The Disunited States of America

Dean Barnett writes movingly
about his personal experience on 9/11/2001. And
he concludes with this:

IT HAS BECOME A TRITE LAMENT that 9/11 brought us together, and it’s a
shame that since then we’ve come apart. But 9/11 brought us together because
of two transitory emotions – sadness and rage. Once those emotions calmed
down, once our open wounds turned into scars, it was inevitable that our
differences would resurface.

When the flags came out in the aftermath of 9/11, they didn’t signify a
consensus on where we would go from there. They symbolized a consensus that we
were all in pain, all anguished. When the time came to move on, disagreements
inevitably (and not improperly) came regarding exactly how we should move on.

Even though a thorough review of 9/11, including both its lead-up and
aftermath, won’t provide an obvious path forward that everyone will agree on,
there are some valuable lessons we can draw from that awful day. Looking back,
we can clearly see the remorseless murderers that our enemies are – that
knowledge is instructive. And we can also see that they are numerous. That,
too, is important to take into account.

But the most important lesson we can take from 9/11 is this: We must take
every possible step to ensure never again.
Never again
will we allow ourselves to feel the way we did that
day. Never again will we be so blind to storm clouds
as they gather. Never again will we choose to believe
comforting lies rather than disquieting truths.

9/11 didn’t bring us together. It’s true that in the immediate
aftermath of the event that we all felt sadness and rage. But not about the same

Some of us felt sadness at the terrible loss of lives in New York and
Washington and Pennsylvania, and rage at the killers.

Others felt sadness at the terrible loss of life amongst those killed by
America and its puppets over the decades, in South America and "Palestine" and Viet Nam, and
rage at the blind self-centered Americans who had stood by without caring.

We were all anguished. Some of us were anguished because we feared that there
might be further and more devastating terrorist attacks against us. Others were
anguished because they feared that this might inspire an entirely new round of
bloody military aggression by America against innocent people around the world, and conversion of America into a police state.

We all saw clearly. But some of us were looking in a different direction.
Some of us clearly saw the remorseless and ruthless murderers behind the attack,
and knew that they were our mortal enemies who would attack us again if they
possibly could, no matter what we did. Others were looking inward, and saw what
they viewed as an ugly need for revenge amongst Americans.

We all vowed never again. Some of us vowed that we would do
whatever it took to make sure that the terrorists didn’t strike us again. Others
vowed that they would do whatever it took to make America stop doing all the
evil things that had inspired the attack in the first place.

The only consensus on 9/11 was that a terrible tragedy had occurred. There
was no consensus as to who was truly responsible. And that is why within
we began to hear, "Ask yourselves why they hate you." They knew that
America had brought this onto itself; deep down they knew that we deserved it.

We all knew that reform was needed. Some of us thought it was the
Arab/Islamic world which needed to reform. Others knew, deep down, that America
was the true problem. To try to force reform onto the Arab world would be to
renew the very mistakes which had caused the attack in the first place. And to
even make the attempt would inspire more and more young Arab men to become
terrorists against us, increasing the danger to us.

Some of us felt that the "root cause" of this war was Arab failure, and Arab
shame at their failure. The others knew that the "root cause" was American
failure, and America’s refusal to feel shame at its failure.

We were not united on 9/11 and we have not been united on any day since. But
that is not a weakness. If the people of America are ever 100% united on
anything whatever, I will know that the country I love has died.

86 thoughts on “The Disunited States of America”

  1. “They knew that America had brought this onto itself; deep down they knew that we deserved it.”
    Yes, many Leftists Blame America (Blame Bush, Blame Christianity & the Crusades), and especially Blame Capitalism, claiming poverty is the root cause.

    Jane Galt’s recent disagreement with Brad DeLong about Envy, and chopping down the Tall Poppies, reducing the rich EVEN IF it doesn’t help the poor absolutely. There argument: ‘Those who believe the rich induce envy in the poor, and do so out of spite, deserve to be brought down.’ Such folk who hate Tax Cuts (for the rich!), would mostly think bringing down rich America (inducing envy!) is reasonable.

    Secondly, protesting the current status, in which it is easy to get a big “unity” coalition, is far different than agreement on what policy. On Iraq, there’s more troops, fewer troops, and the same troops. I kind of think the same troops is the best bad choice, with more troops meaning more casualties and not any quicker Iraqi responsibility (probably slower), and less troops means much more Iraqi casualties as terrorists see a ‘weaker’ America.

    But both those wanting more or fewer troops can be against Bush — and are. Yet they don’t really agree.

    Great disagreement post.

  2. What has amazed me since the event is how 9-11 remains a Rorschach Test for the anti-American Left – a giant ink stain which functions as a mirror of a person’s beliefs. I looked at a book at the local Barnes & Noble written by some academic who blamed America’s “interventionist foreign policy” for the attack.

    Was that America’s “interventionist foreign policy” that supported the Serbs as they attempted to wipe out the Muslims of Bosnia? No wait… America supported the Muslims against the Serbs there.

    Or was it America’s “interventionist foreign policy” that supported the Soviets crushing of Islamic resistance in Afghanistan during the 1980’s? Well… We backed the mujahadeen then didn’t we…

    Or was it America’s “interventionist foreign policy” of waiting for the UN to fix the problem in Rwanda in 1994? Or America’s “interventionist foreign policy” that helped Islamic Indonesia after the tsumani of ’05?

    9-11 remains an ink stain for the anti-American Left. It doesn’t fit into their world view, forcing them to do intellectual contortions to make that event fit.

  3. You are right, Steven! After 9/11, my friend Amanda’s first words to me were, “why do they hate us so?” And I remember being surprised that she thought that way. I knew her to be a liberal, but until then I didn’t realise how different her viewpoint was. My own first thoughts were fear that the US would not do anything to fight back. After all, there had been plenty of attacks on US property around the world and I was just getting used to the attitude of “US is a powerful country so it shouldn’t hit back because that would be fair on the little guys throwing stones at us”. Since then we have developed these initial reactions in separate paths. Amanda has resigned to being attacked by the bad guys and our good guys fighting them off as long as we have a strong military. I on the other hand am still convinced that we have to change or destroy Islam; it has had free rein around the world for far too long.

  4. I think that the Left defaults to the blame American/Liberal-Democracies first argument because it is the only model of foreign relations that grants the articulate intellectual a central role in defining and solving the problem.

    Articulate intellectuals affect the world by influencing the beliefs and behaviors of others through various modes of communication. Western-intellectuals have the most influence within the western developed world itself. Therefore, they seek to define problems as arising from the past or present behavior of the west so that the obvious solution to the problem is to have intellectuals alter western behavior via their persuasive abilities.

    Defining problems as arising from factors internal to non-Western actors defines the problems in terms by which intellectuals will have little ability to influence events. For example, if aliens invaded tomorrow just because they felt like it, what role would articulate intellectuals play in the conflict? Their ability to manipulate public opinion would mean little. Look how small a role that they played in WWII.

    The Left’s model of the Cold War followed this template. I was taught in college that although Joseph Stalin was a paranoid mass-murdering psychopath on matters internal to the Soviet Union, when it came to foreign policy he metamorphosed into a calm, rational realist. It was only the paranoid and irrational behavior of the free-world that created the Cold War in the first place.

    Clearly, the intellectuals adopted this view based not on any empirical observations but on a desire to define the problem in such a way that they placed a central role in resolving it. If the Cold War arose primarily from Communist ideology and the internal dynamics of Communist states then nothing that Western intellectual said would have much impact on the course of the conflict. They would be reduced to the role of mere documenters and the conflict would continue until Communist lost their internal hold on power. (Which is what happened.)

    I think they pursue the same basic model for the same basic reasons in the War on Terror. If contemporary terrorism arises primarily from the actions of Western liberal-democracies then articulate intellectuals will play a central role in solving the problem by persuading us to change or evil ways. However, if the conflict arises primarily from factors internal to non-Western actors (right now, Islamic and Arabic societies) then intellectuals in the West will have little influence on the outcome.

    There is an old saying that when the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. The contemporary Left simply cannot contemplate major events in which their hammers aren’t needed.

  5. SDB’s post is a much-needed rejoinder to the conventional wisdom that we were all “unified” after 9/11. A corollary to the “unified” meme is that “we all supported Afghanistan” (which is said in an effort to separate Afghanistan from Iraq), which is equally untrue: Some people supported the invasion of Afghanistan, others didn’t want it but knew they could not stop it so they pretended to support it or at least became resigned to it’s inevitability.

    p.s. Shannon Love’s comment is one of the most insightful things I have read in quite some time.

  6. Yeah. Maybe I grew up too enamoured with what I knew of the history of World War II, and how the vast majority of the country got behind the war effort.

    Now I look on it in retrospect and realize that the reason for this seeming unity was that the non-isolationist right knew we had to fight, and most of the left opposed it because the Nazis had a pact with the Soviets and the left were Soviet sympathizers at the time. So once Hitler attacked Russia, the left was united with the non-isolationist right. Then the only ones left to oppose were the isolationist right, and they were bowled over.

    We may never see such unique circumstances again.

  7. >p.s. Shannon Love’s comment is one of the most insightful things I have read in quite some time.

    Amen, brother! My sentiments exactly!

  8. The school of thought that tries to find reasons for the terrorist attacks rooted in Western culpability is both solipsistic and a mirror image of the terrorists’ psychosis.

    Something people don’t often ask is the corollary of “Why do they hate us?”:

    Why don’t we hate them?

    The answer, I think, to both questions is very simple. They hate us because they are taught to hate us by their schools, their religious leaders, their states: all the gatekeepers of information. We don’t hate them because we are taught NOT to hate others by our free media, our schools, our religious leaders, and our freely elected governments.

    Those that rule by force, or aspire to, rally support through xenophobia and fantasy. The gatekeepers of information in the Mideast do their best to create a narrative in which they are necessary, so that the people they oppress never demand the freedom that is their right.

  9. After 9/11, I was one of those who asked “Why do they hate us?” I remember saying something like, “Nobody bombs Switzerland.” Thankfully, because of USS Clueless and other blogs like it, my opinion has greatly reformed to what is commonly referred to as a ‘neo-libertarian’ mentality. I wish most of my intellectual friends had made this journey with me…

  10. Shannon Love’s comment is key. It reminded me of Robert Nozick’s famous essay Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism. Captitalism doesn’t reward intellectuals the way the educational system taught them to expect. Wordsmith intellectuals are deeply resentful and wish to live in a world like grade school classroom, in which their skills made them the teacher’s pets. The world, instead values the skills developed in the rough and tumble of the schoolyard. In a world where Jihadis are killing us, wordsmith intellectuals can only insist we need to talk, show our empathy and appeal to reason.

  11. The afternoon of 9/11 I remember sitting in my office with NPR on and listening to caller after caller saying this was our due. The caller I remember most was filled with venom, commenting this was clear & fair retaliation for our sins; but, he sputtered, we wouldn’t change, we would be dogs returning to our vomit & continue in our evil.

    Shannon’s point was reinforced by the complete unwillingness of those callers to think in terms of an Islamic point of view. These anti-Americans were obsessively American in the values they projected: terrorists only want freedom – freedom from us. They couldn’t conceive of the arguments real terrorists make nor of their values.

  12. Dean Esmay,

    We may never see such unique circumstances again.

    The broad consensus in WWII was highly unique in US history. Never before or since have we fought with such unity. The bitter disputes we see now are the norm dating all the way back to the Revolution. Even the same basic arguments both for and against the war make a reappearance.

    There are times when I think that we should make December 7th “Isoroku Yamamoto Appreciation Day.” Without his culturally shocking surprise attack America might have never entered the war or would have done so bitterly divided. Had the Japanese tried to just slowly ooze into Dutch Indonesia they could have avoided conflict with America altogether or at least fought a demoralized and uncertain nation.

  13. TallDave wrote: “We don’t hate them because we are taught NOT to hate others by our free media, our schools, our religious leaders, and our freely elected governments.”

    We are, however, taught to hate ourselves. Our free media abuse their freedom to trumpet a distorted, dishonest picture of reality in which we are responsible for all the world’s ills. Our schools violate our trust and betray their own mission by indoctrinating our children with a hatred of their own country and the values of Western civilization. Our elected governments are controlled by self-serving bureaucrats and politicians who care only for securing and enhancing their own positions of power and privilege.

    Our enemy hates us because their entire civilization revolves around murder and brutal conquest. And we are no match for them because our culture revolves around suicide and surrender.

  14. Interesting comments all around — especially yours Shannon.

    There is an old saying that when the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. The contemporary Left simply cannot contemplate major events in which their hammers aren’t needed.

    The funny thing is that leftists I’ve run into would trot out the old saying about hammers and nails. They would equate the use of military force as the hammer and problems come in different shapes and sizes. So they would criticize anyone who would want to use the “hammer”. The trouble is that sometimes the problem does look like a nail and does need a hammer to smack it down.

  15. It is certainly true that the United States has always been disunited, and that this is one of our strengths. But from a sufficient distance in time or space, we have seemed unitary. Similarly, history buffs know that the chronicle of any given period or war is full of nuance and alternative interpretations, even if a simple pat narrative is taught to grade school students.

    But the competing narratives of the last few years and the disunity of the competing camps cannot be smoothed over at any altitude. For this reason I tend to expect, with some foreboding, that the history of this age will be written even more in terms of future events than those past.

  16. This lack of unity guarantees that we will someday see a more horrific attack succeed. Like it or not, our enemies see this disagreement as a sign of weakness. The great problem of American foreign policy is to convince the world that Americans can fight in a credible fashion and persist in the face of error, uncertainty, and disagreement.

    Our enemies think our internal disagreements will split us. So they will keep attacking and will be encouraged to keep attacking until something so monstrous is done that our response is unambiguous and decisive and to some extent, nearly as horrific.

    The only thing that would stop that is some internal transformation in the world terrorist movement that causes it to wither away of its own accord. I see nothing on the horizon that makes that remotely possible.

    Therefore, there will be another 9/11. No. There will be something MUCH worse than 9/11. It’s just a question of when.

  17. Therefore, there will be another 9/11. No. There will be something MUCH worse than 9/11. It’s just a question of when.

    Exactly. Al-qaeda didn’t learn from the Japanese, who looked at the same disunity as weakness during the 1920s & 1930s (and still don’t understand us today), so another attack will indeed occur and may even succeed.

    And we will smack them again. Pakistan doesn’t have the stomach to take out the “tribal areas” – but we do.

    Such is the price we pay for our civilization.

  18. Miss Love is largely correct, but there’s more to say on the subject. For those “articulate intellectuals,” whom Thomas Sowell would call “the anointed,” are incapable of imagining themselves outside society’s core group of decisionmakers; it’s why they’ve always loved socialism. Their model may be the arrangement they most admired, the “New Frontier/Great Society” administration, but in extremis it’s about a vision of all significant decisions being made by themselves and their acolytes, even if it should require a totalitarian state to enforce them.

    In other words, it’s not necessary for them to take sides against America simply to see themselves at the heart of its power structure. We must look deeper.

    My own thesis is that they’re emotionally offended by the systemic processes of free societies. Such things don’t strike them as rational. Note also that the logic applies to the acquired wisdom we call tradition, which was assembled painfully over the generations by trial and error, and by persons less canny than they.

    Time was, the philosophers cherished the notion that they could “deduce the world” from a single grain of sand. Our own “intellectuals” harbor similar conceits, and would fight to the death to keep them. Our deaths, not theirs.

  19. I disagree with the left’s views on policy matters and the terrorist issue. However, there’s a big difference between “disagreement” and “disunity”. If there’s one thing I dislike about the current political climate within the Conservative movement is the promotion of the idea that “disagreement” from the left is equated with “disunity”… or even worse, Anti-Americanism. I believe it to be a very dangerous path to travel, because the fact is, those on the left are still our fellow Americans.

    While they have no problem impugning the Right or Conservatives, it’s wrong for us to sink to those same depths. And sadly, I’ve seen/read way too many things from respected Conservatives that do exactly that. Most notably the recent phenomenon of comparing EVERYONE that disagrees with your views to Hitler or Nazis… from BOTH sides of the political spectrum. It is quite justified to attack the views and philosophies that we believe to be dangerous… but attacking the PEOPLE who hold those view is wrong.

  20. Nah, if there is lack of unity, and if there is another 9/11 coming, it’s because of the Bush administration’s inadequate response and foolish choices. DenBeste should return to his Japanese schoolgirl comics, how this guy is thought of as having anything to say on war is beyond me.

    If you’re going to fight a war, do it right: plan and provide adequate resources.

    To give one example of fecklessness, Rumsfeld has fought expanding the size of the Army tooth-and-nail. This has, of course, caused those who are in the Army to serve longer and more frequent tours in the combat zones. My son has been one of them, and as a veteran myself I am flabbergasted at the incompetence of the whole war effort.

    The failure to expand the size of the military also prevented the deployment of adequate troop numbers to secure either Afghanistan or Iraq. The results are there to see: Opium production and Taliban attacks are increasing in Afghanistan, and we all know about Iraq.

    The lack of resources has nothing to do with “lack of unity,” it rather is the result of a failure of the Bush administration to recognize that you have to raise, not lower, taxes during a war. Instead, they pander to their “no new taxes” base, to the detriment of those relative few trying to fight the war.

    Thus we have both a half-assed war effort and a ballooning national debt.

  21. StrategyPage assessment of where we are after five years. Tangential, but may as well put it here.

    The USA has made progress despite disunity. As SDB says, America would not be America if we had unanimity on any important policy.

    Our apparent unity during WWII covered over a lot of different agendas, and there was lots of partisan fighting about the conduct of the war, even though all parties supported the war generally. FDR almost lost control of the house in the 1942 Midterm elections. The Ds lost 45 seats. There was unity, within the scope of the usual, well-functioning American political process.

  22. Steven, since no one else has said it I will: Damn nice to hear your voice once more! I so miss your writing on U.S.S. Clueless, even though I understand your reasons for quitting. Be well, my man, and Godspeed.

  23. Excellent discussion all around.

    I’d like to follow on Shannon’s insightful analysis to add the historical note. Marx had considered the revolution to well up from the working class, but by the early 20 th century it was becoming clear that that wasn’t going to happen. Lenin moved intellectuals (of suitable views, of course) to center stage to “guide” Joe Sixpack to communism, thereby appealing to their vanity. Much like Christians who believe they’ll be rewarded in the afterlife, intellectuals believe they’ll assume their rightful place in the social order once socialism replaces capitalism.

    For most of the last 150 years businessmen were the iconic figures, with intellectuals being largely marginalized, and that strikes intellectuals as blatantly and self-evidently unjust. So, following Shannon, they try to shift debate to a basis that favors them, namely verbal gymnastics and tortured reasoning that confounds and/or bores their adversaries. In many respects, leftist intellectuals do for public policy what Enron did for accounting: obfuscate reality to achieve their self-serving purposes.

  24. “…the result of a failure of the Bush administration to recognize that you have to raise, not lower, taxes during a war.”

    Wrong, point-five. Tax revenue has increased with the Bush cuts in tax rates. Spending is the problem and both parties are to blame for that.

    The other defects in your thinking I’ll leave for others to address.

  25. Shannon made a good and very true post, but that’s only part of it. Some oppose our policies out of vanity, but some leftists truly believe in Socialism, and are ‘religious fanatics’ for their faith. Capitalism is the greatest evil; the US is the center of world capitalism; therefore, the US is the center of evil. They have devoted their lives to fighting this evil, which is why so many of them use their job, whatever it is, to further the Cause. That is the reason I can be expelled for stating an un-PC idea, the reason I have to listen to my GEOGRAPHY professor bash Bush for two hours, and the reason my father’s union, as announced in its newsletter, gives its support and money to HUGO CHAVEZ. Their view of patriotism is that it is patriotic to destroy the US in its present form to free the people from the Great Oppression–we insist!
    9/11 just proves what they already believed–see the world strike back at the great top-hat wearing, obese, cigar-chomping Satan. See the “little Eichmanns” die for their sins. Leftists of this stripe view terorists not as a threat, but as just more backing for their arguments, at minimum, or, at most, as the brave vanguard in the fight for capitalism’s overthrow.
    This war has a silver lining. The terrorists, who hurt us once but now cannot seem to win a battle, are revealing to us just how far our internal rot has gone.

  26. For a few days after 9/11 the world (yes, even most of the Muslim world) was with America. It wasn’t so much Bush’s ridiculous posturning that turned us off as the hysteria.
    We know the American people are in thrall to their shrinks and are constantly brainwashed with psychobabble about “letting go of your emotions” but if ever there was a time for British stiff upper lip, German self – posession or Swedish reserve it was in the aftermath of 9/11.

    Following the very minor London bombings of July last year my very dear friend in Dallas called me and said “I don’t want you to go anywhere near London.” She was genuinely concerned for my wellbeing but I explained that if I’d had any reason to go to London the next day I would have gone bacause not to do so would have meant the terrorists had beaten me.
    America virtually came to a standstill after 9/11 and now Bin Laden only has to fart and there is a major international panic.

    And so the terrorists have won. While some people take comfort from the fact there have been no further attacks on American soil, let’s remember the victory they were handed means they don’t have to attack but simply make a few noises.

  27. The 9/11 attack was not about us. It was Osaa showing his power to rally forces against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Like Nasrallah in Lebanon he unerestimated his opponent and misread history. We were supposed to be cowed by the Soviet experience in Afghanistan. The House of Saud was to be overthrown.

    In the US, the same intellectual leaders who never found evil in the Soviet Union found evil in the US. The attack was our fault and “If-Only” we would never be attacked again. This was a great romantic way to regain the same power they had when they overthrew the Nixon/Vietnam establishment. This would make up for the humiliating failure to steal the 2000 election…

    The problem for both Osama and the Intellectual Leaders is that the world changed in 1990’s. The Internet allows faster communication and greater sharing of information. Technology changed the way we operate and we inturn have changed… The old prisms that allowed us to see so clearly the past returning are no longer valid.

    The news moves faster. The facts can be created and manipulated faster. The enemy changes and evolves faster. Our forces change faster… The war we accepted in 2001 is several evolutions behind the one we fight today.

    Our political structures have creaked and groaned to shift in response. Our intellectual leaders keep hoisting views of the past in hopes that something of the future can be seen. Our knuckel-dragging warriors are adopting to new tactics and using new technology faster than their ossified Pentagon parents can follow.

    This war may not be over for 50 years or more. What results will be a changed world. Just as the world changed following WWI and WWII and the Cold War, the world following this conflict will be different. Unfortunately, we have much blood to shed before those changes will happen. It may involve WMD’s of every stripe being used against the West… How will we respond to a WMD attack?

    The game is afoot and nobody knows what awaits.

  28. Howard Cronin ,

    If there’s one thing I dislike about the current political climate within the Conservative movement is the promotion of the idea that “disagreement” from the left is equated with “disunity”… or even worse, Anti-Americanism.

    Except no one is really equating disagreement with Anti-Americanism. We are equating repeated cries of “America is the cause of all the world’s problems” with anti-Americanism.

    No one who says that the War on Terror is being prosecuted ineffectively is accused of anti-Americanism. Only those who repeatedly and forcefully claim that America (and the west in general) actually cause terrorism are rightly called to task for their views. When you see that the same people who believe that we cause terrorism also hold extremely negative views about historical and contemporary America across a wide range of issues it is fair to ask if their arguments arise from a dispassionate analysis of the facts or instead from systematic contempt for America itself.

    Try this experiment with your leftist friends: Ask them to name three things that Americans do better than any other political entity. Observe how uncomfortable they get. Most probably won’t even answer. In social gatherings, Leftist will often compete to see who can voice the most anti-American sentiments. The darker one’s view of America, the greater one’s status.

    Leftist are fantasy driven. The America they love exist only in their minds. They hate the reality of America because they have convinced themselves that reaching their fantasy America would be very easy if only everyone else wasn’t so evil and stupid. They may sincerely believe that love America but functionally, in the real-world where political postures have physical consequences, they are anti-American. When it comes time to defend the actual real America, warts and all, they won’t do it.

  29. “America virtually came to a standstill after 9/11 and now Bin Laden only has to fart and there is a major international panic.”

    What a load of self-serving B.S. Yet another commentor with a weak memory.

    Terrorist attacks against the USA, even on USA soil, were fairly common events even before 9-11.
    For example, when the FIRST World Trade Center bombing killed 6 and injured 1040 people, Manhattan stayed opened for business. Planes filled with Americans were blown up or hijacked every couple of years, and people kept flying.

    The difference with 9-11 was the scale. Thousands died. It was only dumb luck that 10s of thousands did not die. Property and economic damage ran into the 100s of billions of dollars. It was the worst disaster, man-made or natural, in the USA since WWII. And it was the single most violent day in North America since 1864.

    I’m certain an attack of similar scale, out of the blue, in Stockholm or London would trigger a bit of “hysteria” by the locals. In fact, maybe we should compare the number of suspected terrorists shot by police in the USA since 9-11 with the number shot in the UK since the July bombings before we start discussing the relative levels of hysteria in each country.

  30. We ain’t winning and we ain’t losing.
    Islam is the enemy.
    The enemy will conquer us using our own words, deeds and laws.
    All we need is to get someone to get elected that will be sympathetic to Moslem anger, greivances and desires.
    all we need is some idiot who will agree to allow Sharia laws to exist alongside our own laws.
    That Idiot is out there somewhere! waiting to be elected.
    Then It comes down to the Infidel resistance among us.
    I see a tiime where our own laws will defeat us.

  31. –For a few days after 9/11 the world (yes, even most of the Muslim world) was with America.–

    Uhhh, no.
    Superficially, perhaps.

    As to the deficit, well, when we get to 130% like we were in WWII, give me a call.

  32. Excellent post Shannon Love.

    Recently the left has been pushing a kind of utilitarian approach to the WOT. There is nothing irrational about such an approach…functionally that was our approach before 9/11. Example…the Khobar Towers bombing…Clinton promised to get to the bottom of it but when it became clear that Iran was the culprit he turned the other way because dealing with Iran would mean War. I think Clinton was right.

    And there is nothing immoral about such an approach either. Evil will always be with us.

    But deep down, human beings are not pure utilitarians as a new book “Moral Minds” demonstrates. The 9/11 attack disturbed us deeply in ways we cannot fully articulate because the moral calculus is hard-wired. It is impossible, I think, for us to just shrug our shoulders and say “shit happens”. So I don’t believe the left even buys its own bullshit. They are comfortable with their pose however of moral superiority when the yokels take up the hard task of stopping the jihadists.

  33. Personally, I think the purpose of the 9-11 attacks was to trick America into attacking Saudi Arabia, not Afghanistan (and certainly not bin Laden, personally).

    All the 9-11 attackers were hand picked by bin Laden. Why were 15 of them Saudis? Why not use caucasian Al-Qaeda members who could move about America unremarked, like John Walker Lindh or David Hicks? Why were none of the attackers from Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Syria, or Afghanistan?

    It fits together, especially with bin Laden’s efforts to initially deny responsibility for 9-11. His hope was to trick America into attacking the Land of Mecca and Medina, a move that would galvanize the entire Muslim world against us… and, in the particular fantasy that bin Laden happens to believe in, bring Allah himself down from Heaven to smite the infidel and personally usher in the worldwide Caliphate. Only when it became clear that Dubya wasn’t going to take that bait, did Osama finally claim responsibility.

    Not that any of this matters to bin Laden’s fellow fantasy idealists.

  34. Further to Shannon Love’s point – I give you the liberal anthem:
    “It’s the Hammer of Justice,
    It’s the Bell of Freeeeedom,
    It’s a song about love between my brothers and my sisters, allll , allll over this world.”

    If pretty songs and lyrics could protect us, they would have done so – we’ve filled the world with songs about peace and love for years.

    All the while, others who lust for conquest and religious glory listened to those songs and said “Wow, we can surely take out these fools!”

  35. Steven, I gratefully remember what a tower of strength you were in the months after 9/11. It’s good to read you again.

    Your last paragraph was “We were not united on 9/11 and we have not been united on any day since. But that is not a weakness. If the people of America are ever 100% united on anything whatever, I will know that the country I love has died.” Being concerned about our disunity and how the war is going, I hope you’ll expand on those statements in the future.
    ‘point five”s comment has much I agree with, but he prefaces it with “…how this guy is thought of as having anything to say on war is beyond me.”

    My sympathies. Inability or unwillingness to look at what others are offering can be a serious impairment. Heaven knows it’s hurt me on occasion–not that I could see it at the time.
    Like others, I found Shannon Love’s first comment thought-provoking. She wrote, “However, if the conflict arises primarily from factors internal to non-Western actors (right now, Islamic and Arabic societies) then intellectuals in the West will have little influence on the outcome.”

    Actually, our articulate intellectuals potentially have much to contribute. Unless it deteriorates into a genocidal clash of civilizations, soft power as well as hard power will be required to win this new kind of war. At present we are outmatched in soft power and that is exactly where our articulate intellectuals could contribute.

    Maybe the childishness pointed out by Shannon masks the intelligentsia’s deficiencies. Faced with a refutative challenge to their imaginary multicultural wonderland, they retreat into denial. In part, the point of the tantrums is to cover up the exposure of their incapacity.

  36. Come on, leftists don’t just have a hammer; everything doesn’t look like a nail to them.

    They also have a sickle, so some people look like grain ripe for harvest.

  37. There are few people I’d rather hear from on this day than you, Mr. Den Beste. Yours is a voice I’ve greatly missed. Godspeed.

  38. Interesting comments, and I don’t doubt the sincerity and conviction of all of your statements; however, I find it bizarre that not a single comment referenced oil. Contrary to what many have noted, this is NOT a war with Islam, it’s a war with a small group of individuals with a political agenda that are using religion to fulfill their ends. I don’t believe that the US is to blame for terrorism, yet I’m not so blinded by ideology to recognize that we’re complicit in its creation. We’ve been propping up oppressive regimes in the Middle East for decades now (see the CIA-led coup to install the Shah in the 50’s, see our deal with the devil in Saudi Arabia), and we armed, trained and supported the very mujahadeen that morphed into Al Qaeda. Furthermore, our policies continue to have blowback, most often because we veil them in rhetoric that makes no sense, like “freedom’s on the march.” Until we have an honest discussion about this from all ends of the political spectrum, we’ll continue to scream at each other and not understand why. Our goal for the Middle East is to ensure a stable, market-driven, fungible supply of oil. Period.

    I’m sure this will inspire some flamethrowing, but I’d honestly be interested to hear what some of you have to say on this issue.

  39. “If you’re going to fight a war, do it right: plan and provide adequate resources.”

    Do some reading… Wake Island, Invasion of Guam, D-Day, Gettysburg, Bull Run, Kasserine Pass, Belleau Wood, etc…

    Then, come back here, make that comment again, and remember to put the /sarcasm tag on it.

  40. Edgar wrote:
    Our goal for the Middle East is to ensure a stable, market-driven, fungible supply of oil. Period.

    If we were in it solely for the oil we could have cut deals with the dictators, as the French and others did. Or we could have continued simply to buy oil on the open market. Oil is fungible, after all, and the sellers, having no other products worth considering, would certainly continue to sell it — to us or to someone who would sell to us.

    No, this war is mainly about protecting ourselves against WMD attacks by terrorists and terror states. Our neo-Wilsonian campaign for democracy follows our having tried every alternative without success. That shouldn’t be difficult to understand, yet I keep hearing arguments like yours that assert that it’s all about oil and ignore the WMD threat. Why is that?

  41. Jonathan wrote:
    I keep hearing arguments like yours that assert that it’s all about oil and ignore the WMD threat. Why is that?

    In my opinion, they’re one and the same. Without oil, we don’t have a strategic interest in the Middle East (although you could make a good argument for Israel, but that’s a whole other discussion). The jihadists aren’t nihilists interested in blowing us up because they hate freedom and our way of life; it’s because they have a very specific political agenda. Quite frankly, an “economic bomb” is arguably more dangerous than a real WMD. Yes oil is fungible, but there are limited suppliers, many of which are inherently unstable regimes. If we lost a major oil supplier like Saudi Arabia, this country would experience a truly disastrous economic collapse. If we were really interested in WMD, we would make nuclear proliferation a key aspect of our strategy, but it’s notably lacking.

    Without another viable source of oil / energy, we are literally enslaved to the relationship with Saudi Arabia, and the jihadists know it. Our post 9/11 strategic policy in the Middle East is “Benevolent Hegemony,” which follows along neocon philosophy. Personally, I think this is a policy that will only lead to further blowback, but this is the discussion that we should be having. A discussion thread that bashes lefty intellectuals, while ignoring the conservative intellectuals who concocted the strategy that is, by all accounts, the official policy of the US govt, seems rather odd.

  42. Contrary to what many have noted, this is NOT a war with Islam, it’s a war with a small group of individuals with a political agenda that are using religion to fulfill their ends.

    Not clear. Is this a reference to the Bush Cabal? Or al-Qaeda? In either case, I think you’re wrong.

    We’ve been propping up oppressive regimes in the Middle East for decades now

    Maybe so, but the reason had more to do with the Cold War than with ensuring oil supplies. In any case, the new doctrine is to abandon this policy and start supporting Democracy (with exceptions where we need close cooperation in the current battle against Islamofascists, such as in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia).

  43. “The jihadists aren’t nihilists interested in blowing us up because they hate freedom and our way of life”

    Yes they are. They want Islam to dominate the globe, and they hate the US because we’re very much incompatible with their view of Islam.

    (Hey, look… disunity. I bet we had the same disunity 5 years ago, people just didn’t notice because we were all so busy watching the towers collapse.)

  44. He didn’t choose his first name or the parents of his birth. Blame his parents for the name Shannon, if you wish.

    Den Beste’s writing is very understandable and clear, in a unique logical format. It is very helpful for those who are ignorant, yet who were open minded post 9/11 who sought to understand the complexities of this brave new world of ours that we had suddenly started seeing.

    Many who disagreed with the Call to Duty after 9/11, believed Den Beste to be a crackpot, and acted upon that belief much as they act upon their beliefs concerning specific other bloggers at the moment.

    As for disunity, it is neither a strength nor a weakness in war. Simply because in war, weakness is not unchangeable nor is strength absolute and unbreakable.

    One of the primary goals should be to take your weaknesses and change them into strengths during war. As well as finding the strengths of your enemies, and making them into weaknesses that war can exploit.

    Therefore it makes little sense to see things in a one dimensional manner. Disunity is as a quantum phase, it exists in two different states at the same time, only only one state phasing into reality when certain actions are taken. Disunity allows diversity and the combination of disparate elements into a greater whole, while at the same time weakening the structural integrity of the whole and allowing enemies to divide and conquer the core. Thus, different choices create different futures. So, people must choose between the future of the Democrats and those who agree with them, and the future of people who don’t agree with the Democrats.

    We are all connected in a sense, we cannot get both and we cannot just have one path but without the other. Choosing one, makes the choice for everyone. It sets the reality in a certain state, that affects everyone on this planet. You can only fight a war once after all, the decisions you make now and the side you choose to support, will dictate the outcome one way or another. Thus, we fight not only the enemy, but internal dissension at the same time, for both can defeat us, both can send us upon a path we consider past the point of no return into oblivion.

  45. Al Qaeda has a very specific political agenda. They are the ones that are using religion to achieve political ends. I don’t believe that the Bush Administration’s use of religion in winning elections is even in the same ballpark as Al Qaeda (politicians have been doing that for centuries in the US), nor is it relevant to this discussion.

    Re: your other point, yes the Cold War was a factor, but not the primary reason for our support of oppressive dictatorships. I would ask you a couple of questions:

    1) We are a country that uses 25% of the world’s oil, but only produce 4%. China, now our banker, is increasingly our main rival for energy resources. With the rise of China and India in a truly petroleum-based economy, the global economy is teetering on the fulcrum of the Middle East. To argue that oil is not the primary factor for EVERYTHING that we do in the Middle East is truly hard to fathom.

    2) Re: the policy of promoting democracy, this is the flawed rhetoric that I was discussing earlier. Do you really want democracy in Saudi Arabia? I mean, how’s that worked out in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon? Let’s be honest here.

  46. One other thing, the jihadists aren’t seeking world domination. That’s a fallacy. They DO seek to unite the Arab world in an Islamic state. That’s their political agenda.

  47. Edgar,

    We’ve been propping up oppressive regimes in the Middle East for decades now…

    And the alternative was what exactly? Are you arguing that the world would have been a better place if we just let the Soviets waltz into the area either directly or by proxy. Its very easy to criticize the compromises that decision makers during the Cold War made but what exactly was the real-world alternative?

    This is what I mean by fantasy driven models. In the fantasy, the Soviets didn’t present any sort of threat and the US could just snap its fingers and install a humane liberal-democracy in any country we wished. The only reason we didn’t do the “right thing” was due solely to our own paranoia and corruption. Therefore we are responsible for the negative events that flowed from our selfish choices.

    If you want to talk about blowback, how about the Soviet Union? If we had never allied with Stalin during WWII then we could have avoided the entire Cold War. Of course, that raises the question of what the world would look like with a victorious 3rd Reich. Was backing the megacide Stalin against the megacide Hitler the wrong decision? What other choice did the decision makers of that era have?

    Supporting various less than ideal regimes in the Middle east presented the same problem just on a less dramatic scale. The British backed the Baathist take over in Iraq in order to counteract the take over by Communist. Should they not have done so? Would a Communist Iraq, tightly allied with the Soviets have made the modern world a better place? Would it have made a nuclear war less likely or more?

    It is not even clear that Western involvement in the middle-east led to more oppressive and corrupt regimes than would have existed otherwise. Many people seemed to hold that belief axiomatically but they cannot point to real world countries in which that was the case. Had the West never become involved in the Mideast, the most likely outcome would be that the entire region would be mired in Medieval conditions which would have resulted in the same fertile ground for terrorism.

    Frankly, I think the assertion that Western intervention is a principle driver of terrorism is simply intellectually lazy. One must mearly point to an intervention, proclaim that everything would have been much better if the intervention had never occurred (without explaining why) and then break for lunch.

  48. Edgar, which jihadists? They’re not a monolith.

    There are some jihadists who would be happy stopping at the borders of “the Islamic world”, by which I mean, all of the parts of the world that have ever been predominantly Islamic. There are other jihadists who will not be happy until all of the world has fallen under the banner of Islam. And none of them, as far as I can tell, have a problem with Muslims spreading their influence in the US — only with us spreading our influence in their part of the world.

    Many of them believe Islam is destined to overcome the whole world. Not just the Arab world. And in order to do that, they need to take down the United States and other countries that aren’t compatible with their f***ed up ideology.

    Getting the US out of the middle east helps us against some of the jihadists, but hurts us against others. There’s no net gain in that sense. But being there is of strategic value for many other reasons, so pulling out would be foolish.

  49. Shannon,

    I appreciate your post, but I think you miscontrued my post. Of course the Soviet Union posed a thrheat, and of course we chose the most expeditious path to our ends by allying with the Saudis, but it is still a failure of catastrophic proportions for every administration since Truman to ignore the reality of our energy situation. I don’t have any fantasy about the dangers that are out there, and the realities of power, but I would ask you this question. You argue that it’s a fantasy to think that we could just snap our fingers and install a liberal democracy, to which I respond OF COURSE. Why does that same argument NOT hold true now. We are in an ideological war, with a smart, media-savvy enemy that quite frankly knows its history better than we do. How many Americans know that the CIA overthrew a democratically elected ruler to install the Shah? To say that our policy of spreading democracy is hypocritcial in the muslim world is not anti-American, it’s REALITY. This is not a critique of American policy, it’s an attempt to lay the facts on the table.

  50. Apparently, some people believe that hindsight can be proactive. Anyway, I think Syria is a good example of an oppressive regime that existed without our “propping up.”

    Edgar seems oil obsessed: “To argue that oil is not the primary factor for EVERYTHING that we do in the Middle East is truly hard to fathom.” How to explain such a world view but obsession?

    The fact is that we import more oil from both Canada and Mexico than we do from Saudi Arabia. As we develop our own reserves and as Russia and Iraq do the same, I think we could get along OK without Saudi Oil. Anyway, higher prices would stimulate investment in alternatives – not a bad consequence.

    I think the policy of democracy promotion is worth a try – there are not a lot of alternatives for ensuring a peaceful global future. Not that anyone is claiming it will be easy – to the contrary. This is just one of the reasons I agree that this is a war to last decades.

    Although the election of Hamas is very unfortunate, I don’t think that elections among the Palestinians should be permanently abandoned. It’s a case where things have to get worse for them before they get better, so they can wise up and see the consequences of their decisions. Again, a long hard process.

  51. The only thing that should be asked concerning oil and the Middle East is, does oil matter to you more than people or do people matter more to you than oil?

    Based upon the answer, we can construct axiomatic foundations upon which to integrate facts. Let’s say, the fact about strategic oil interest in the Middle East. Does that mean the United States is there for oil?

    Only if the axiomatic assumption upon the person asking that question and answering it, is based upon the premise that the United States cares more for people than oil; that it only cares about oil in the specific manner that people are affected by oil.

    When people accuse the US of going for oil in the Middle East or Blood for Oil, via using guilt, they are not speaking of a rational, enlightened self-interest in oil as a means to the greater end of the salvation of human beings. They’re accusing the US or Bush or Haliburton or all of the above, of caring more for oil and money than for people. Of using people to get oil. Blood for oil, literally and figuratively.

    You’ve heard Edgar say we’re in there for oil, period. I suppose the period, is necessary because people are not part of their logic. Edgar does not believe as I believe, that freedom and the strategic interest for oil are complimentary elements. He believes freedom to be a false slogan, a means to an end, that end being oil, period. It has some apparent flaws already.

    There are some elements of an incomplete understanding of human nature that is going around on the Left. There are also elements of various calculation mistakes, given that they lack specific variables in their equations.

    Honesty is literally impossible. Not only because Den Beste is correct on his analysis of the basic premises and assumptions people hold in this country and the world, but also because the factors that go into strategic calculations are not the same for Democrats or Republicans, those on the Left with those on the Right.

    Oh, there can be honest debate, but it would have to be sourced from the same assumptions. Having an argument, on the premise that everyone starts off from the same starting line with the same advantages and disadvantages, is not honest when the truth is the exact opposite of that situation. There can only be asymmetrical and asynchronous debate between the internal divisions inside the United States.

    Let’s take the blowback belief of Edgar, as an example. Why does he believe it is a blowback. Did he not also believe that the past US policies in the ME had blowback and caused US complicity in the creation of terrorism? He believes in such a strategic change to also cause blowback. Aside from the rather obviousness when you do an analysis on the causality chain, once you look at the basic premises underlying a person’s beliefs, then you can correlate how your beliefs synch with his beliefs.

    Currently, it is not possible to engage in what Edgar calls honest discussion simply because Edgar has not told us what he believes causes blowback in the first place. His analysis of human nature and behavior, in other words. Without that information, every ending conclusion and statement and analysis of strategic intent will be out of phase with someone else’s set of conclusions. If you start off from two different places and end up at two different places, how do you correlate the relationship between the end of one and the end of another?

    It might even look similar, but it will have some differences that won’t make sense.

    Let us take another interesting statement.

    “The jihadists aren’t nihilists interested in blowing us up because they hate freedom and our way of life

    Freedom allows a person to choose his faith and object of worship. Islam is a very strict religion, with many dictates, rules, and standards to follow. Islamic Jihad takes that to an even higher extreme. Islamic Jihad cannot allow a person to decide whether he will follow the will of Allah, simply by that. If they did that, that would make them a free society, and Islamic Jihad is many things but not a free society.

    While the Islamic Jihad does not want to destroy everything, on the other hand destroying everything is very compatible with their religious beliefs. Simply because, if a suicide bomber can acquire heavenly rewards by killing himself and blowing up everyone else around him, Muslims or Jews, then obviously the religious component adequately justifies complete annihilation. It gives a heavenly reward, for them, it would not be complete annihilation, since there is a world after death. For everyone else, of course, it might be different. They have already said that they believed in death, we believed in life. The only life they believe in, comes after death. If they cannot win here and now in this world, they will simply destroy this world and reap their benefits in the next world.

    Of course Islamic Jihadists hate our way of life, but it might not be the reason many people commonly think it to be. They hate us, because they like us. They feel tempted, they recognize their inner weakness, that longing for life and pleasure. A human longing. Jihad is one manner to cleanse your soul, to make yourself fit for heaven and Allah. To them, to live as we do, is to feel the eternal scorn of Allah, especially since we don’t believe in Allah. We scorn Allah two ways, by not believing and by insulting him with our manner of lifestyle.

    Of course they hate Freedom and the US. We are everything that they are not, and we are everything that they wish they didn’t want to be. By destroying us, they purify themselves and get rid of their unholy temptations.

    It is very psychotic and anti-social in a sense, the mind of murderers who hate women and target selectively women. They believe women to be unpure, tainted, sluts and whores at best. So they not only kill them, but they play a game where they entice women into relationships where they attempt to make women into the vision that they see, in order to justify their killings with more pleasure. At the end, is it truely the women, that he kills, that are impure or is it the killer that is impure at heart and soul?

    This is part of understanding humans. And I believe it is part of the number of variables people miss in their strategic calculations. That is why, seemingly, people look at the same situation and the same facts and then come to entirely different conclusions on what the US should or should not do.

    If you do not understand the soul of a person and for what reason he acts, how will you determine the effect your actions will have on him? How will you determine whether blowback will occur or not? Obviously, you cannot do so with any real accuracy.

    For some weird reason this reminds me of chess, probably because I’m studying it at the moment. You have some players who make pragmatic moves, that look only to the benefits each piece will have individually. Other players, look at the whole, at each piece and how they interact with each other as well as with enemy pieces. The difference between 2 variables in play, and 50 variables in play. And not only that, but we also have a historical analogy. Where the player that looks farthest into the future, is also the player that remembers his previous past games with the greatest fidelity. Those who do not remember their previous games, are players who are unable to extract much benefit from history. Every game is new to that sort of player, where they have to figure out each move based upon its own individual possibilities. Obviously this is prone to misjudgement and bad decision making.

    When people say the Left does not use logic, that is not entirely true. They do use logic, but it is a rather different sort of logic. As different as how you play chess.

  52. Supporting democracy in the Middle East may be hypocritical (or maybe not). But does the fact that this is a change of direction – for the positive – make it wrong? Why should a mistake in the past prohibit someone from doing right in the present?

  53. How many Americans know that the CIA overthrew a democratically elected ruler to install the Shah? To say that our policy of spreading democracy is hypocritcial in the muslim world is not anti-American, it’s REALITY. This is not a critique of American policy, it’s an attempt to lay the facts on the table.

    The Shah was installed more than 50 years ago. The world situation is much different now, just as it was different between the time of the Second World War, when we allied with Stalin, and the Cold War. The USA isn’t being hypocritical, it is merely changing policy as conditions change. The whole “USA used to support X and now is the enemy of X!” argument, if you can call it an argument, is meaningless because it ignores the reasons behind our policy changes. It’s mainly a rhetorical cheap shot to capture the attention of people who don’t know or understand the history.

  54. What choice of “form” of regime was there to prop up ? In a word Authoritarian. It was a bold strategy for the neocons to attempt to prop up a “democratic” regime in Iraq.

    The culture there has likely progressed, in general, some 400 years (in terms of leading western nations) since WWII. The Bush admin. is hoping that it has progressed far enough to embrace the opportunity. I’m pessimistic, myself.

  55. Messages are being posted so fast, new ones pop up even while I’m typing.

    Edgar doesn’t give me enough information to analyze his beliefs and then produce a satisfactory conclusion. So I’ll just bring up some subjects that has the possibility of clarifying matters.

    For one thing, Edgar mentions that the US doesn’t produce oil domestically. So logically, would he not be in favor of invading Mexico, Cuba, and drilling in Alaska? I am not making a value laden accussation, that if he believes in this, he must be bad. It is just logic. To get more oil domestically, you must acquire and develop the oil you have around your nation. Buying the oil from Mexico or Cuba, would still make it “foreign” after all. So if Edgar is right, and the problem is foreign oil, would not people that criticize the Iraq policy be pushing for drilling in ANWR and taking over the oil fields of Cuba and the Mexico Gulf?

    Why do they not even mention this? And why do their allies, the Democrats, actively oppose it? It would only make sense to actively oppose getting oil domestically, if you opposed the very idea of dependence on “any” oil. Not just foreign oil. But if you just disliked oil from Saudi Arabia, why do you not promote policies that develop oil from inside or even near the United States by whatever means necessary?

    I’ve heard some stock arguments about it. That drilling in ANWR is “futile” because ANWR does not have enough. That’s an excuse for not doing anything. You know what that excuse reminds me of? It reminds me of what Edgar said about the blowback of the Cold War strategy.

    One of the reasons why that strategy existed is because the makers knew that if they allowed democracy to go, the terroists would take control and turn everything into Iran/Taliban. Which they did, if we did not forget.

    However, that was of course, just an excuse. It was an excuse to keep the status quo, because people were so afraid that if they did anything pro-active or extreme, that it would “escalate” the Cold War and produce nuclear annihilation. Fear is a great and powerful motivator, let us not forget that.

    So, Edgar said blowback occurs with Cold War strategy and presumably, he doesn’t like that strategy for that reason. Then Edgar says “Do you really want democracy in Saudi Arabia, look at what happened in the P Territories”.

    Tell me this, ask yourself why Edgar doesn’t like the Cold War strategy and why he also doesn’t like the democracy strategy. Has not the Cold War ended? It is not fear of the Soviets that empower a necessity to do Cold War blowback. So, is it only a fear of changing the status quo? Is Edgar just not in favor of changing the status quo for whatever reason? Too conservative perhaps?

    To argue that oil is not the primary factor for EVERYTHING that we do in the Middle East is truly hard to fathom.

    Oil is the primary factor only if logically, the US cares more for oil than for people. But if the US cared more for oil than people, then the US would have crushed Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, and various other nations in the United States sphere of control. Which would be North America and South America.

    The logic is not consistent with reality. Hasn’t Edgar gone through it with checks on the binary consistency yet?

    To say that our policy of spreading democracy is hypocritcial in the muslim world is not anti-American, it’s REALITY. This is not a critique of American policy, it’s an attempt to lay the facts on the table.

    A dishonest statement of conclusions without any explanations of the axiomatic assumptions and premises that were used to make those conclusions, provides no benefit to anyone.

    These aren’t facts. These are called opinions, interpretations, analysis, and various other adjectives that describe a specific arrangement of facts, arranged by a human hand based upon a foundation of beliefs and premises.

    It’s too bad Edgar does not explain his “conclusions” in a manner similar to when Steven Den Beste explained his conclusions.

    To say with some force of belief that these are facts, when they are interpretations. To say with much force things that he does not explain. Where’s the honesty in that anyways?

  56. Thank you for the excellent posting, and subsequent comments, esp. by Shannon, about this vital subject.

    No, there will never be unanimity in the west, and the US specifically, because that would not only be utterly ahistorical, but, as SDB so wisely puts it, such a monolithic unity would mean something about our culture had changed, radically, and not for the best.

    Having said that, however, there is the recurring problem which such continuous ferment and introspective criticism engenders in the delusions of our opponents.

    I put it that way because, as has happened with so many of our past adversaries, the raging fanaticism of the Islamicist fascists requires that they be of one mind, totally committed to their course, no doubts allowed, minor disagreements about tactics only.

    And, since they perceive this single-mindedness as one of their primary strengths, as so many other foolish collectivists have in the past, they also perceive our tumult as a sign of weakness and indecision. This is their gravest error, and the delusion that very well may lead them to undertake a more deadly attack, in the smug belief that the weak, decadent west will fold up and surrender when injured severely enough.

    As I have said in another context, the situation we face is not so much the European 1930’s as the Pacific war against a fanatical and deluded enemy who observes no rules of warfare, disdains any true re-analysis of the tactical or strategic situation and their assumptions, and continues doggedly in the faith that their indomitable spirit will carry the weakened, divided west before it, all other factors being secondary.

    Thus the Japanese believed and endured until they were forced to think the unthinkable and endure the unendurable. And, in their own way, the Nazis deluded themselves, esp. at the top, that the Allied cause would splinter and dissolve at one more blow, that the weak, mongrelized Americans could never match up with the “aryan supermen”.

    They were horribly wrong, of course, as were the Soviets, the Chinese, and so many others.

    The bubbling mix and boiling cauldren of western discourse is one of its major strengths, not a weakness at all. No course of action goes unchallenged, no set of assumptions accepted without dissent, no leader worshipped, no decision not examined and re-examioned endlessly, arguments flowing across all levels of society, from the crudest bluster to the most arcane and nuanced articulation of some super sophisticated view.

    Just as economic collectivists cannot for the life of them understand the way markets work toward improved products and lower prices, so too do political and religious collectivists fail to understand that the re-examination and continuous critical analysis in western societies of their own policies is an enormous source of strength and flexibility, allowing regular tactical and strategic modifications in light of new situations.

    But, and it is a significant but, if attacked violently enough so that the average citizen adopts the mind that “Ok , that’s it”, then the moral limitations will fall, and the full killing weight of western armaments and military potentials will likewise fall on those who have kindled such a cold, determined wrath.

    Like a foolish child playing with matches, the Islamicists fail to realize that it is their house which will burn down if they strike that fatal spark. Their will be no Islamic world, no people of the Koran, no mullahs, no mosques, nothing left to threaten any longer.

    They truly need to visit Hiroshima, see the photos of Berlin, Tokyo, Dresden, et al. We are not who they think we are. We can become, as Oppenheimer realized, Death, the destroyer of worlds. The beast is always there, only restrained by our own moral hesitation.

    When it’s released, it will consume its fill, and the threat will be no more, only the regret.

  57. Edger,

    …but it is still a failure of catastrophic proportions for every administration since Truman to ignore the reality of our energy situation.

    It wouldn’t matter. Oil powers the world economy and America is hurt just as much when our trading partners cannot get oil as when we cannot get it ourselves. It is not America that is dependent on Middle-Eastern oil but Europe,Asia and Africa. Energy autarky is a pipe dream and has been for over 60 years.

    Why does that same argument NOT hold true now?

    Conditions are much more favorable than during the Cold War. We don’t have a superpower undermining our attempts to create democracies, there is far less of an ideological opposition to democracy and, most importantly, every little mistake (like Cuba for instance) won’t lead to superpower conflict that could kill everyone on earth. Most importantly, however, we don’t have choice. Leaving autocracies intact will eventually lead to a fatal conflict. We have to try or risk developing a situation where we have to nuke an entire country.

    How many Americans know that the CIA overthrew a democratically elected ruler to install the Shah? To say that our policy of spreading democracy is hypocritcial in the muslim world is not anti-American, it’s REALITY.

    I don’t understand this argument. Does an event 50 years ago make it impossible for us to advocate for the spread of democracy now? If we have to be absolutely perfect before we can legitimately act its going to be a long, long wait.

    More importantly, was the overthrow of Mossadeq the wrong thing to do? Mossadeq’s regime was called democratic largely by courtesy. In reality, he ruled by paying off large powerbrokers with chunks of nationalized oil property. Once that gravy train ran dry he was doomed and everyone in Iran knew it. The US acted reinstall the Shah after Soviet backed communist gained control of several areas on the northern border. Fear of Communism and a lack of faith in Mossadeq’s long term ability to fend them off drove the internal revolt. US intervention most likely just speeded up the process while preventing any major violence.

    The overthrow of Mossadeq and our pro-democracy position looks hypocritical only if you assume that (1) a Communist take over of Iran wasn’t a real threat (2) the decision makers at the time knew that and (3) the actual decision was made for selfish reasons i.e. to regain nationalized oil industries. If none of those things were true then the argument for hypocrisy falls flat.

    Like I said, you have to consider the alternatives. People in the Middle-East need to consider how their world would be different if the US had not acted as it did. I think on the whole the US acted in an optimum manner to keep the region largely free of the Soviet Union and to create the most liberal regimes possible under those conditions. I don’t think we have anything to apologize for. No one else could have done a better job.

  58. Ymarsakar –

    Your point about my need to insert a period after my statement that we’re there for oil is actually pretty interesting, but I would argue rather ivory tower. In a perfect world, the concepts of freedom and ensuring an efficient global market for oil through our ME policy are complementary, but this isn’t a perfect world. Actions have consequences, and we’ve made a dangerous bed. Furthermore, please don’t characterize this as a “liberal” position, because it’s not (it’s more of a realpolitik position). I’m not even arguing that it’s my position, but instead I’m trying to play devil’s advocate here.

    I’m all for promoting democracy, but you don’t do it by top-down measures. The Orange Revolution occurred because of years of fostering the foundation of democracy, so that it could spring up organically. I’m not discounting the importance of the military element that preceded this, but you all seem to discount the necessary ideological element. If you install democracy through the barrel of a gun, you’ll end up with some rather skewed results.

    My point here is that, historically, the US has employed very idealistic rhetoric, while at the same time acting with devatating pragmatism. I’m not arguing that this is necessarily good, and I also don’t begrudge this current administration’s desire to try to bring our actions more in line with our rhetoric. But have they really? Look at Gitmo, look at Abu Ghraib? Regardless of your position, left or right, you have to acknowledge that these have been devastating ideological blows to a reformed ME. And completely out of step with our rhetoric. The rest of the world can see this.

    Also, the point about receiving oil from Canada, although valid, is really beside the point. We also receive oil from Norway, and Venezuala and Kuwait. Oil is fungible, but we have seen what the impact that OPEC has on the global market. That doesn’t come anywhere near solving the problem.

  59. Shannon,

    Good post – appreciate your perspective.

    I don’t necessarily disagree with you about the CIA action in Iran, but the point is not whether it was the right decision, but how that decision is perceived. Don’t forget that we’re dealing with people who know history. They know that Iraq was cobbled together by the Brits, they know about the CIA plot, and their legitimately skeptical when they hear lofty rhetoric.

    I disagree profoundly with you on the issue of energy. It is the elephant in the room that forces us to act against our ideals. I’m sure you understand that this is not a “blood for oil” argument.

  60. It’s striking how often America’s enemies have engaged in desperate, even militarily unsound attacks in the belief that America would cave. In WWII, this included not just the attack on Pearl Harbor and its aftermath, but also Hitler’s desperate lunge into the Ardennes in late 1944 (the Bulge). Japan and Germany miscalculated.

    On the other hand, the Tet Offensive was a classic, last ditch attack that was a military failure but a political success.

    I think that it takes a lot of convincing for our enemies to be persuaded of our resolve. Even in WWII, when the US was near victory, the Japanese were not convinced that the US had the stomach to attack them directly. Only the Bomb and the Soviet invasion of Manchuria finally convinced them otherwise.

    I shudder to think what action the US would have to take to get the extremists to leave us alone now.

    Moreover, I think that other regimes — like the Chinese communists — are watching our behavior for clues as to the weakness or strength of our resolve. Hence, our ability to weather the future attacks and current crisis in Iraq has potentially grave consequences that go far beyond the Middle East.

  61. –…Imam Zulqarnain Sakandar Madni also stressed repeatedly that all people must show respect for one another. “If everyone respected one another as people, we wouldn’t have any problems. But it seems everyone wants to show what great power they have.

    “We want peace for everyone. That’s what Islam stands for!….”

    The world will be at peace when the world is under Islam, edgar.

    Seems clear to me.

    And considering they want al-Andalus back, and were up to the Gates of Vienna, seems that caliphate is getting bigger.

    And some islamic books teach that the US and Australia were also muslim at 1 time…..

  62. I’m all for promoting democracy, but you don’t do it by top-down measures.

    The question is not whether how it should be done, the question is what are you going to do now. If you are just criticizing the past, with no concurrent present modifications, what’s the point of arguing that?

    If you install democracy through the barrel of a gun, you’ll end up with some rather skewed results.

    Japan is pretty vibrant, and although their society is a little bit skewed, it is very vibrant and their Japanese Animation entertainment culture pervades American society at a very deep level amongst the younger generation.

    I’ll say the same thing I said before. So long as terrorists and thugs are in the Middle East, there is no democracy. Hamas being elected is an improvement, but not because they are going to give us a free society. If you want a free society, you need to protect the people that make up that society. And to do that, you have to be physically there to keep that promise.

    America maintains order in about 50% to 75% of the world either directly or indirectly. That’s a fact, purely driven by the exisgencies of present day time and situation.

    It’s not a decision between use the gun or not use the gun. But rather, who do you kill and who do you protect.

    My point here is that, historically, the US has employed very idealistic rhetoric, while at the same time acting with devatating pragmatism.

    jacksonians do tend to win over Wilsonians.

    Look at Gitmo, look at Abu Ghraib?

    What about them? They aren’t part of the Jacksonian philosophy, at least not their concurrent contemporal reactions.

    Regardless of your position, left or right, you have to acknowledge that these have been devastating ideological blows to a reformed ME.

    There’s no reason to acknowledge that.

    That doesn’t come anywhere near solving the problem.

    Since you admit it isn’t the US’s problem, obviously the US should go around the world and fix the world’s problem by any means necessary. You don’t like gunboat diplomacy, but that just means you don’t like upsetting the status quo. And until you upset the status quo, you can talk about the problems all you want, but they’ll never go away.

  63. We were not united on 9/11 and we have not been united on any day since. But that is not a weakness. If the people of America are ever 100% united on anything whatever, I will know that the country I love has died.

    A celebration of our divisiveness?

    While I fully understand where you’re coming from Stephen, I am afraid I have to take issue with you on our divisiveness not being a growing, potentially fatal, weakness.

    A diversity of ideologies may be a sign of a healthy Democracy, and yes, its great to bask in the intellectual freedoms our ancestors have secured for us. But shouldn’t one of the measures of exactly how great our divisive political / social systems are be how big a disadvantage they put us in relative to the changing global norm?

    How great is it really when half our government and electorate have to facilitate and celebrate the failures of the other half whenever they are out of power if the want to get back “In Charge”?

    If paralyzing divisiveness is so great, why does it embarrass me so bad when it mirrors verbatim our united enemy’s propaganda attempts to divide us further?

  64. Thank you very much, Mr. Den Beste, for posting today of all days. I miss you much, and am sorry for not expressing in your active days how very, very much your advocacy kept my strength and faith alive. And how, even now, those old posts are a source of comfort.

    Once more, you succintly post what I feel to be true, but could never articulate. Odd, how so easily so many of us projected what we felt, that day, onto every other of good will, given how little Americans are likely to agree with one another. I do still think that no matter how different, or misguided, our thoughts are. the vast majority in the US are “for” America and their fellow Americans. We just disagree violently, as ever, what the best outcome is and how we achieve it. I hope vehemently that our devisiveness will actually be our strength and our health.

    PS Thanks for the direct to anim-e. I gave it a chance and love what I’ve found. Unfortunately, it’s on your no watch list, so I won’t bother blathering. However, I trust your judgment: so no “Bebop” for me, and I used your list to b-day shop for my husband. Thanks again and keep up the good work. Miss you much.

  65. I know we’re all tired of the left digging around for root causes, but come on. I was a democrat in college when 9/11 happened, and the joke around campus was “Thank God an ass-kicking Texan stole the last election!” We wanted to irradiate every cave in Afghanistan just as much as the next American. Even the disgusting Ward Churchills were kept mostly out of earshot, because no one wanted to hear about Eichmanns while the dust still hung in the air, while we were all sharing the same rage and sadness. Do you honestly think that even half of democratic voters were thinking, “What’s this thing about planes on the TV? Oh…Dear…God… The imperial military industrial complex has driven the oppressed to force us to invade Iraq! NO!!!”

    I agree that since then, and especially since Iraq, both parties have gone in opposite directions. But it’s ridiculous to imagine that as soon as the towers fell the average democrat voter instantly erected a nuanced system to convert raw muslim hatred into refined Western guilt. It was a coping mechanism for a new paradigm, and those take time to build. So I believe there was a time when we were all united, but considering what it took we’re probably better off without it.

  66. I’ve often thought that Bush’s policies are based on “getting at the roots of terrorism,” which everybody said we needed to do. His approach was to give people in the countries producing the terrorists hope for freedom, democracy and prosperity. To do that would take a showpiece to prove it could happen in Muslim societies. We all remember the “democracy, whiskey, sexy!” story.

    At the same time, others were thinking that to get at the roots of terrorism, we had to quit selling arms to these governments, quit supporting friendly regimes and playing them off against each other. In other words, withdraw from foreign policy, quit importing oil and run the nation on sunshine and windmills.

    The real problem that divided us arose after the Congress approved military action in Iraq. When Howard Dean raised millions of dollars almost instantly via the internet because he was angry about the war, those who had voted for it and for funding it quickly found that they’d been lied to and would never have supported it if they’d known we wouldn’t find stockpiles of WMD. And now that’s their story and they’re sticking to it and getting more angry every day.

    Then there’s the press coverage, which most people experience as a tone, rather than a detailed factual account. They hear John Stewart, Leno and Letterman and form a feeling toward the war, the economy, whatever.

    Sigh. How did we ever survive this long?

  67. There is a relationship between Islam and poverty; First you get Islam, then you get poverty.

    The North coast of the Mediterranean from Spain to Greece is Christian; The South shore from Morocco to Saudi Arabia is Islamic. This is a great social laboratory that has been stable for 500 years since the Moors were pushed out of Spain/Andalusia. The contrast in economic success is overwhelming. Islam creates poverty.

    How then, can Islamic terrorism be blamed on poverty?

  68. “I’m all for promoting democracy, but you don’t do it by top-down measures. The Orange Revolution occurred because of years of fostering the foundation of democracy, so that it could spring up organically. I’m not discounting the importance of the military element that preceded this, but you all seem to discount the necessary ideological element. If you install democracy through the barrel of a gun, you’ll end up with some rather skewed results.”

    I don’t believe you favor democracy in the ME — because of your arguments.
    a) Bush claims to support democracy; invaded two countries; both have had elections. Both seem to be increasing in democracy.
    You, Edgar, seem to be against the invasion for democracy.
    You offer no alternative, which seems intellectually cowardly. ‘Let Iran remain a mullah-dictatorship until they have a velvet revolution’ — you don’t say this, perhaps because you know how silly it sounds. What is the alternative you propose?

    Japan’s successful democracy isn’t the only one; so is S. Korea, AFTER a US supported General-dictator. Dictator-Pinochet in Chile, murderer but supported by the US, did create good market institutions and the basis of the most wealthy S. American country, AND democracy.

    S. Vietnam could have been a success, and was on it’s corrupt but merry way, but needed more cash which the Dems pulled the plug on. So 600 000 S. Viet US allies were allowed to be murdered.

    US weakness/ support for terrorism started with the Dem handover in Vietnam — proving to all anti-US folk that victory against the US was possible even without winning a battle.

    The dictator-Shah of Iran was opposed by: a) idealistic democrats wanting human rights, b) idealistic communists wanting a Leftist dictatorship, and c) Khomeni, wanting an Islamic dictatorship. All “against the Shah” are responsible for the success of Khomeni, and partly the Islamic threat.

    The Dems who cared “so much” about the hundreds of Vietnamese people being killed by the US in My Lai murders (during war), stopped caring about the murders when it was their N. Viet commie allies doing the murder after surrender.

    And I doubt that Murtha, for instance, would care much if the US left Iraq and in the Sunni – Shia civil war bloodbath another 600 000 were killed. Of course, the Dems would claim that was proof it was a mistake to invade.

    If we stay, Iraq will become a stable democracy (it’s not stable, yet), in less than the 1946-1989 43 years it took to win the Cold War. Is it worth staying until Iraq stability, relative to the alternative? I say yes — Murtha and the Dems don’t give any details on the cost of leaving.

    Whether it’s worth the cost or not depends on what the costs and benefits of each alternative are — but these alternative cost/benefit packages are NOT being discussed. This is just one of the annoyances of 5 years of waiting for a rational discussion.

  69. Shannon Love on:
    The intellectuals default position.

    Brilliant analysis. Immediately obvious upon reading. I’ll be using (and attributing) often.

    Very nicely done.

  70. An interesting post that, I think, accurately reflects the reasons for unity and subsequent fragmentation of.

    The US & UK have already lost the War on Terror.

    We lost when our govenments started to hold the muslim world somehow accountable for the actions of madmen. Statements like “The muslim community must work harder to expose the fanatics in their midst”. Bearing in mind that the guys who blew up buses in London were “ordinary blokes” who wore Nikes – who, exactly, is responsible for their actions aside from themselves ? I’m not – so why should a man who happens to be muslim be made to feel like he has to apologise or “work closer with police” than I do ? Does the goverment think that will make a person feel more or less accepted ?

    We lost when our governments told us to be terrified. “Go about your daily business – but remember they are out to kill you and your family”.

    Look at this suicide bomber – oh, no, hang on he’s a plumber.

    Look at these two – they’ve got beards. We shot one when he was fighting our police – oh no hang on, they’re not and we shot him in completely different circumstances.

    They are going to blow up planes using liquid. No liquid on planes! (unless of course they are coming from any other country in the entire world). Oh yeah – and no violins.

    We lose every time we imagine that OBL actually wants to change anything – be it by invasion (!), as some people posting here seem to think or by “liberation of the muslims from the West”. He doesn’t care. We are playing his game. Everytime an infidels bomb lands on a civilian house, more angry 20-somethings feel a bit closer to him. And guess what happens when we catch him ? He becomes a martyr, and the angry young men find someone else to follow.

    We lose when we remove 1,000 year old liberties.

    We lose when we see enemies where there are none – Iraq was secular. The chances of Saddam supporting terrorist was non-existant.

    We lose when we think of Us and Them. That’s OBL’s only aim.

    To put my opinions into context, I am right of centre by inclination. Myself, and my entire family, are ex-forces. I ain’t no beardy-socialist tree hugging happy-clappy hippy.

    I was initially gobsmacked by the US’s reserved response to the 9/11. I could not think of a state, in the entire history of the world that has as much power as the US has, that would have reacted as restrained as Bush did in the weeks and months following 9/11.

    For the first time (and only) time in his PM’ship, I believed Tony Blair when he said he thought there were WMD in Iraq.

    I think now, I was terribly, terribly wrong.

    We’ve been lied to, we are being lied to and the only peope who can end the War On Terror is us.
    Our governments will always be able to find something for us to hate/be afraid of. We need to stop being afraid.

    Ocenia has always been at war with Eastasia. We will prevail.

  71. “You offer no alternative, which seems intellectually cowardly. ‘Let Iran remain a mullah-dictatorship until they have a velvet revolution’ — you don’t say this, perhaps because you know how silly it sounds. What is the alternative you propose?”

    This is a flawed premise, as it assumes a zero sum relationship. You’ve set up a binary choice, arguing that if I don’t support a invasion of Iran then I must not support democracy in Iran. This is utterly ridiculous. I have stated that I don’t believe that democracies arise at the barrel end of of a gun and I hold to that hypothesis. That doesn’t mean that I don’t support democracy! The argument that Japan’s thriving democracy arose through military means ignores the extremely important fact that the U.S. had the moral authority to occupy Japan after WWII because of a little event called Pearl Harbor. Iraq, on the other end, was a pre-emptive war of aggression. There is a world of difference between how the “occupants” view the occupying force in these two scenarios. In the case of Iran, throughout much of the ’90’s there was a growing movement among the people of Iran towards democracy. The democratic reformer Khatami was president; however, everyone correctly noted that he only had token power. Now that Ahmanijad is in power in the exact same relationship to the mullahs, suddenly he’s Hitler? It makes me sick that the people in Iran have to live under the oppression of the mullahs, but the facts of history demonstrate that the most unifying thing for any country is war, especially when your country is the one that is attacked. An invasion of Iran or, more likely, a strategic airstrike against their nukes, would simply consolidate power behind the mullahs as the people, despite an overall lack of support, would defend their country out of national pride. I support democracy in Iran, which is why I do NOT support military action against them. The people want democracy, but would fight an occupation tooth and nail. Democracy will come in Iran if we show the patience and resolve that we demonstrated throughout the Cold War. The Czech Republic’s long journey to democracy took 43 years, and it took brilliant leaders of courage and conviction like Vaclav Havel. We supported and sowed the roots of that journey. That’s how Iran’s transformation will have to occur.

    Here is a quote, which I will have to leave unattributed, that I think aptly sums this up, “History is not kind to those who attempt to speed its course.” History will not be kind to our pre-emptive invasion of a country with bitter sectarian divisions and no unifying characteristics, a country that was cobbled together by the Brits and ruled by an iron fist since.

    You ask about alternatives. There were MANY alternatives on 9/12/01, an extremely tragic day for this country, as it was on this day that we began to piss away the greatest opportunity to truly lead that the world has ever seen. There are far less options now, do to our mistakes and miscalculations, but still they exist. I’d be happy to have a discussion with you on this subject, if you would like, but I want respond again to claims of “intellectual cowardice” that are based on faulty premises.

  72. Shannon – truly a brilliant and insightful comment. I have a small and dwindling number of acquaintances that belong to the “Amerika Sucks” crowd. It was only after a trip to China (where I saw a true police state and 3rd world poverty) and large amounts of independent study (Friedman, Hayek, Rand) that I was able to pull away from most of the beliefs that your typical liberal arts school graduate becomes indoctrinated with. There are so many weak minds at these institutions of “higher learning.”

  73. Edgar,

    I agree that Iranians are broadly pro-USA and that we would probably alienate many of them if we attacked their country. However, the Iranian Islamist regime has a long-running program to build nuclear weapons. What do you suggest we do if our best peaceful efforts do not result in the replacement of the mullahs by a democratic government? Should we allow the mullahs to have nuclear weapons because we don’t want to make Iranians unhappy with us? Please give us some concrete proposals.

  74. “What do you suggest we do if our best peaceful efforts do not result in the replacement of the mullahs by a democratic government? Should we allow the mullahs to have nuclear weapons because we don’t want to make Iranians unhappy with us? Please give us some concrete proposals.”

    Let me first start with an assumption. I’ll assume that you don’t believe that we’ve made anywhere near our best peaceful effort to date. I think this assumption is difficult to argue (complete disengagement after declaring Iran part of the Axis of Evil certainly doesn’t qualify in my mind), but I don’t want to assume anything.

    With that as a foundation, I would argue that what Iran is doing right now is very smart from their perspective. They’ve seen that North Korea has become essentially untouchable because they have the defense of a nuke (plus the ability to inflict devastating damage to S. Korea). They also have seen what happened to the pathetically weak and cornered Hussein in Iraq. They’ve concluded that the way to preserve power is to develop a nuclear defense. They key here is that (and this is my opinion) this is a way for them to preserve power. I don’t believe they seek these weapons for offensive goals, but as a shield against their rather correct calculation that we want them gone and will stop at next to nothing to achieve this. With this in mind, we have a way to engage with them if we direct our diplomatic efforts towards this end. The only way we can get them to stop their program is to offer up that we will not take aggressive military measures against them so long as they halt their nuclear enrichment program. Obviously this pact would terminate upon any aggressive steps that Iran would take against any of its neighbors. I am very confident that this would work, as Iran has come close to overt statements to this effect.

    I understand the next argument would be about Ahmanijad’s rhetoric against Israel. This is troubling to say the least, but I don’t believe as dangerous as it appears on the surface. There’s some brinkmanship going on here, but he’s drawing attention to the potential dangers of a Iranian nuke, as a way to engage the US directly in discussions, with the goal of achieving assurances that the US will not take military steps against Iran.

    This still doesn’t answer the question of what happens if the Iranians reject an offer such as this. I’ve already stated that I don’t believe that they would, and I will also add that we would be foolish and, arguably, morally bankrupt, to attack without attempting a step such as this. Military action against Iran would set the democratic reform process back at least two generations, if not forever.

    Assuming these efforts were to fail, we could then engage Russia and China to exert pressure on them. This is likely not a promising strategy, but again one we should pursue (and one that I imagine we are pursuing now).

    I’m not saying that we should take the military option off the table. What I am saying is that we should engage on all of these fronts first, as the ramifications to military action are severe. If all of our steps were to fail, we would then have to discuss whether we could live with Iranian nukes. This would be a long debate, and one that probably goes beyond the scope of what we’re currently discussing here, but you could make a strong argument that we can. I’m not saying that I necessarily agree with this, but it’d be an interesting discussion. Iran’s military would be in the crosshairs of both the Israeli nuclear arsenal, and the stunning US arsenal (the US defense budget is greater than Iran’s GNP btw). This is an incredible deterrent to aggressive steps by Iran against any of its neighbors.

    Remember that we stared down the threat of Soviet nukes for close to half a century. The mullah’s first and foremost goal is to preserve power and exert regional influence. I personally do not believe that they are stupid enough to take offensive military steps, and their goals, rhetoric aside, are defensive. They understand, and we all should understand, that any aggressive steps on their end (inlcuding against Israel) would lead to the rapid evisceration of their state. They’re not crazy like our friend in North Korea, but instead are cold, calculating individuals who understand that this is the only card that they have to preserve power.

    Interested in your thoughts on this…

  75. …because we have an openly stated policy of refusal to engage with Iran on talks of any kind unless they first agree to stop nuclear enrichment. We are offering nothing on our end, and forcing them to throw away their only card before they even come to the table. It’ll never happen. We can’t make any sort of diplomatic effort unless we first remove this restriction and show a willingness to meet them halfway. We would be grossly negligent if we were to take military action w/o at least attempting something like this.

    As I said, I do think that we are already engaging with Russia and China, but that will almost undoubtedly lead to nothing because of energy politics. We have to agree to one-on-one, direct diplomatic talks with Iran.

  76. Shannon Love:

    To the extent that leftists do see themselves at the center of defining and solving problems, it is because they accept civic responsibility.

    American citizens can’t meaningfully accept reponsibility for the religious mysticism and gangster values that motivated the 9/11, but they can take responsibility for U.S. policy mistakes such as helping bin Laden get started as a terrorist and backing Saddam Hussein when his atrocities were at their peak.

    While leftists want to draw attention to their country’s responsiblity for the events that befall it, that does not mean they deny the shared responsiblity of others. While there are certainly fringe lunatics on boths sides of the political spectrum that want to blame 9/11 on gay marriage or U.S. oil companies, no mainstream liberal Americans deny that bin Laden and his followers bear primary responsibility.

    Shannon is absolutely correct that leftists do not see themselves as anti-American, but this in no way distinguishes them from right-wing ideologues. The only difference is that rightists tend to use the anti-American allegation more consistently and vehemently against their political opponents.

    The left and right simply disagree on what is good and what is bad about America. To be sure, some leftists and some rightists have ulterior, emotional complexes and emotions that drive their political views. But this is no way unique to either side, as can easily be demonstrated.

    I would be very interested to hear Shannon’s analysis of the motives and emotional frame of rightists.

  77. Iraq, on the other end, was a pre-emptive war of aggression.

    I’ve always found this repeated meme fascinating. While it was proven that Iraq did not have stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, it was proven to be in material breach of its cease fire agreement(CFA). Since it has violated the CFA, the U.S. has the right to impose consequences but the that right has been taken away by the nabobs. Since we can no longer enforce CFA’s, what is the point in signing them anymore? Do we now fight wars until we’ve annihlation? I suppose surrender is still on the table as long as it’s unconditional.

  78. We really must change our mindset in dealing with the islamic threat. It is a psychopathic and hegemonic force–nothing like the individualistic, personal fulfillment approach to life that Europe and north America espouse. The operative question is not “why do they hate us?”, but “why do we tolerate them?” and then “How much pain and suffering for ourselves and all mankind must we watch before we figure out that the bully islam must be stopped once, for all, completely?” The leftists in the U.S. and Europe haven’t progressed beyond the childish, narcissistic “why do they hate us?” So long as the focus is nothing but preening, whining leftist introspection, they will continue to hate us, because they will see us for what we are–weak and unworthy to have the power and wealth that we have. Only when we prove ourselves strong and moral enough to have some just claim to our position in the world, will most people stop hating and begin emulating.

  79. One thing that struck me as odd in the days after 9/11 was Bush saying “We will not tolerate conspiracy theories [regarding 9/11]”. Sure enough there have been some wacky conspiracy theories surrounding the events of that day. The most far-fetched and patently ridiculous one that I’ve ever heard goes like this: Nineteen hijackers who claimed to be devout Muslims but yet were so un-Muslim as to be getting drunk all the time, doing cocaine and frequenting strip clubs decided to hijack four airliners and fly them into buildings in the northeastern U.S., the area of the country that is the most thick with fighter bases. After leaving a Koran at a strip bar after getting shitfaced drunk on the night before, then writing a suicide note/inspirational letter that sounded like it was written by someone with next to no knowledge of Islam, they went to bed and got up the next morning hung over and carried out their devious plan. Nevermind the fact that of the four “pilots” among them there was not a one that could handle a Cessna or a Piper Cub let alone fly a jumbo jet, and the one assigned the most difficult task of all, Hani Hanjour, was so laughably incompetent that he was the worst fake “pilot” of the bunch. Nevermind the fact that they received very rudimentary flight training at Pensacola Naval Air Station, making them more likely to have been C.I.A. assets than Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. So on to the airports. These “hijackers” somehow managed to board all four airliners with their tickets, yet not even ONE got his name on any of the flight manifests. So they hijack all four airliners and at this time passengers on United 93 start making a bunch of cell phone calls from 35,000 feet in the air to tell people what was going on. Nevermind the fact that cell phones wouldn’t work very well above 4,000 feet, and wouldn’t work at ALL above 8,000 feet. But the conspiracy theorists won’t let that fact get in the way of a good fantasy. That is one of the little things you “aren’t supposed to think about”. Nevermind that one of the callers called his mom and said his first and last name, more like he was reading from a list than calling his own mom. Anyway, when these airliners each deviated from their flight plan and didn’t respond to ground control, NORAD would any other time have followed standard operating procedure (and did NOT have to be told by F.A.A. that there were hijackings because they were watching the same events unfold on their own radar) which means fighter jets would be scrambled from the nearest base where they were available on standby within a few minutes, just like every other time when airliners stray off course. But of course on 9/11 this didn’t happen, not even close. Somehow these “hijackers” must have used magical powers to cause NORAD to stand down, as ridiculous as this sounds because total inaction from the most high-tech and professional Air Force in the world would be necessary to carry out their tasks. So on the most important day in its history the Air Force was totally worthless. Then they had to make one of the airliners look like a smaller plane, because unknown to them the Naudet brothers had a videocamera to capture the only known footage of the North Tower crash, and this footage shows something that is not at all like a jumbo jet, but didn’t have to bother with the South Tower jet disguising itself because that was the one we were “supposed to see”. Anyway, as for the Pentagon they had to have Hani Hanjour fly his airliner like it was a fighter plane, making a high G-force corkscrew turn that no real airliner can do, in making its descent to strike the Pentagon. But these “hijackers” wanted to make sure Rumsfeld survived so they went out of their way to hit the farthest point in the building from where Rumsfeld and the top brass are located. And this worked out rather well for the military personnel in the Pentagon, since the side that was hit was the part that was under renovation at the time with few military personnel present compared to construction workers. Still more fortuitous for the Pentagon, the side that was hit had just before 9/11 been structurally reinforced to prevent a large fire there from spreading elsewhere in the building. Awful nice of them to pick that part to hit, huh? Then the airliner vaporized itself into nothing but tiny unidentifiable pieces no bigger than a fist, unlike the crash of a real airliner when you will be able to see at least some identifiable parts, like crumpled wings, broken tail section etc. Why, Hani Hanjour the terrible pilot flew that airliner so good that even though he hit the Pentagon on the ground floor the engines didn’t even drag the ground!! Imagine that!! Though the airliner vaporized itself on impact it only made a tiny 16 foot hole in the building. Amazing. Meanwhile, though the planes hitting the Twin Towers caused fires small enough for the firefighters to be heard on their radios saying “We just need 2 hoses and we can knock this fire down” attesting to the small size of it, somehow they must have used magical powers from beyond the grave to make this morph into a raging inferno capable of making the steel on all forty-seven main support columns (not to mention the over 100 smaller support columns) soften and buckle, then all fail at once. Hmmm. Then still more magic was used to make the building totally defy physics as well as common sense in having the uppermost floors pass through the remainder of the building as quickly, meaning as effortlessly, as falling through air, a feat that without magic could only be done with explosives. Then exactly 30 minutes later the North Tower collapses in precisely the same freefall physics-defying manner. Incredible. Not to mention the fact that both collapsed at a uniform rate too, not slowing down, which also defies physics because as the uppermost floors crash into and through each successive floor beneath them they would shed more and more energy each time, thus slowing itself down. Common sense tells you this is not possible without either the hijackers’ magical powers or explosives. To emphasize their telekinetic prowess, later in the day they made a third building, WTC # 7, collapse also at freefall rate though no plane or any major debris hit it. Amazing guys these magical hijackers. But we know it had to be “Muslim hijackers” the conspiracy theorist will tell you because (now don’t laugh) one of their passports was “found” a couple days later near Ground Zero, miraculously “surviving” the fire that we were told incinerated planes, passengers and black boxes, and also “survived” the collapse of the building it was in. When common sense tells you if that were true then they should start making buildings and airliners out of heavy paper and plastic so as to be “indestructible” like that magic passport. The hijackers even used their magical powers to bring at least seven of their number back to life, to appear at american embassies outraged at being blamed for 9/11!! BBC reported on that and it is still online. Nevertheless, they also used magical powers to make the american government look like it was covering something up in the aftermath of this, what with the hasty removal of the steel debris and having it driven to ports in trucks with GPS locators on them, to be shipped overseas to China and India to be melted down. When common sense again tells you that this is paradoxical in that if the steel was so unimportant that they didn’t bother saving some for analysis but so important as to require GPS locators on the trucks with one driver losing his job because he stopped to get lunch. Hmmmm. Yes, this whole story smacks of the utmost idiocy and fantastical far-fetched lying, but it is amazingly enough what some people believe. Even now, five years later, the provably false fairy tale of the “nineteen hijackers” is heard repeated again and again, and is accepted without question by so many Americans. Which is itself a testament to the innate psychological cowardice of the American sheeple, i mean people, and their abject willingness to believe something, ANYTHING, no matter how ridiculous in order to avoid facing a scary uncomfortable truth. Time to wake up America.

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