, and apparently as a matter of doctrine, that the only question that matters is always, “what weapon is needed for the mission?” It can be a poisoned dart or a silenced pistol or an armored division or an 18-warhead ICBM. All that matters is having the right tool for the mission. They aren’t likely to change this deeply-rooted attitude, especially now.
The terrorists, I have to say, are pretty damned stupid to get the bear and the eagle after them at the same time.
4 thoughts on “Further thoughts on Beslan”
Excellent post Lex.
I decided after 9/11 that if I were ever in a hijacked plane with a terrorist, one of us is not getting off that plane alive.
Good post, Lex.
But how do you reconcile this with Russia’s sale of nuclear material to Iran, when the Iranaian regime is a breeding ground for Islamic terrorism?
rzs, your point is a good one. But I don’t have to reconcile this contradiction, the Russians do. They have been part of the problem for a long time now. They are finding that it is biting them on the ass. They can wake up and figure out where their real interests lie, or continue to pretend that the United States is still the Main Adversary like it during the Cold War, and continue to pursue a counterproductive course of trying to thwart the USA and help our enemies. If they wake up they will see we want to be their Main Trading Partner and military ally. If not, they and we will suffer the consequences until some greater disaster wakes them up.
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