Karl Gallagher (selenite) wrote,
Karl Gallagher

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AboveNyquist Ripostes

And next round--lines with ">" are selenite's, "> >" and plain are abovenyquist's. I think we want to shift this to LJ, emails are a pain.

> > We totally agree on that! We just disagree on the best way to deal
> > with a large number of people who actively want to kill us, and I
> > think I've figured out it comes from a difference in personalities:
> I'm not so sure it's personality or our analysis of the root
> causes. I trace the conflict back to how Arab traditional
> culture is slowly eroding in the face of Hollywood movies and
> barbie dolls. Imposing a repressive regime by force is the
> only way to stop that so they have to attack or be destroyed
> by our soft power.

The trouble is I'm not sure we've done a good job of convincing Average Joe Iraqi that we're not out to establish another oppressive regime. Average Tree Hugging Liberal thinks we are, but you know we're not, and I know we're not. It seems the Iraqis were willing to give them a chance even though we just bombed the crap out of them - but we've overstayed our welcome, and now I wonder how many of the "insurgents" are really pro-Sunni Saddamites or pro-Shia Khomani types, but are instead people who are just Want Us to Go the Hell Away. The first two groups are implacable and need smashed down. But the third - maybe the new Iraqi government can bring the latter back from the brink, and convince them that those offensive Americans will leave faster if they'll just stop blowing things up for a while.

> The alternative explanation--I've seen this from others, don't know if
> you hold to this, but it seems to fit with your comments below--is that
> the terrorists would live happily in their lands if they weren't
> offended by US attacks on their country / troops in Saudi / support of
> Israel. Under that theory we're safest by pulling back and no longer
> giving offense.

I'm torn on this one. Osama bin Ladin has made it well known that his prime beef is that we stayed in Saudi Arabia. But once we drifted off into Insane Madman land, pulling the bases out of Saudi Arabia would not have stopped them. They might have had an agenda once, but now it is just to Hurt and Maim and Kill, period.

So if you're talking about the existing set of N terrorists, where N is an integer, pulling back would not help.

As far as not generating any _new_ terrorists, pulling back might actually help. For every M terrorists we kill in Iraq, it is likely that we are creating P new ones that will rise in ten years from the P orphans we leave behind when we accidentally roast their house in the process of getting the M terrorists nextdoor. From the cold hard numbers, if M > P, this is a legitimate trade.

Trouble is we don't have evidence on the M to P ratio. If P > M, we're hosed in the long run.

Buchanan (although a nutcase on many other things - he's aligned with Bush on abortion and gay marriage) has some interesting thoughts on this. I don't buy all of his arguments, but it's refreshing to see a hard-core conservative who will take Bush on. There's a general assumption that if you're against our Iraq policy, you must be a Tree Hugging Liberal of some sort, but that's not the case:

http://www.theamericancause.org/patdogdays.htm (that one makes me think of Prince Serg's war party in the book Barayyar)

That should keep you busy for a while, and generate a good set of
LiveJournal responses. ;)

(On a completely different note, his essay on "Rating the Presidents" was facinating: http://www.theamericancause.org/patratingthepresidents.htm)

> I agree with the Fox News interpretation. Analogy: Iraq is to the War
> on Islamofascism (aka Terror) as the Italian campaign was to World War
> II. It's an intermediate objective taken as a stepping stone to the
> ultimate goal, not a separate goal in itself. Without the wider war I'd
> have a much harder time justifying a war purely to overthrow Saddam.
> There's a case for it but the cost:benefit is much worse.

But it really bugs me that that wasn't how the war was sold. I don't think anyone had a trouble with going the Italy on the way to Berlin. To stretch your analogy a bit, were told that Mussolini had bioweapons and chemical weapons - anthrax and sarin and all sorts of nasties - and was close to developing his own variant of Oppenheimer's Deadly Toy. I feel like I was the victim of a bait and switch.

> > And I'm not so much an optimist believing
that the
flowering > of the middle east bound to happen, as someone feeling that
> the other end states are so horrible that we're morally obligated
> to try everything we can to avoid them.
> Let me elaborate on that--I see this war having four possible
> outcomes:
> 1. The Arabs become good neighbors living in a democratic Middle East.
> 2. A Caliphate is established dominating a large part of the world
> and spreading Islam values worldwide.
> 3. A worldwide catastrophe smashes civilization as a result of
> nuclear or biological warfare.
> 4. The Arabs are eliminated as a people.
> Our current situation--a happy America living next door to a very
> unhappy Middle East--is unstable and will eventually fall into
> one of the ones above. The longer we stay in it the likelier
> 2 and 3 become as improving technology puts greater weapons into
> the hands of terrorists. 4 would assure our physical survival
> but would damage our souls, possibly beyond redemption, as least
> for our generation.
> So I think we need to push as hard as possible for state 1,
> as a moral obligation. And if that's our goal there's no
> sense delaying the actions for it.

We may be able to force them into being docile neighbors. I doubt they'll ever be good neighbors.

> > 2) I am inherently an pessimist, and believe our an Iraq
> > adventure will
> > (a) destabalize the middle east and create an entire new generation of
> > people who want to kill us, and (b) distract us from really
> > dealing with
> > the people who actively want to kill us. I'd rather that all
> > those troops
> > who are currently in Iraq been sent to where the terrorists
> > actually are.
> I share the neocon attitude of considering instability in the
> middle east a good thing . . . right now we've got a setup that
> produces a steady flow of suicide bombers.
> As for hunting terrorists, we've got a lot of Al Qaeda types
> flooding into Iraq. So we don't have to send the troops
> after them, they're coming to us. The actual terrorist-hunting
> ops in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, etc.
> aren't things armored divisions can be used for so I don't
> think the hunt for them has been hurt much.

Hmmm. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the idea of American forces being present in a country for the purpose of providing bait. That harken's Bush's "bring 'em on" comment.

The deeper issue is that it again makes the assumption that there are was a pool of N terrorists, and now they're coming to Iraq, and when we kill one, there will be N-1, and at some point that number will reach zero. What about the insurgents who were auto mechanics and accountants minding their own business before the invasion, who over the past year have became angry enough at us to pick up an AK-47 and some dynamite? Hmmm... N+1.

x_{k+1} = a x_{k} + w_{k}, where x_{k} is the number of terrorist at time k.

Are we so sure that a < 1?

> The big difference in our forecasts is what the views of the
> next generation of Arabs will be. If we don't get a big net
> improvement we're headed for a very unpleasant world.
> >
> > My trouble with (2) is that now that are actually in, I can't
> > come up with
> > an exit plan. We're flat out stuck in Iraq and will bleed for
> > years, and I don't see a way out of it.
> My greatest fear for Iraq is that it gets handed over to the
> UN, which has done a miserable job in Bosnia and Kosovo. That
> would probably lead to a new strongman being emplaced which,
> on the terrorism front, would put is practically back at
> square one.

Eeek. I will agree with you there. The UN has become a self-parody. I would like to see more muslim (or "brown skinned" folks, as Bush put it) countries come in to help with peacekeeping - it would help diffuse the cause of "fighting the infidels."

Hell, that's the sort of thing Bush should have lined up before we went in. To bad he told the world to go screw itself.

> > My most pessimistic scenario includes us
> > actually needing to move against North Korea - but by then,
> > Bush will had
> > "shot his wad" in Iraq, and the American public won't believe the
> > administration when it says it needs to move against North
> > Korea, even if
> > it is a REAL threat, and our forces will be stretched too
> > thin. It seems
> > the American public is willing to give their President one or
> > two silver bullets - and Bush spent his prematurely.
> The problem with North Korea is that we can't move against it
> without China's permission. And China doesn't want US troops
> on its border.

The U.S. doesn't want Chinese troops on our border. So we're even there.

China has a lot to lose in North Korea went ballistic, so to speak. I suspect the Chinese might smack them down as fast as anyone.

> I think presidents get 1-2 bullets per election. If Bush wins
> we can consider him reloaded. The strain on the military is
> a different matter. I'd be all for raising a couple of divisions
> of MPs and light infantry. I think we're going to need them.

What ultimately might kill Bush in this election is that people used to be able to grasp why they were sending their husbands and wives and sons and daughters over. There was an immediate threat, or at least it sure as hell looked by one. Now the situation is much muddier. A case can be made for going into Iraq to make us safer in the long run, at the expense of making us less safe in the short run. It's a case you've made more eloquently than anyone I've heard try to make that case. But it takes multiple leaps of faith to believe. The arguments, while sometimes compelling, are much more difficult to wrap one's hands around. The longer the answer to the question "why are we there?" gets, the more Bush will lose ground. He has trouble managing long answers. ;)

> > "I wanted the
head of Osama bin Ladin, but all I got was this > > lousy occupation"
> >
> If we cut off the arms and legs I'm willing to do without the
> head . . .

I'll buy that if Islamofascism (I like that term) could be thought of as a human. I suspect it is more like a hydra.

There are two versions of the hydra in greek myth. In one version, a=1. In the other, a>1.

Tags: iraq, politics, war
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