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  • Random Thoughts

    Posted by Jonathan on October 19th, 2008 (All posts by )

    The big war (not the Iraq campaign) isn’t over. We have continuing problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but we’ve suppressed our enemies for a while in most places. However, eventually we are going to have to fight large battles again, because our enemies will eventually attack us in a way that we can’t ignore. I suspect that we are now in a situation like that of Israel, which has never been allowed or willing to defeat its enemies decisively and so has to fight a major campaign every decade or so. We will probably have to keep fighting until we develop the political will to win decisively. This is going to be true no matter who is President or which party is in charge in Washington.

    One counterexample to my speculations is Korea, where we have been in a mostly peaceful stalemate for more than fifty years. And there are always conflicts simmering around the world that rarely do us harm. But North Korea is an isolated regime that seems likely to fall apart eventually. Radical Islam is a much more distributed, dynamic, ambitious and aggressive enemy that does not seem likely to stop fighting unless it is defeated. Remember the anecdotes that suggest that the Syrians and Iranian mullahs and Hamas want Obama to win? The usual assumption by Obama critics is that Hamas et al favor Obama because they think he’s one of them. I suggest that they are favoring him because they think he’ll pursue policies that will make it easier for them to defeat us.

    In the old days America could walk away from wars, because most of the costs of our walking away would be borne by non-Americans. Technology has removed this security and we should update our sense of security accordingly. Most of us haven’t, or have become complacent, because 9/11 now feels like distant history. But the metaphor of distance is misleading here. We are not physically more distant from threats; advances in technology and in the technological sophistication of our enemies may even make us more vulnerable. Like it or not we are probably going to be at war for many more years, even if it doesn’t feel like war most of the time.


    15 Responses to “Random Thoughts”

    1. Shannon Love Says:

      The old WWI song said, “We won’t be back til it’s over, over there.”

      Since, 1960 and the development of planet spanning ballistic missiles, there really isn’t any “over there” anymore. The 9/11 attacks originated in the caves of Afghanistan, literally the most physically distant point (in real time of travel terms) as any place on the planet.

    2. Ginny Says:

      I suppose all of us have seen this link a dozen times, but it certainly demonstrates why Obama is attactive to those who sent hundreds of small donations from abroad to make up the millions of dollars he now has to spend on his campaign in its last push). His speech is in a variety of contexts, none of which are likely to make us feel good. (Another.

    3. dre Says:

      I watched “The Sting” the other night on AMC. I like the movie. I can see a different way of looking at it though. You have Paul Newman/Henry Gondorff/George Soros and Robert Redford/Johnny Hooker/Barack Obama running a scam on Robert Shaw/Doyle Lonnegan/America. It is set in Chicago too. I’m troubled by the implications of a successful “Sting”.

    4. Anonymous Says:

      “Radical Islam is a much more distributed, dynamic, ambitious and aggressive enemy that does not seem likely to stop fighting unless it is defeated.”

      Except that “Radical Islam” is, it seems, “Islam”. The radicals appear to take the Koran and its strictures seriously. The reasonable of that faith (God bless them) are more hypocritical WRT their faith. Note that the Koran also recommends lying low, being friendly when the infidel is powerful until the time is right to impose Allah’s will. This makes one pessimistic in that ultimate defeat will occur anytime soon.

      “…we are probably going to be at war for many more years, even if it doesn’t feel like war most of the time.”

      Makes me think that Clausewitz’s “war is politics by other means” is true in reverse. Especially, unfortunately, increasingly in the US it seems that *politics* is war by other means.

    5. Tyouth Says:

      opps, anon above is me.

    6. sol vason Says:

      1. Russia – when USSR collapsed, its empire became free democracies. Even the Ukraine and Georgia became free democracies. A similar thing happened at Versailles when the German Empire was broken up into many little countries. Both Putin and Hitler share the same ambition – to rebuild lost empires. Indeed many of the same countries are involved — Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Check Republic, Slovak Republic, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Germany, etc, etc, etc. China wants to restore the ancient empire of the Qin, or Ming, or which ever was greater. Iran dreams of restoring the Caliphate. Russia/China/Iran replaces the old axis of Germany/Japan/Italy. Deja vu all over again.

      2. The current American army is too small to fight a weak enemy in both Iraq and Afghanistan at the same time. It is no match for the combined forces of the new Axis. If we eliminate our nuclear weapons, we eliminate our only defense. Indeed, I suspect that the nuclear weapons built in the 50s have deteriorated and are either mostly unstable or simply won’t go boom.

      3. As Obama has said, “Do not underestimate our ability to lose”. Obama’s commercials imply that he will end the war in Iraq to save $20 billion a month. He will not spend money this money to fight in Afghanistan or in Israel or anywhere else.

    7. Sean F. Says:

      >> Except that “Radical Islam” is, it seems, “Islam”.

      I don’t think that statement is true. Islam is not Osama Bin Laden – it is one of the world’s great religions that pre-dates America by over a thousand years. It has seen many empires come and go and has contributed a great deal to human civilization, if not very much recently. In fact, some of the founding texts of Western civilization survived and were re-popularized because of their translation from Greek into Arabic. Declaring war on the second most common religious faith of all humanity is unlikely to prove a winning proposition for America.

      I attended a Muslim wedding in LA this weekend and one of the things that struck me the most was how familiar the function was – sad but happy parents of the bride, joyful but interminably boring speeches by family elders, excited young girls dressed to the nines, and small children underfoot everywhere. The lamentable lack of alchohol was the only difference that really stood out for me. It’s possible these people were all radicals in disguise, but I’d say the odds are that radicals are very far from being a majority. Developing an “us and them” attitude against Islam as a whole (as opposed to specific radical strains) is painting with too broad a brush.

    8. jdm Says:

      >> Except that “Radical Islam” is, it seems, “Islam”.

      I don’t think that statement is true.

      Islam 101. Your anecdote is addressed in the link.

      Whether we develop an “us and them” attitude against Islam as a whole is irrelevant: Islam already has a fully developed “them and us” attitude. We, including you, are “them”.

    9. Tyouth Says:

      “it is one of the world’s great religions that pre-dates America by over a thousand years”

      I guess “great” can be used in the sense that it successfully perpetuates itself (it’s peoples in harsh conditions) but it is not great in a moral sense. It is repressive, authoritarian, and totalitarian in the basic tenets it holds.

    10. Sean F. Says:

      Before making statements accusing an entire class of American citizens of anti-American leanings because of their religious faith, it may be wise to base that on more than some random Internet site.

      At the end of the day, all politics is local in more ways than one. How many practicing Muslims do you know and interact with on a daily basis?

      I have few illusions about Islam (or fundamentalist Christianity, for that matter), but an “us v. them” attitude is productive only when you have the right opponent. As a policy matter, picking fights one doesn’t need to pick tends to be counterproductive. See, e.g., the Iraq war. We have enough *real* enemies to fight with already.

    11. jdm Says:

      it may be wise to base that on more than some random Internet site.

      Pretty lame, Sean F. Contradictory opinions backed up by scholarship not welcome. Got it.

      Equivalence between Islam with Christianity. Check.

      Note sure who those *real* enemies are tho’.

    12. jdm Says:

      Not sure I understand what happened with that link, but

    13. Sean F. Says:

      hey JDM,

      To be clear, I’m not equating Islam with Christianity (a faith I profess). I’m saying its unfair to equate a religion with its followers and vice versa, especially if one has a negative view of the religion. Islam is not Bin-Laden. Conversely, the fact that Islam may not respect female equality doesn’t mean your Muslim neighbor beats his wife.

      The author of the website you cited makes the same distinction. He says: ‘Islam is not a monolith, and never have I said or written anything that characterizes all Muslims as terrorist or given to violence.’

      Declaring war on abstract nouns has been a singularly unsuccessful public policy strategy. We need to be eliminating our enemies, not creating new ones by defining them overbroadly. American Muslims are just as American as you are; collective guilt is a fundamentally un-American concept. As the Constitution puts it, “no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood.”

    14. jdm Says:

      To continue that quote, Sean F, “Any Muslim who renounces violent jihad and dhimmitude is welcome to join in our anti-jihadist efforts. Any hate in my books comes from Muslim sources I quote, not from me. Cries of “hatred” and “bigotry” are effectively used by American Muslim advocacy groups to try to stifle the debate about the terrorist threat. But there is no substance to them.”

      Furthermore: “Any Muslim who accepts the U.S. Constitution and American pluralism should act to defend the U.S. now, when it is under attack in many ways. Any Muslim who does this I count as a friend, and welcome into the U.S. I am not in favor of harassing or expelling loyal Muslims from the U.S.”

      Generally speaking, we in the US have, for the most part, “imported” Muslims who comport themselves in a manner that is or appears to be as Spencer requires. As a long time European resident, I can say that Europe has, for the most part, not learned a thing from the American experience. I am glad I don’t live there now.

      Like it or not, Samuel Huntington’s comment that Islam has bloody borders has been historically true. Regardless of your or my anecdotal experiences with Muslims.

    15. Sean F. Says:


      Every country has bloody borders historically. Including ours. Perhaps the best explanation for the fact that Muslims in the US are integrated is because they are treated as Americans and not all tarred with same brush. Engaging in that sort of guilt-by-religious-faith reasoning is un-American and just plain wrong.

      Here’s some more anecdotal evidence:

      And here’s someone thinks there is no better place in the world to be Muslim than in the US: